Fricsay, Ferenc

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Fricsay, Ferenc

Fricsay, Ferenc, distinguished Hungarian-born Austrian conductor; b. Budapest, Aug. 9, 1914; d. Basel, Feb. 20, 1963. He received his initial musical training from his father, a military bandmaster, and then was a pupil of Bartok (piano) and Kodaly (composition) at the Budapest Academy of Music; he learned to play almost every orchestral instrument. He was conductor in Szeged (1933–4), and also held the post of 1st conductor at the Budapest Opera (1939–45). In 1945 he became music director of the Hungarian State Opera in Budapest. On Aug. 6, 1947, he made an impressive debut at the Salzburg Festival conducting the premiere of Gottfried von Einem’s opera Dantons Tod, which led to engagements in Europe and South America. In 1948 he became a conductor at the Stadtische Oper in West Berlin; in 1951–52 he was its artistic director but resigned after a conflict over artistic policies. In 1949 he became chief conductor of the RIAS (Radio in the American Sector) Sym. Orch. in Berlin, an esteemed position he retained until 1954. After it became the Radio Sym. Orch. of Berlin in 1955, he appeared with it regularly until 1961. On Nov. 13, 1953, he made his U.S. debut as a guest conductor of the Boston Sym. Orch. In 1954 he was engaged as conductor of the Houston Sym. Orch., but he resigned his position soon afterward following a disagreement with its management over musical policies. From 1956 to 1958 he was Generalmusikdirektor of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich. In 1959 he became a naturalized Austrian citizen. In 1961 he was invited to conduct Don Giovanni at the opening of the Deutsche Oper in West Berlin. Soon thereafter leukemia compelled him to abandon his career. Fricsay excelled as an interpreter of the Romantic repertory but he also dis-played a special affinity for the masterworks of the 20th century. He was the author of the book Uber Mozart und Bartok (Frankfurt am Main, 1962).


F. Herzfeld, E. R: Ein Gedenkbuch (Berlin, 1964).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire