Letter: Sir Charles Mackerras obituary

Catherine Mackintosh writes: The death of Sir Charles Mackerras so soon after his final performance at Glyndebourne, in June, conducting Così Fan Tutte, came as a shock to the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.

Catherine Mackintosh writes: The death of Sir Charles Mackerras so soon after his final performance at Glyndebourne, in June, conducting Così Fan Tutte, came as a shock to the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. In spite of his cancer, he appeared to defy all symptoms as soon as he picked up his baton, and was telling us of his projects in the year ahead.

If your excellent obituary (16 July) gave the impression that he was a hard taskmaster, I can assure you that we always found him, without ever compromising his rigorous standards, the most good-humoured, trusting and well-loved conductor. His incredibly detailed and profound knowledge was legendary. Passing the two bassoonists on his way into the pit he commented on a tricky unison passage. They immediately confessed that it was simpler for just one of them to play it. When the performance arrived at this point, Sir Charles caught their eye and twinkled.

Years ago someone came up with an anagram of his name, "Slasher M Earcrack", somewhat in the manner of a Groucho Marx character, though by no means aptly. His brilliantly effective technique included a strong, energising elbow movement, a subtle screwing of the wrist, delicate fingers and strange workings of the tongue inside a closed mouth, but he never slashed.

He unfailingly thanked us all for each performance. Whatever the work, he insisted on using his own set of parts, and for those that he played with "modern" as well as "period" orchestras, he had two sets with appropriate bowings.

If in rehearsal a difference of opinion occurred, he would always get his way after a short discussion. When I was leading Haydn's Creation, I played the passage depicting snow in rather a fluffy way – how I thought snow should sound on the violin. However, this was not at all Sir Charles's idea. We tried a bit shorter, still no good. Only when quite sharp and short was he happy. "Ah, so it's the sparkle of the snow you're after," I said, and he happily agreed at last.

How lucky we and other musicians were to have him inspire us for so long.

The GuardianTramp

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