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Alexander Gibson

Alexander Gibson was a Scottish conductor known for his interpretations of late Romantic and British works. He was also an advocate for Scottish composers and new music and conducted countless premieres. He was born in 1926 to a non-musical family in Motherwell, Scotland. His musical talents were first discovered when he performed in a production of The Pirates of Penzance at the Dalziel High School, where he attended. Gibson also studied the piano and organ in school, and after he graduated, he became the organist at the Hillhead Congregational Church in Glasgow. In 1943, he enrolled at the University of Glasgow, where he majored in English and Music, but he was conscripted into the military after his first year of study. Gibson served as a pianist in the Royal Signals Band until 1948, when he received a scholarship to attend the Royal College of Music in London as a piano student. His professors initially didn't allow him to enroll in the conducting courses because they didn't think that he knew enough music theory. However, he proved them wrong by forming and conducting his own orchestra and was admitted into the conducting courses. After finishing at the Royal College of Music, he began studying conducting at the Salzburg Mozarteum with Igor Markevitch in 1950. The following year, he started working as a rehearsal conductor at Sadler's Wells Opera, and in 1952, he signed a two-year contract as the assistant conductor of the BBC Scottish Orchestra, under Ian Whyte. This gave Gibson the opportunity to learn much of the standard orchestral repertoire. After his contract ended, he returned to Sadler's Wells Opera as a staff conductor and was offered the post of Musical Director later in 1957. At 31 years old, he was the youngest conductor ever to serve in this position. In 1959, he was appointed conductor of the Scottish National Orchestra, and he remained there for 25 years. He also founded the Scottish Opera in 1962 and became its artistic director and principal conductor. In this capacity, he commissioned several new works and conducted their premieres. Gibson also played a major role in introducing Janet Baker to the world of opera. He made his North American conducting debut in Detroit with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in 1970 and became increasingly more active in the U.S. throughout the 1980s. In 1984, he left the Scottish National Orchestra, and he also left the Scottish Opera in 1985, but he continued conducting opera in Los Angeles, Kentucky, and Houston. Gibson became the president of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in 1991, where he served until his death in 1995 after suffering a heart attack.
© RJ Lambert /TiVo
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