Sydney-born conductor who gave the UK premiere of Mahler’s third symphony passes at 83.
The Australian conductor Bryan Fairfax has died at the age of 83. Despite never holding a major professional symphony orchestra conductorship he managed to give British premieres of major works by unfashionable (at the time) composers including in 1961 the first live performance in the UK of Mahler’s gargantuan Symphony No 3.
Born in Sydney in 1930, Lancelot Beresford Bryan Fairfax studied at the New South Wales Conservatorium of Music before going on to continue his studies in London. The attraction of Europe was too great for Fairfax who first became a violinist with the Hallé Orchestra before going to Vienna to pursue further conducting studies with Hans Swarowsky.
His time abroad had exposed him to all kinds of European music then not well known in Britain. On returning to England, he founded the Polyphonia Orchestra in 1961, a semi-professional ensemble created specifically to play some of these 20th century masterworks.
On February 28 of that year, Fairfax conducted the Polyphonia in the first live public performance in Britain of Mahler’s third symphony at St Pancras Town Hall to generally excellent notices.
Later that year he led the...