Old Farnhamians’ Association

Eminent Old Boys

Sir Jeffrey Tate CBE


Jeffrey Tate (1954 – 1961) is one of Farnham Grammar School’s most famous old boys. Jeffrey was an outstanding pupil in all subjects who chose medicine as his initial career, going to Cambridge and later qualifying as a medical doctor at St Thomas’ Hospital, London. As his FGS contemporaries recall, music was his real passion, greatly encouraged by Alan Fluck who provided so many opportunities for boys with musical aptitude throughout his tenure as Music Master. At school, Jeffrey displayed himself as an outstandingly natural pianist, despite having had relatively little piano tuition in his early years.

In 1970 Jeffrey forsook medicine and joined the music staff at Covent Garden as a répétiteur (rehearsal pianist and vocal coach) until 1977. He worked with Maria Callas during these years. Jeffrey Tate’s rise to prominence followed his 1978 conducting debut of “Carmen” at the Gothenburg Opera in Sweden.

His reputation spread rapidly when, in 1979, James Levine was unable to fill an engagement due to illness and Jeffrey was asked, at 3 hours notice, to conduct the opera “Lulu” at the Metropolitan Opera, New York. Thereafter he was asked to conduct many operas at the “Met”.

Today, he is chief conductor of the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra and has held positions with the English Chamber Orchestra (principal conductor, 1985-2000), In recent years, he has conducted the RAI Orchestra in productions of Haydn's Creation (January 2000), Shumann's Goethe's Faust Scenes (January 2001), Wagner's Die Meister Singers von Nürnberg (April 2002), and Bach's B minor Mass (February 2003).

Other posts held include Minnesota Orchestra (principal conductor, Sommerfest, 1996-2000), Rotterdam Philharmonic (music director, 1990-93), Orchestre National de France (principal guest conductor, 1991-1998) and the Royal Opera-Covent Garden (principal conductor,1986-1993) and principal guest conductor of the Orchestra Nazionale della RAI (Torino, Italy) to 2008.

Jeffrey Tate has been awarded the CBE and in France has been awarded “Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.”  In January 2017 he was made a knight bachelor for his services to British music overseas.

He regularly conducts the world’s leading opera companies, with his interpretations of Mozart, Strauss, and Wagner, and the French repertoire, being particularly acclaimed.

A prolific recording artist, Jeffrey has recorded with the English Chamber Orchestra the complete symphonies of Mozart for EMI, and his cycle of Mozart Piano Concerti with Mitsuko Uchida are among the best-known and appreciated versions.

In 1961, Alan Fluck organised the first Farnham Festival and Jeffrey took part in the concert presented by Farnham Grammar School. In the years since, the festival has become an event of national significance and an important feature of Farnham’s cultural programme. Through sponsorship, many pieces of music for children and young people have been composed for premier performance in the festival. It is both fitting and a matter of local pride that Jeffrey Tate is a patron of the festival.

 Article updated January, 2017

This special page started with four living old boys.
With the death of Jeffrey on 2nd June 2017 we have lost
our last one of the original four.

God Bless You Jeffrey!






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