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Sir Mark Elder

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Title: Sir Mark Elder  
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Subject: Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, List of University of Cambridge members, Königskinder, Britten Sinfonia, Matthew Coorey, Rory Macdonald (conductor)
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Sir Mark Elder

Sir Mark Philip Elder, CBE (born June 2, 1947) is a British conductor. He is the music director of the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester, England.

Life and career

Elder was born in Hexham, Northumberland, England, the son of a dentist.[1] He played the bassoon when in primary school, and at Bryanston School, Dorset, where he was one of the foremost musicians (bassoon and keyboards) of his generation. He attended Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he studied music and was a choral scholar. He later became a protégé of Sir Edward Downes and gained experience conducting Verdi operas in Australia, at the Sydney Opera House.[2]

Elder and his wife, Mandy, have a daughter, Katie.[3]


Elder was the music director of English National Opera (ENO) from 1979 to 1993. He was known as part of the "Power House" team that also included general director Peter Jonas and artistic director David Pountney, and which gave ENO several very successful years of productions.[4][5] Elder has also served as principal guest conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (1992–1995) and music director of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (1989–1994). He has also held positions as Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra (1982-1985) and the London Mozart Players (1980-1983).

Elder was appointed music director of the Hallé Orchestra in 1999.[6] His first concert as music director was in October 2000.[7] His proposed novel ideas for concerts have included the abandonment of traditional concert evening garb[8] Elder is generally regarded as having restored the orchestra to high musical standards, after a period where the continuing existence of the orchestra was in doubt.[9] In 2004, he signed a contract to extend his tenure from 2005 to 2008, with an optional two-year extension at the end of that time.[10] A 2005 report indicated that Elder would be with the orchestra at least until 2010.[11] In May 2009, the orchestra announced the extension of Elder's contract to 2015.[12]

Elder first conducted the Last Night of the Proms in 1987. He was scheduled to conduct again in 1990, but his remarks about the nature of some of the traditional Proms selections in the context of the impending first Gulf War led to his dismissal from that engagement.[13] In 2006, he returned to conduct the BBC Symphony Orchestra for his second Last Night engagement, and used the traditional speech at the end of the concert to criticise aircraft baggage restrictions, in place following the uncovering of the 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot, which have made it difficult for musicians to carry their instruments on aircraft.[14] In a reference to the fact that laptop computers are now allowed in aircraft cabins, Elder said, " seems to me that next year we should all look forward to 'Concerto for Laptop and Orchestra.'"[15][16] He also made a plea for children to be given more opportunity to sing at school.[17]

Elder was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1989 Queen's Birthday Honours.[18] He won an Olivier Award in 1991 for his outstanding work at English National Opera. He received the 2006 conductor prize of the Royal Philharmonic Society.[19] In April 2007, Elder was one of eight conductors of British orchestras to endorse the 10-year classical music outreach manifesto, "Building on Excellence: Orchestras for the 21st Century", to increase the presence of classical music in the UK, including giving free entry to all British schoolchildren to a classical music concert.[20] In June 2008, Elder received a knighthood in the 2008 Queen's Birthday Honours.[21][22]

Elder has described his own conducting style as follows:

"I'm quite a physical conductor. I remember seeing Adrian [Boult] backstage after the 1978 Proms and he was wearing a freshly ironed light blue M&S shirt and he said to me 'I see you're one of the sweaty ones.' He was famously non-perspirational."[23]

Elder has recorded for the Hyperion, NMC, Chandos and Glyndebourne record labels, as well as for the Hallé Orchestra's own label. In addition to his conducting and recording activities, Elder also has written on music for The Guardian and other newspapers.[24]


External links

  • Mark Elder biography at the Bridgewater Hall
  • Interview with Mark Elder at, 13 June 2008
  • Femke Colborne, MusoLife article on Mark Elder, 1 August 2007.
  • AllMusic
Cultural offices
Preceded by
Charles Groves
Music Director, English National Opera
Succeeded by
Sîan Edwards

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