Jeffrey Tate has died of a heart attack while visiting the Accademia Carrara in Bergamo, to the east of Milan. He was 74.
At 2 o’clock, near the gallery’s cloakroom, he fell ill, but by the time the ambulance arrived there was nothing that could be done. He had been conducting the Haydn Orchestra on 30 and 31 May, in Bolzano and Trento .
The English conductor was born on 28 April 1943 in Salisbury, and even though he lived with both spina bifida and kyphosis he still managed to be one of the world’s most successful conductors, a notoriously strenuous profession. Though in an interview with The Guardian in 2011, he said,
It’s immensely therapeutic. I frequently find after a rehearsal of a performance that I have more breath, and can walk better and climb stairs better than I could before. It’s as if I’ve expanded my lungs doing it. Basically speaking, conducting is quite a healthy profession.
Tate’s international conducting début was at the Met in 1979. In 1985, he became principal conductor of the English Chamber Orchestra and in 1986 the principal conductor of the Royal Opera House. He was also principal conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra from 1991 to 1995, and music director of the San Carlo Theatre of Naples from 2005 to 2010. In 2009, he became chief conductor of the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra, a contract which was later extended until 2019.
Tate’s partner of 40 years was Klaus Kuhlemann, a German geomorphologist. In 1998 Tate told The Weekend Australian,
I’m 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.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.