Kempe, Rudolf, eminent German conductor; b. Niederpoyritz, near Dresden, June 14, 1910; d. Zürich, May 11, 1976. He studied oboe at the Orchestral School of the Dresden Staatskapelle. In 1929 he became 1st oboist of the Gewandhaus Orch. in Leipzig. He made his conducting debut at the Leipzig Opera in 1936. He served in the German army during World War II, then conducted in Chemnitz. He was director of the Opera there (1945–48) and at the Weimar National Theater (1948–49). From 1949 to 1953 he was Generalmusikdirektor of the Dresden Staatskapelle, and then served in an identical capacity with the Bavarian State Opera in Munich (1952–54). He also made appearances in opera in Vienna, in London (Covent Garden), and at the Metropolitan in N.Y. In 1960 Sir Thomas Beecham named him assoc. conductor of the Royal Phil, of London. Upon Beecham’s death in 1961, he became its principal conductor, and from 1963 to 1975 he was artistic director as well. He was chief conductor of the Tonhalle Orch. in Zürich (1965–72) and of the Munich Phil, (from 1967); from 1975 he conducted the BBC Sym. Orch. in London. Kempe was a distinguished interpreter of Beethoven, Brahms, Wagner, Bruckner, and Richard Strauss; also conducted lighter scores with equal aplomb.
C. Kempe-Oettinger, R. K.: Pictures of a Life (Munich, 1977; Eng. tr., London, 1979).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire