Jeffrey Tate

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Jeffrey Tate

Jeffrey Tate, conductor - composer (a rising star) (cropped).jpg
Jeffrey Philip Tate

(1943-04-28)28 April 1943
Salisbury, Wiltshire, England
Died2 June 2017(2017-06-02) (aged 74)
Bergamo, Lombardy, Italy
EducationFarnham Grammar School
Alma materCambridge University
Christ's College, Cambridge
Years active1979–2017
Klaus Kuhlemann
(m. 1977)
AwardsKnight Bachelor (2017)
Commander of the Order of the British Empire (1990)

Sir Jeffrey Philip Tate CBE (28 April 1943 – 2 June 2017) was an English conductor of classical music. Tate was born with spina bifida and had an associated spinal curvature. After studying medicine at the University of Cambridge and beginning a medical career in London, he switched to music and worked under Georg Solti at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, before making his conducting debut in 1979 at the Metropolitan Opera, New York. He held conducting appointments with the English Chamber Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and Hamburg Symphony Orchestra, among others, and was the first person to be appointed principal conductor of the Royal Opera House. He was knighted for his services to music in 2017.

Early life[edit]

Tate was born in Salisbury, England, with spina bifida, a major birth defect, and also had an associated spinal curvature, kyphosis. His family moved to Farnham, Surrey, when he was young and he attended Farnham Grammar School between 1954 and 1961, gaining a State Scholarship to Cambridge University, where he directed theatre productions. Tate initially read medicine at Christ's College, Cambridge (1961–64), specializing in eye surgery.[1] He later worked at St Thomas's Hospital, London, before giving up his clinical career to study music at the London Opera Centre from 1970-71.[2] He became a repetiteur and a coach at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, under the tutelage of Sir Georg Solti.[3]


Tate was musical assistant to Pierre Boulez for the centenary production of The Ring at Bayreuth in 1976, also working with the conductor on Lulu for the historic 1979 production at the Paris Opéra which restored Act 3.[4] Tate's international conducting début was in Carmen at the Gothenburg Opera in 1978.[5] He conducted the Metropolitan Opera in New York City in 1979. His range at the Royal Opera House encompassed Mozart (La clemenza di Tito in 1982, Così fan tutte in 1989, Le nozze di Figaro in 1991, Idomeneo in 1989), Strauss (Ariadne auf Naxos in 1985, Der Rosenkavalier in 1989, Arabella in 1990), Wagner (Lohengrin in 1988, Der fliegende Holländer in 2011) and French repertoire (Manon in 1987, Les Contes d'Hoffmann in 1991, Carmen in 1994).[6]

In 1985, he was appointed the first principal conductor of the English Chamber Orchestra (ECO), with which group he undertook a recording of 51 symphonies by Mozart for EMI in the 1980s,[4] and held the post until 2000. Other recordings with the ECO included late symphonies of Haydn,[7] and a Mozart piano concerto cycle with Mitsuko Ushida.[8] In 1982 he won the 'Outstanding First Achievement of the Year in Opera' for conducting Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito, at the Royal Opera House in June 1981, in the SWET (now Olivier) Awards.[9] In September 1986, Tate became principal conductor of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the first person in the company's history to have that title.[10] He held this Covent Garden post until 1991, and subsequently became principal guest conductor at Covent Garden from 1991 to 1994.[11] He was principal conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra from 1991 to 1995. In 2005, Tate was appointed music director of the San Carlo Theatre of Naples, remaining in the post until 2010. He created the Rolf Liebermann opera La Forêt, based on Ostrovsky's The Forest, in Geneva in April 1987.[2] He conducted the Ring at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris in 1994,[2]

In October 2007, the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra announced the appointment of Tate as its next chief conductor.[12][13] He formally took up the post in 2009. In February 2014, the orchestra announced the extension of his contract as chief conductor until 2019.[14] He held the Hamburg post until his death on 2 June 2017. Tate was principal guest conductor and artistic adviser of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, in part as a result of his association with the orchestra from a 1998 production of the Ring, from 2016 until his death.

The Opera magazine obituary noted that his "recordings, notably of Lulu, Hänsel und Gretel and Elektra, demonstrate his emotive power and continual care that the singing should never be drowned by the pit".[15]

Tate's recordings include a series of Mozart piano concertos with Dame Mitsuko Uchida.[16] Tate was president of UK Spina Bifida charity ASBAH (now SHINE [Spina Bifida, Hydrocephalus, Information, Networking, Equality]) from 1989. A portrait of Jeffrey Tate is in David Blum's book Quintet, Five Journeys toward Musical Fulfillment (Cornell University Press, 1999). It originally appeared as an article on 30 April 1990 issue of The New Yorker.

In private life, Tate was partners with Klaus Kuhlemann, a German geomorphologist, whom he met when conducting at Cologne from 1977.[17] Tate has described this situation as being an outsider on two scores:

The gay world is immensely hung up with physical perfection for some curious reason ... Therefore, being disabled in that world is harder.[18]

Tate and Kuhlemann eventually married.[19]

Tate was made a Knight Bachelor in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to British music overseas.[20] He was also appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1990 Birthday Honours.[21] Tate conducted his last concerts on 30 and 31 May 2017, in Bolzano and Trento, with the Haydn Orchestra.[22] He died of a heart attack in Bergamo, Lombardy, Italy, on 2 June 2017 at the age of 74. Kuhlemann, his spouse, survives him.[19]


As well as his Mozart cycles, his English Chamber Orchestra discography also includes English music by Bax, Bridge, Butterworth and Moeran, Verklärte Nacht, Metamorphosen, and the Missa Solemnis; he conducted the Canteloube Songs of the Auvergne for Kiri Te Kanawa in 1982 and 1983.[8]

As a keyboard player he played organ for recordings of Vivaldi choral works in the 1970s, and was part of the continuo for Le nozze di Figaro in 1982, conducted by Georg Solti on Decca.


  • The Metropolitan Opera Centennial Gala (1983), Deutsche Grammophon DVD, 00440-073-4538
  • Recording of a live televised English Chamber Orchestra concert from the Schloss Schönbrunn, Vienna on 16 November 1990; Mozart: Symphony No.36 in C K425 “Linz”, Piano Concerto No.17 in G K453 (with Dezsö Ránki) and Symphony No.41 in C K551 “Jupiter”, issued in parts on laserdisc (Philips 070 141.1PHG), VHS (Philips 070 141.3PHG), DVD (ArtHaus Musik 100 081, EuroArts 201021.8, and Brilliant Classics 92819) and Blu-ray (EuroArts 200102.4).[8]


  1. ^ Tom Service (13 October 2011). "Jeffrey Tate: 'I've had to fight all my life'". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  2. ^ a b c Clark, Andrew. Switzerland - Liebermann premiere. Opera, August 1987, Vol.38 No.8, p939-941.
  3. ^ David Blum (19 June 1994). "Bucking the Biggest Odds of All". New York Times. Retrieved 12 October 2007.
  4. ^ a b Alain Pâris. Dictionnaire des interprètes et de l'interpretation musicale au XX siècle. Éditions Robert Laffont, Paris, 1995 (p. 922).
  5. ^ Adam, Nicky. (Ed) Who's Who in British Opera. Scolar Press, Aldershot, 1993, p263. ISBN 0-85967-894-6.
  6. ^ Search of Jeffrey Tate in Royal Opera House database accessed 1 July 2022.
  7. ^ Edward Greenfield (October 1989). "Haydn Symphonies Nos 99 & 101". Gramophone. Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  8. ^ a b c Stuart, Philip. The English Chamber Orchestra - Discography of the world's most recorded chamber orchestra. 2019.
  9. ^ Olivier Awards (Society of West End Theatre Awards) 1982 accessed 23 June 2022.
  10. ^ "Royal Opera Appoints Tate as Top Conductor". New York Times. 6 December 1984. Retrieved 12 October 2007.
  11. ^ "Remembering Jeffrey Tate, former Principal Conductor of The Royal Opera" (Press release). Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. 3 June 2017. Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  12. ^ Peter Krause (29 October 2007). "Jeffrey Tate wird neuer Chefdirigent". Die Welt. Retrieved 25 February 2009.
  13. ^ Kevin Shihoten (5 November 2007). "Jeffrey Tate Replaces Andrey Boreyko as Hamburg Symphony Chief Conductor". Playbill Arts. Retrieved 7 November 2007.
  14. ^ "Jeffrey Tate und Daniel Kühnel verlängern bis 2019" (PDF) (Press release). Hamburg Symphony. 17 February 2014. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  15. ^ Webber, Christopher. Obituary: Jeffrey Tate. Opera, August 2017, p1006.
  16. ^ Dinitia Smith (8 April 1997). "Rapturous Sorrow From a Pianist of Intellectual Rigor". New York Times. Retrieved 12 October 2007.
  17. ^ David Blum, Quintet: Five Journeys Towards Musical Fulfillment, p. 59. Retrieved 11 January 2014
  18. ^ Ben Holgate, "Tate à Tate", The Weekend Australian, Review, 26–27 September 1998, p. 17
  19. ^ a b Carola Große (2 June 2017). "Sir Jeffrey Tate ist tot". Der Spiegel. Retrieved 3 June 2017.
  20. ^ "No. 61803". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2016. p. N2.
  21. ^ "No. 52173". The London Gazette. 15 June 1990. p. 9.
  22. ^ "Si sente male all'Accademia Carrara Muore direttore d'orchestra Jeffrey Tate". L'Eco di Bergamo. 2 June 2017. Retrieved 3 June 2017.

External links[edit]

Cultural offices
Preceded by
no predecessor
Principal Conductor, English Chamber Orchestra
Succeeded by
Ralf Gothóni
Preceded by Principal Conductor, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra
Succeeded by
Preceded by Music Director, Teatro di San Carlo in Naples
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chief Conductor, Hamburg Symphony Orchestra
Succeeded by