Blech, Leo, eminent German conductor and composer; b. Aachen, April 21, 1871; d. Berlin, Aug. 25, 1958. As a young man he was engaged in a mercantile career. He then studied briefly at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin, and returned to Aachen to conduct at the Municipal Theater (1893–99); also took summer courses in composition with Humperdinck (1893–96). He was subsequently engaged as opera conductor in Prague (1899–1906), and then became conductor at the Berlin Royal Opera in 1906; was named Generalmusikdirektor in 1913. In 1923 he became conductor of the Deutsches Opernhaus in Berlin; in 1924 was with the Berlin Volksoper, and in 1925 with the Vienna Volksoper. In 1926 he returned to Berlin as a conductor with the Staatsoper, remaining there until 1937; then went to Riga as a conductor of the Riga Opera (1937–41). From 1941 to 1949 he conducted in Stockholm. In 1949 he returned to Berlin and served as Generalmusikdirektor of the Stadtische Oper there, remaining at that post until 1953. He was considered a fine interpreter of the standard German and Italian repertoire, particularly in the works of Wagner and Verdi. His own music is in the Wagnerian tradition. His knowledge and understanding of instrumental and vocal resources enabled him to produce competent operas; however, after initial successes, they suffered total oblivion.
DRAMATIC: Opera: Aglaja (1893); Cheru-bina (1894); Das war ich, “opera-idyl” (Dresden, Oct. 6, 1902); Alpenkb’nig und Menschenfeind (Dresden, Oct. 1, 1903; rewritten and produced as Rappelkopf, Berlin Opera, 1917); Aschenbrodel (Prague, 1905); Versiegelt (Hamburg, 1908; N.Y., 1912); Die Strohwitwe, operetta (Hamburg, 1920). OTHER: 3 symphonic poems: Die Nonne, Waldwanderung, and Trost in der Natur; 10 Kleinigkeiten for Piano, 4-Hands; music for children; choruses; songs; piano pieces.
E. Rychnowsky, L B. (Prague, 1905); W. Jacob, L B. (Hamburg, 1931).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire