Sir John Michael Pritchard, CBE (5 February 1918 – 5 December 1989), born Stanley Frederick Pritchard, was an English conductor. He was known for his interpretations of Mozart operas and for his support of contemporary music.
Life and career
Pritchard was born in Walthamstow, Essex, to a musical family. His father, Albert Edward Pritchard, was a violinist with the London Symphony Orchestra. The young Pritchard was educated at the Monoux School and studied violin, piano, and conducting in Italy.
Pritchard, as a conscientious objector, refused to serve in the Second World War, but was in any case unfit on medical grounds. In 1943 he took over the semi-professional Derby String Orchestra and was its principal conductor until 1951. He joined the music staff of Glyndebourne Festival Opera in 1947 and was appointed chorus master in 1949. He remained associated with Glyndebourne for most of his career, as conductor, music counsellor (from 1963), principal conductor (1968) and musical director (1969–78).
Beyond Glyndebourne, Pritchard appeared with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, at Edinburgh in 1952 (deputising for Ernest Ansermet, who was ill). He made his début at the Royal Opera House in 1951 and at the Vienna State Opera in 1952. He appeared regularly with the Vienna Symphony (1953–55).
For Glyndebourne in this period he conducted Mozart's Idomeneo and Richard Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos at the Edinburgh festivals of 1953 and 1954 and Rossini's La Cenerentola at the Berlin Festival, a performance described by the Dictionary of National Biography as 'a triumph'.
In 1957, Pritchard was appointed principal conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic where he launched the Musica Viva series showcasing contemporary music. His success in Liverpool led to his appointment as musical director of the London Philharmonic Orchestra (1962–66). Freelancing after leaving the LPO, he conducted concerts in Berlin, Leipzig, Dresden, Philadelphia and the Far East, and opera in Buenos Aires, Chicago, San Francisco, New York, Salzburg, Florence, and Munich. In 1973 he conducted the London Philharmonic in China—the first visit by a Western orchestra.
His later permanent posts were chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, (1982–89) and musical director of the Cologne Opera (1978), La Monnaie, Brussels (1981), and the San Francisco Opera (1986). At the time of his death he was preparing Wagner's Ring cycle for San Francisco.
John Pritchard was a champion of a wide range of new music, conducting the premieres of Britten's Gloriana and Tippett's The Midsummer Marriage and King Priam, all at Covent Garden, and the British première of Henze's Elegy for Young Lovers at Glyndebourne. Of the classics of the repertoire he was noted for his Mozart and Richard Strauss. His recordings include Idomeneo, L'incoronazione di Poppea, Falstaff, Macbeth, Hansel and Gretel, L'elisir d'amore (with Plácido Domingo), Il segreto di Susanna (with Renata Scotto and Renato Bruson), Lucia di Lammermoor and La traviata (the last two with Joan Sutherland).
- Lucia di Lammermoor – Joan Sutherland (Lucia), André Turp (Edgardo), John Shaw (Enrico), Joseph Rouleau (Raimondo), Kenneth MacDonald (Arturo), Margreta Elkins (Alisa), Edgar Evans (Normanno), Chorus & Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, John Pritchard, recorded 1961 – Celestial Audio CA 345
- Hänsel und Gretel - Frederica von Stade (Hänsel), Ileana Cotrubas (Gretel), Kiri Te Kanawa (Little Sandman), Ruth Welting (Dew Fairy), Elisabeth Söderström (Witch), Siegmund Nimsgern (Father), Christa Ludwig (Mother), Children's Chorus of the Cologne Opera, Gürzenich Orchestra, John Pritchard, recorded 1978 - Sony M2K 79217; for details, see here
- Idomeneo – Richard Lewis (Idomeneo), Leopold Simoneau (Idamante), Sena Jurinac (Ilia), Lucille Udovick (Elettra), Chorus & Orchestra of the Glyndebourne Festival, John Pritchard, recorded 1956
- The Metropolitan Opera Centennial Gala (1983), Deutsche Grammophon DVD, 00440-073-4538
- Conway, Helen (1994). Sir John Pritchard: His Life in Music. London: Andre Deutsch Ltd. ISBN 0-233-98845-9.
- Interview with John Pritchard, 3 December 1980 (before knighthood)
- Interview with Sir John Pritchard (mostly about Wagner), 29 September 1984
- Interview with Kiri Te Kanawa and Sir John Pritchard, 19 December 1987
| Music Director, Glyndebourne Opera Festival