Mark Elder

Mark Elder in 2011

Sir Mark Philip Elder, CBE (born 2 June 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, 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]

The ENO and association with several orchestras

From 1979 to 1993, Elder was the music director of English National Opera (ENO). 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).

The Halle years

Elder was appointed music director of the Hallé Orchestra in 1999.[6] His first concert as music director was in October 2000.[7]

He proposed several novel ideas for concerts. These 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] In November 2013, the Hallé announced the further extension of Elder's contract through "at least 2020".[13][14] He has been President of the London Philharmonic Choir from 2014 to the present.

Public pronouncements

He 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.[15] 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.[16] 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.'"[17][18] He also made a plea for children to be given more opportunity to sing at school.[19]


Elder was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1989 Queen's Birthday Honours.[20] 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.[21] 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.[22] Elder received a knighthood in the Queen's Birthday Honours of June 2008.[23][24]

Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

In addition to being involved in the above-named orchestras, Elder became "principal artist" of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in December 2011.[25] As noted in the article: "His first project with the OAE as principal artist was [to give] a performance of Berlioz's Romeo and Juliet on 18 February 2012 at the Royal Festival Hall, London."


Describing his own conducting style, Elder has said that in contrast to Sir Adrian Boult, who was famously non-perspirational:

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."[26]

Recordings and writing

Elder has recorded for the Hyperion, NMC, Chandos, Opera Rara, 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.[27]


  1. Richard Morrison (20 February 2004). "Pally at the Halle". The Times. Retrieved 2007-09-23.
  2. Tom Service (21 April 2007). "The Italian Job". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-07-17.
  3. Joey Canessa (2005-12-14). "My Home: Mark Elder, conductor". The Independent. Retrieved 2007-02-15.
  4. Rupert Christiansen (5 September 2005). "Love affair with a lost master". Telegraph. Retrieved 16 February 2007.
  5. Ivan Hewett (3 May 2004). "Elder statesman". Telegraph. Retrieved 16 February 2007.
  6. Fiachra Gibbons (7 June 1999). "Miracle man to stir Halle giant". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 February 2007.
  7. David Fallows (28 October 2000). "Hallé/Elder". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 February 2007.
  8. Martin Kettle (14 June 2002). "In search of glories past". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 February 2007.
  9. Brian Hunt (15 November 2001). "An orchestra raised from the dead". Telegraph. Retrieved 16 February 2007.
  10. David Ward (19 July 2004). "I'm staying with Hallé, says conductor". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 February 2007.
  11. Hugh Canning (16 October 2005). "Opera: Armed for action". The Times. Retrieved 20 February 2007.
  12. Martin Cullingford, "Elder renews Hallé contract until 2015". Gramophone, 15 May 2009.
  13. "Sir Mark Elder renews his contract as Music Director of the Hallé" (Press release). The Hallé. November 2013. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
  14. "Sir Mark Elder renews contract at Hallé until at least 2020". Gramophone. 20 November 2013. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
  15. Richard Morrison (2006-04-28). "Restored to (hope and) glory". The Times. Retrieved 20 February 2007.
  16. Geoffrey Norris (11 September 2006). "A joyful and exuberant farewell". Telegraph. Retrieved 16 March 2007.
  17. "Conductor criticises air security". BBC News. 10 September 2006. Retrieved 11 February 2007.
  18. Jeevan Vasagar (11 September 2006). "Concerto for laptop? Conductor's sharp note over airport security". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-02-15.
  19. Richard Morrison (11 September 2006). "Last Night of the Proms". The Times. Retrieved 2007-02-11.
  20. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 51772. p. 7. 16 June 1989. Retrieved 2007-10-31.
  21. Charlotte Higgins (2006-05-10). "Hallé's Elder, champion of British music, takes conductor prize". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-02-15.
  22. Charlotte Higgins (26 April 2007). "Orchestras urge free concerts for children". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-05-04.
  23. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 58729. p. 1. 14 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-23.
  24. Maev Kennedy (14 June 2008). "Queen's birthday honours". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-06-20.
  25. Sophia Lambton (13 December 2011). "Sir Mark Elder becomes principal artist with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment". BBC Music Magazine website.
  26. Sandra Deeble (2 Oct 2004). "My work space". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 July 2007.
  27. Mark Elder (5 October 2001). "The music of war". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 February 2007.

External links

Cultural offices
Preceded by
Charles Groves
Music Director, English National Opera
Succeeded by
Sîan Edwards
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