Albert Coates collection
Albert Coates was born in St. Petersburg in 1882. He went to primary school in London, then to high school and university in Liverpool, where he studied sciences. He was supposed to join his father’s business, but instead turned to music, enrolling at the Leipzig Conservatory in 1902. There, he studied conducting with Nikisch, and thereafter rose rapidly through the ranks. He was a répétiteur for Nikisch, an assistant to Ernst von Schuch in Dresden, and then from 1910 to 1917 he conducted at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg. He left Russia in 1919, after which he regularly worked with the London Symphony Orchestra; the world premières he conducted with them included the complete Planets Suite by Holst and the revised version of Vaughan Williams’s A London Symphony. In 1920, Coates made his debut with the New York Symphony Orchestra; from 1923 to 1925 he was Music Director of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, and in 1926 also conducted for the Philharmonic and Symphonic Societies in New York. He returned on occasion to conduct in Europe, where he worked for a season at the Berlin State Opera (1931), gave concerts with the Vienna Philharmonic (1935), and was also engaged as a guest at Covent Garden (1938). Coates was married twice. His first wife was Madelon Holland, who wrote the libretto of his first opera, Asshurbanipal, in 1910;3 his second wife was the South African singer Vera de Villiers. They married on 20 January 1945, and emigrated to South Africa the following year, settling in the Cape Town suburb of Milnerton. He worked first with the Johannesburg Municipal Orchestra, and followed this with various opera and orchestral engagements in Cape Town. His last opera, 'Tafelberg se Kleed' (for which he also wrote the libretto), was composed on a South African topic, and performed for the Van Riebeeck Festival in 1952 (which commemorated the three hundredth anniversary of the first white settlement in South Africa under Jan van Riebeeck). Coates died in Cape Town on 11 December 1953.