Albert Coates

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Albert Coates (born Saint Petersburg, 23 April 1882; died Cape Town, 11 December 1953) was an Anglo-Russian conductor and composer.

Life and work[change | change source]

Coates was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia, the youngest of seven sons of an English father and a Russian mother.

He studied at the conservatory in Leipzig, where his greatest teacher was Arthur Nikisch. He worked at the opera house in Dresden, and became conductor at Saint Petersburg's Mariinsky Theatre. After the Russian Revolution and World War I he just managed to escape from Russia in April 1919.

He first appeared at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 1914 conducting Richard Wagner's Tristan und Isolde. He was a man with a lot of energy, and he introduced the audiences to a lot of music they had not heard, especially by Russian composers such as Alexander Scriabin, but also English music by Ralph Vaughan Williams, Arnold Bax and Gustav Holst, whose suite The Planets he gave the first complete London public performance.

In the 1920s and early 1930s he often worked with the London Symphony Orchestra. He made gramophone recordings in the very early days of the gramophone. These include Scriabin's Poème de l'Extase and many bits from Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen and (in 1925) the complete Symphony No. 9 of Beethoven. He was the conductor for the first recording of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3, with Vladimir Horowitz as soloist.

In 1925 he gave the first stage performance outside Russia of Rimsky-Korsakov's opera The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevroniya.

He composed several works including operas and a symphonic poem The Eagle, dedicated to the memory of his former teacher Artur Nikisch, which was performed in Leeds in 1925. In 1946 he settled in Milnerton, Cape Town, South Africa, where he died in 1953.

Albert Coates was no relation to Eric Coates, the English composer of light music, nor to the tenor John Coates.