Kurt Masur

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About Kurt Masur

For many, Kurt Masur was one of the last and finest representatives of the old-style German conducting tradition. Born in 1927 in Brieg, Germany (now Brzeg, Poland), he was conscripted into the Nazi army at just 16 and was one of the lucky few in his unit to survive. After the war, his family remained in what became the Soviet-aligned German Democratic Republic. He studied at Leipzig University, but left without completing his studies when he was offered a job as répétiteur at the Halle Opera House. From there he rose to become conductor of the Dresden Philharmonic in 1955 and director of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in 1970. He never joined the Communist Party, however, despite pressure, and in 1989 he helped negotiate a settlement between the regime and anti-government protesters when the army threatened to intervene. In 1990, he conducted a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in celebration of German reunification. In 1991, Masur was appointed director of the New York Philharmonic, which was felt to have lost its way musically in the previous decade. His effect on the orchestra was widely hailed as transformative. But tensions between him and the orchestral management led to his departure in 2002. He continued conducting with the London Philharmonic and the Orchestre National de France until Parkinson’s disease brought his career to a close in 2012. He died in Greenwich, Connecticut, in 2015.

Brzeg, Poland
July 18, 1927
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