Masut, Kurt

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Masut, Kurt

Masut, Kurt, eminent German conductor; b. Brieg, Silesia, July 18, 1927. He received training in piano and cello at the Breslau Music School (1942–44). He then studied conducting with H. Bongartz and took courses in piano and composition at the Leipzig Hochschule für Musik (1946–48). In 1948 he commenced his career with appointments as répétiteur and conductor at the Halle Landestheater. He held the title of 1st conductor at the Erfurt City Theater (1951–53) and at the Leipzig City Theater (1953–55). He was conductor of the Dresden Phil. (1955–58), Generalmusikdirektor of the Mecklenburg State Theater in Schwerin (1958–60), and senior director of music at the Komische Oper in East Berlin (1960–64). In 1967 he returned to the Dresden Phil, as its music director, a position he retained until 1972. In 1970 he assumed the time-honored position of Gewand-hauskapellmeister of Leipzig, where he served as music director of the Gewandhaus Orch. with notable distinction. He also made extensive tours with his orch. in Europe and abroad. In 1973 he made his British debut as a guest conductor with the New Philharmonia Orch. of London; his U.S. debut followed in 1974 as a guest conductor with the Cleveland Orch. On Oct. 9, 1981, he conducted the Beethoven 9th Sym. at the gala opening of the new Gewandhaus in Leipzig. In 1988 he was named principal guest conductor of the London Phil. In the autumn of 1989, during the period of political upheaval in East Germany, Masur played a major role as peacemaker in Leipzig. In 1990 he was appointed music director of the N.Y. Phil., which position he assumed in 1991 while retaining his title in Leipzig until 1998. On Dec. 7, 1992, he conducted the N.Y. Phil, in a performance of Dvorak’s New World Symphony as part of the orch.’s 150th anniversary concert, which was televized live throughout the U.S. by PBS. In 1997 he was named honorary conductor of the Gewandhaus Orch. and was a Commandeur of the Légion d’honneur of France. From 2000 he was principal conductor of the London Phil., and from 2001 chief conductor of the Orchestre National de France in Paris. He retained his position with the N.Y. Phil, until 2002. While he has earned a reputation as a faithful guardian of the hallowed Austro-German repertoire, he frequently programs contemporary scores as well.


D. Hartwig, K. M. (Leipzig, 1975); A. Fritzsch and M. Simon, Der Gewandhauskapellmeister K. M. (Leipzig, 1987).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire