Masur, Kurt

views updated May 18 2018

Kurt Masur

Conductor, music director

Chose Not to Become an Electrician

Continued August History of Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra

Accepted Philharmonic Post

Selected discography


There is always a tingle of anticipation when a conductor lifts his arms to signal the start of a concert. That tingle ran particularly high on September 11, 1991, when the raised arms belonged to maestro Kurt Masur, music director of the world-renowned Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, who was making his debut as music director of the equally renowned New York Philharmonic. Masur, who holds these appointments concurrently, is unfazed by the challenge of helming a 107-strong ensemble of notoriously independent musicians in America while also leading a 250-year-old European orchestra that is ruled by tradition; he meets the challenge by simply preserving the unique character and sound of each, at the same time overlaying them with his own meticulous interpretation of the featured composers work.

This is a difficult balance, but it is by no means the highest hurdle Masur has faced; a far more daunting test came in 1989, when the communist regime of East Germany began to teeter. Realizing that clashes between angry pro-democracy demonstrators and police seemed inevitable, Masur used his influence to persuade Communist Party officials and their opponents to convene at the Gewandhaus for talks. As a result, there was no bloodshed in Leipzig when the Berlin Wall crumbled weeks later. In fact, when the dust settled, many Leipzigers viewed Masur as a good choice for the countrys first post-communist president. Ultimately, this would not be the case, as Masur dismissed such a possibility before the issue was decided. I am a musician, not a politician, he told Time magazines Michael Walsh in 1990. I make my statements in music.

Chose Not to Become an Electrician

Masur was just seven years old when he learned to use music as a means of self-expression. Spurred on by his parents, he taught himself to play the piano and before long was devouring all types of music so eagerly that he abandoned tentative plans to work as an electrician and aimed instead for a career in music. Breslaus National Music School in what is now Wroclaw, Poland, was the first step to achieving this goal. A well-focused young Masur entered in 1942, proving himself a diligent piano and cello student. Piano studies continued at the Leipzig Conservatory in 1946, along with conducting and composition. Once he had graduated, Masur began the long, arduous climb up the ladder toward the recognition that would permit him to put his interpretive signature on any performance. In 1948, he began as a

For the Record

Born July 18, 1927, in Brieg, Silesia (later Poland); married Tomoko Sakurai (a Japanese soprano; third wife); children: four. Education: Studied piano and cello studies at National Music School, Breslau (now Wroclaw), Poland, 1942-44; attended Hochschule fur Musik, Leipzig, East Germany (now Germany), 1946-48.

Rehearsal conductor at Halle State Theater, Saxony, East Germany, conductor at Erfurt City Theater and Leipzig Opera, and guest conductor with Leipzig and Dresden Radio orchestras, 1951-53; general music director, Dresden Philhamionic Orchestra, 1955-58; music director, Mecklenburg Staatstheater, Schwerin, East Germany, 1958-60; music director, Berlin Komische Oper, 1960-64; guest conductor in Europe, Japan, and South America, 1964-67; chief conductor of Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra, 1967-72; music director of Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, 1970; music director of New York Philharmonic, 1991.

Selected awards: National Prize of German Democratic Republic, 1969-70; honorary degrees from University of Leipzig and University of Michigan.

Addresses: Office New York Philharmonic, Avery Fisher Hall, 10 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, NY 10023-6973.

rehearsal coach at the Halle National Theater in Saxony, progressing, in 1951, to a two-year stint as conductor of the Erfurt City Theater. Next came a term as conductor of the Leipzig Opera, beginning in 1953, while he was guest conducting with the Dresden Radio Orchestra. In 1955 came his first major orchestral appointment, as conductor of the Dresden Philharmonic, which he left in 1958 to become general director of opera at the Mecklenburg State Theater in Schwerin.

By 1960, Masur was an accomplished conductor with an extensive repertoire. As such, he was hand-picked for the post of music director at the prestigious Berlin Komische Oper by Walter Felsenstein, the companys opera director. Working with Felsenstein taught Masur a great deal about shaping his own interpretations. An innovative thinker, Felsenstein was an originator of the realistic music theater concept, the principal technique of which involved using music as a way to heighten operas drama to its fullest extent. Because Felsenstein often re-edited original texts, reconstructing them to make the most of their dramatic potential, Masur learned to analyze and re-analyze every piece of music in order to bring out its deepest meaning. This skill enabled him to move past the technical demands of the composers work, to the artistic spirit behind it.

Masur enjoyed his work with Felsenstein and was glad to have had the opportunity to add so many works to his repertoire during this time. Nevertheless, by 1964 he had spent 12 years in opera, and he was beginning to long for the variety he could derive only from orchestral work. Guest conducting seemed an ideal next step. Despite the fact that the East German government respected their musicians enough to support 88 orchestras, Masur knew he would have trouble getting a visa when he received an invitation to conduct in Venice, Italy. He defiantly accepted the 1966 engagement anyway, then went to the Ministry of Culture to demand the necessary travel permit. While at first adamant in its refusal, the ministry grudgingly backed down, fearing international repercussions if anything should stop the determined Masur from keeping his Venice appointment.

Continued August History of Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra

By 1970, when he took the reins of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Masurs guest engagements had made his musical statements familiar to music lovers all over Europe. Experienced, well versed in the Romantic masters whose works formed the backbone of the Leipzig repertoire, he also understood that Leipzigs was an orchestra that had always relied on tradition. It had been founded in 1743, during the lifetime of Johann Sebastian Bach, and had boasted quasi-professional musicians until 1835, when Felix Mendelssohn marched briskly onto the podium and turned his orchestra into the best in Europe. Then, to assure himself a future supply of reliably expert performers, Mendelssohn founded the Hochschule fur Musik (music school), using members of the orchestra as teachers. This tradition continues to rule the ensemble; fully 85 percent of conservatory students go on to the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. Masur himself heartily approves of the practice; [we] dont like to take outsiders, especially strings, he told John Rockwell of the New York Times Magazine, we have our own style.

The Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra style, which is lyrical and deeply textured, also owes much to conductor Bruno Walter, who passed on to the members techniques he had learned in Hamburg from the brilliant, difficult Gustav Mahler. Walter turned his orchestra into a national treasure soon after he became its music director in 1928; nonetheless, in 1933 he earned the dubious honor of being the first Jewish musician ejected from Germany by the Nazis. Masur was well acquainted with Walters work. He especially admired his interpretations of Mozart, which he had first heard on a radio broadcast from West Berlin in 1946. Masur had then proceeded to learn everything he could about Walters interpretations, which have become a guiding force to him.

In a few years Masur had smoothly incorporated the traditions of both Mendelssohn and Walter into an ensemble that bore his own unmistakable style. By 1974 he was ready to take the orchestra overseas; the tour included performances in Japan, China, Great Britain, and the United States. Masur also traveled frequently on his own, creating such a sensation with the Cleveland Orchestra that it was still remembered when he returned there in the summer of 1982.

Soon after Masurs arrival in Leipzig, the East German government announced plans for a new Gewandhaus to replace the building that had been flattened by bombs during World War II. While leading the orchestras usual performances in the Congress Hall down the street, Masur himself supervised every detail of the new buildings construction, making sure that the acoustics would be perfect for both recording and live performances. Because of the increasingly exacting acoustical detail afforded by newly sophisticated recording media, he knew that live and at-home audience expectations would be extremely high, and he was determined not to disappoint. Concertgoers at the orchestras first Gewandhaus performance, in 1981, marveled at the sound quality and viewing vantage points of its modern amphitheater design, which places most seating in an elevated circle surrounding the orchestra.

By the 1980s Masurs prestige in the government was considerable. He accepted his status without false modesty, enjoying the recognition of fellow Leipzigers without taking advantage of his elevated position. But in 1989 he was thrust unexpectedly into the political glare cast on the tottering communist regime of East German head of state Erich Honecker. The catalyst was a letter he received during the summer asking for his help in protecting the rights of street musicians. Intrigued by the unusual request, Masur invited the citys street musicians to the Gewandhaus for a meeting with police and Communist Party authorities. The gathering ended so amicably that he repeated the event later in the year when angry pro-democracy demonstrators seething through Leipzig made him fear the possibility of widespread violence. Incredulous opponents of the regime gaped when Masurs influence coaxed party leaders and members of the secret police to meet with them at the Gewandhaus for informal talks. Weeks later, when the Berlin Wall fell, its toppling did not unleash the slaughter that usually accompanies drastic political change.

Still, not every Leipziger was impressed by Masurs feat; detractors growled that his concern for the city had been purely opportunistic. As evidence, they dug up a tragic 1972 traffic accident, in which Masurs second wife and two young men in an oncoming car had been killed on the autobahn. It had been Masurs influence with the government, the opponents claimed, that had prevented an inquiry or other consequences at the time. Masur met this challenge with his usual calm, pointing out that an inquiry had been unnecessary since he had at once accepted full responsibility for the accident. As it was, Masurs admirers far outnumbered the naysayers. Thus it was unusual but not completely unexpected when the conductors fans bandied his name about as a hot presidential prospect for the post-Honecker government. He made the point moot, however, dismissing the possibility as ridiculous.

Accepted Philharmonic Post

Leipzigs turmoil did not prevent Masur from keeping up with events on the international music scene. The big news in New York City was the imminent departure of Zubin Mehta, the New York Philharmonics music director, who was planning to step down at the end of the 1990-1991 season. Newspaper reports detailed the progression of the search for a replacement for the irreplaceable Mehta. Bernard Haitink had been approached but had preferred to stay in his post, as had Sir Colin Davis. Claudio Abbado had considered the position but had turned it down in favor of the Berlin Philharmonic. Masur came under consideration when a survey generated by the members of the New York Philharmonic themselves ranked him top among their guest conductors. Other points in his favor were the rave reviews he had received for his 1989 performances, plus his lucrative recording contracts with Philips and Teldec. Masur accepted the assignment, on condition that it run concurrently with his Leipzig duties. Ever obliging, he even stepped into the post a year early after the sudden death of Leonard Bernstein left several weeks of Philharmonic engagements without a maestro.

Masur found the tenor of the New York Philharmonic completely different from that of the competition-free, tradition-bound Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. Far more independent, with a longstanding reputation for challenging conductors, and deeply conscious of their own artistic excellence, the musicians had been, collectively, a tough nut even for the formidable Bernstein, who often had to beg for their attention.

Deft at administration and unperturbed by artistic temperament, Masur lost no time in showing the New York Philharmonic who was boss. He needed to let everybody know, Im the man, Im in charge, youre going to do what I ask, tuba player Warren Deck told James Oestreich of the New York Times, And... if you didnt do it immediately, it was ugly. Most performers chose to comply and found that rewards were swift. First came a return to the maestros usual modus operandi, which is a reasonable, partnership approach to each project. Then came initiation into the exquisitely detailed analysis that produces his unique musical statement. The result was summed up by principal oboist Joseph Robinson, who told the New York Times, That concern makes our musical adventures together more rewarding than with most people Ive ever worked with.

The proof of the union, one might say, was in the listening. And the listening was great, according to Stereo Reviews Richard Freed, who in March of 1992 reviewed Masurs production of the Bruckner Seventh Symphony, recorded live at his debut performance. It is a noble reading, said Freed, adding, there is a mellowness new to the Philharmonic, and it does not by any means cancel out brilliance. With Masur at the podium, the future promised much for the New York Philharmonic.

Selected discography

With the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra; on Philips, except where noted

Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125.

Beethoven: Nine Symphonies.

Beethoven: Triple Concerto in C. Major for Violin, Cello and Piano, Op. 56; Two Romances for Violin and Orchestra: in G Major, Op. 40 and in F Major, Op. 50, Angel.

Brahms: Complete Symphonies (includes Variations on a Theme by Haydn, Op. 56a; Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80; Tragic Overture, Op. 81.)

Brahms: Concerto No. 1 in D Minor for Piano, Op. 15.

Brahms: Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major for Piano, Op. 83.

Brahms: Concerto in D Major for Violin, Op. 77.

Brahms: Concerto in A Minor for Violin and Cello, Op. 102.

Brahms: Hungarian Dances Nos. 1-21.

Brahms: Serenade No. 1 in D Major, Op. 11.

Bruch: Concerti for Violin: No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 26; No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 44.

Bruch: Scottish Fantasy, Op. 46; Konzertstuck, Op. 44.

Bruch: Symphony No. 2 in F Minor, Op. 36; Swedish Dances, Op. 63.

Busoni; Nielsen; Reinecke: Twentieth Century Flute Concerti.

Dvorak: Slavonic Dances, Op. 46 and Op. 72; Slavonic Rhapsodies, Nos. 1, 2, 3.

Liszt: Six Hungarian Rhapsodies.

Liszt: Totentanz; Fantasia on Beethovens Ruins of Athens; Malediction; Hungarian Fantasy, Angel.

Schubert: Incidental Music to Rosamunde, Op. 26, D. 797.

Strauss: Concerti for French Horn: No. 1 in E-flat Major, Op. 11; No. 2 in E-flat Major (includes Von WeberConcertino for Horn and Orchestra in E Minor, Op. 45.)

Strauss: Four Last Songs; Songs With Orchestra.

Strauss: Songs for Male Voice With Orchestra.

Vivaldi; Handel; Mozart; Gluch; and others: 18th-century Bel Canto Music.

With the New York Philharmonic, except where noted; on Teldec

Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C Minor; Egmont.

Brahams: Haydn Variations Symphony No. 2; Academic Festival Overture.

(With the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra) Bruch: Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Major.

Bruckner: Symphony No. 7.

Dvorak: SymphoyNo. 9, From the New World; Slvavonic Dances.

Franck: Symphonie in D; Les Eolides.

Ives: Variations on America (Schuman orchestration).

Mahler: Symphony No. 1; Wayfarer Songs.

(With the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra) Mendelssohn: Elijah, Op. 70; Midsummer Nights Dream; Piano Concerti Nos. 1-2; Symphony Nos. 1, 5; Symphony No. 2; Symphonies Nos. 3 & 4; Violin Concerto in E Minor.

Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition.

Prokofiev: Alexander Nevsky; Scythian Suite; Symphony No. 1, Classical.

Reger: Variations & Fugue on a Theme by Mozart.

Schumann: Symphonies Nos. 1, 4; Symphonies Nos. 2, 3, Rhenish.

Sibelius: Finlandia; Karelia Suite; Swan of Tuonela; Violin Concerto.

Tchaikovsky: Manfred; Piano Concerto No. 2; Francesca da Rimini; Gopak; Romeo & Juliet; Festival Coronation March; Symphony No. 1; Francesca Symphony No. 2; Romeo & Juliet Symphony No. 3; Festival Coronation; Gopak Symphony No. 4; Symphony No. 5; Symphony No. 6, Pathetique.



Craven, Robert, Symphony Orchestras of the United States: Selected Profiles, Greenwood Press, 1986.

Craven, Robert, Symphony Orchestras of the World: Selected Profiles, Greenwood Press, 1987.

Ewen, David, Dictators of the Baton, Ziff-Davis, 1948.

Holmes, John L, Conductor on Record, Greenwood Press, 1982.


Audio, December 1991.

Fanfare, October 1984.

New York Times, April 23, 1990; May 1, 1990; December 18, 1990; May 23, 1993.

New York Times Magazine, September 8, 1991.

Stereo Review, March 1992; May 1992.

Time, July 12, 1993.

Gillian Wolf

Kurt Masur

views updated Jun 11 2018

Kurt Masur

Kurt Masur (born 1927), the former conductor of Leipzig's Gewandhaus Orchestra and reluctant East German revolutionary leader, now conducts the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. An internationally-acclaimed conductor, Masur added the London Philharmonic to his roster of duties in the year 2000.

Born in the German city of Brieg (now in Poland) on January 18, 1927, Kurt Masur's father was an engineer. He taught himself to play the piano at the age of seven. His formal training took place at the Breslau Music School from 1942 until 1944, and the Leipzig Hochshule fur Musik from 1946 until 1948. In addition to the piano, Masur studied cello, composition, and conducting. At his father's insistence, he was also trained as an electrician. Masur never made use of this training. "I loved only music," he told the San Francisco Chronicle in 1990. "Really, for me, there was nothing else I could do."

Masur began conducting in opera houses in the late 1940s. He served as Kapellmeister of the Erfurt and the Leipzig opera theaters in the early to mid 1950s. In 1955, he became conductor of the Dresden Philharmonic, where he served as chief conductor from 1967 until 1972. He was the general director of music at the Mecklenburg State Theater of Schwerin in 1958. He also served as senior director of music, alongside director Walter Felsenstein, at Berlin's Komishe Oper.

Kapellmeister of the Gewandhaus

In 1970, Masur became the director, or Kapellmeister, of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, a post he held until he retired in 1996. The orchestra, now over 250 years old, prides itself on its history and tradition. Older Gewandhaus players train its musicians. Instruments, scores, even interpretations have been passed down through the years. Previous Gewandhaus Kapellmeisters have included Felix Mendelssohn, Johannes Brahms, Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss, Wilhelm Furtwaengler, and Bruno Walter.

Masur has felt a particular connection with Felix Mendelssohn, who also conducted the Gewandhaus Orchestra and founded the conservatory in Leipzig over 150 years ago. Mendelssohn's works were not performed in Germany during the Nazi regime because of his father's Jewish ancestry—even though he and his father had been Christians. In 1993, to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Gewandhaus Orchestra, Masur led the group on a twelve-day tour. Masur secured money from Japanese donors and helped to restore the house Mendelssohn had lived and died in and turned it into a museum. The conductor has performed Mendelssohn's entire works in Leipzig. In October 1999, Masur told the Jerusalem Post, "After the Second World War, a lot of musicians came to Leipzig and tried to rebuild his image. I did it all my life because for me he was a very special human being. I was always fascinated by this kind of commitment about how much he cared for the people of his time. And so I fought for his recognition. It was not easy as many believe that Bach should be the city's foremost musical son. But they complement each other well."

Masur made his U.S. debut as a guest conductor for the Cleveland Orchestra. That same year, he led the Gewandhaus Orchestra on its first-ever U.S. tour. He also served as a professor at the Leipzig Academy of Music for several years, beginning in 1975. Although Masur had many opportunities to leave East Germany and conduct elsewhere, he did not want to leave the Gewandhaus. Masur told the San Fransico Chronicle in 1990, "This orchestra is what kept me here. I felt I had to keep it alive at the highest possible level. And although I know some felt they had to leave to express their artistry, I discovered that I could reach my highest artistic level here. For me, it would not have been a solution to leave." His loyalty to the Gewandhaus should not, however, be misconstrued. Masur was never a Communist Party member. In 1964, he turned down an offer to work directly for the East German government as the director of East Berlin's Komische Oper. The job came with a house, a car and assorted other perks. Masur asserted his belief that subsidized art is not necessarily good art, and oftentimes is art as a manufactured product. By making this decision, he earned the respect of many East German citizens.

Collaboration for the Gewandhaus

Masur's relationship with former East German leader Eric Honecker caused suspicion among some. However, Masur insists that he remained true to himself and his values. In fact, he did not know Honecker well. Their relationship was based on two requests: first and foremost, Masur asked Honecker to construct a new building for the Gewandhaus. The second was a 1983 request to remove a ban on East German artists traveling to the United States. Both request were granted. When Honecker was forced to resign, Masur sent him a letter wishing him good health and thanking him for constructing the new Gewandhaus building. Masur publicly maintained that Honecker was a human being and should be treated as respectfully as any other, adding that power does strange things to people.

An Instrument of Peace

If there was ever any doubt about Masur's political affiliations, he dispelled it in the fall of 1989, when he served as an instrument of peace in Leipzig. The city had been the home base of the opposition movement since 1988. On October 2, 1989, Masur said in an interview on West German television that he was ashamed of the violence of the East German government directed against anti-government demonstrators in Leipzig. The next day, a resolution was written and signed by members of the Gewandhaus Orchestra protesting the use of force by East German police. The resolution seemed to have no effect. Four days later, police staged another violent attack on East German marchers.

On October 7th, Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev ended a trip to mark the 40th anniversary of East German statehood. Revolution seemed to follow in his wake. On October 9, 1989, the city of Leipzig was filled with armored carsand flanked by riot police. It looked like an armed camp. Masur, aligning with the opposition group, met with Reverend Peter Zimmerman, a minister and opposition activist, Bernd Lutz Lange, a local cabaret performer, and three local party officials: Roland Woetzel, Jochem Pommert and Kurt Mayer. Their purpose was to try to stop more violence from occurring at an event planned for that evening. Masur was nominated by the group to read and record an appeal to be played over the city's loudspeakers. The tape was played at 5:30 p.m. from the loudspeakers in the center of town. The text was also read in four churches where demonstrators had gathered, as well as over the police and security radios. The group asked for peaceful discussion: "We all need a free exchange of opinions about the continuation of socialism in our country. Therefore, we promise all citizens that we will use our full power and authority to ensure that this dialogue will occur, not only in the Leipzig area but with our national government."

The march occurred without violence, and the police defied orders from Berlin to stop the march. Masur was thoughtful of his orchestra as well, calling off the pressing of a recording of the Gewandhaus Orchestra playing Beethoven's "Eroica." He felt that the mastering and pressing of an album should not occur in an atmosphere of fear. It would not be done well if all attention could not be focused on the project. He believed that energy would be better focused on political discussion. In the days following, Masur opened the Gewandhaus to public discussion. Appeals to the government were written and signed. German unification took place on October 3, 1990. Masur was mentioned as a possible candidate for the presidency, but he insisted he was a conductor, not a politician. The Berlin Wall fell that November.

In 1995, Masur was given the Commander's Cross of the Order of Merits from the Federal Republic of Germany. Two years later, he told the Sun-Sentinel in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida: "I became involved in politics because, for me, working in concerts involved a human message. At that moment, someone was needed to do something. The citizens were so brave, so strong. I couldn't stand aside. I was one of the persons better known. They thought musicians could be trusted."

Conducted the New York Philharmonic

Masur became the first democratically-chosen music director of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in 1991. Having served as a guest conductor for the orchestra 22 times in the preceding ten years, he was well known to many of the orchestra's members. Masur began with the 1992-93 season. He was expected to conduct a minimum of 14 subscription weeks, including four weeks of touring. Educational activities, recording, and performances for television, park concerts, chamber music, and miscellaneous other projects were to round out his schedule. Masur also conducted some of the New York Philharmonic's Young People's Concerts, just as Leonard Bernstein had done.

New York Philharmonic double bassist Jon Deak, a member of the committee that was charged with selecting a new director, told the Washington Post in 1990, "(Masur is) obviously a guy with great integrity and humanity; that's why he got involved in the movement for freedom in his country. He's a toughie, a man who knows what he wants and goes after it. It's plain that the orchestra did not look for someone who was easy, someone who would not bother us; musical excellence was the prime consideration."

Masur's reputation is based on his skill as an interpreter of the standard repertory. He likes new music, however. Contrary to tradition, Masur hates to be addressed as "maestro," wears a bolo tie, and does not use a baton. He disappointed those who thought he would be a typical "Kapellmeister." Masur does not want to be limited to the routine of playing only the classic repertory. He insists on including new music that he deems to be of "masterpiece" quality. Masur held true to his reputation as an excellent orchestra-builder and helped to restore the New York Philharmonic to its previous stature as a world-class orchestra.

In 1996, Masur retired from the Gewandhaus. That December, he was named that orchestra's first-ever "conductor laureate." That same year, the National Arts Club awarded Masur with the Gold Medal of Honor for Music. The following year, the government of France awarded him with the title "commander of the Legion of Honor" and the city of New York named him "city cultural ambassador." The Polish government honored the conductor in 1999 with the Commander Cross of Merit.

In 1998, the New York Philharmonic extended Masur's contract as music director to the year 2002. As a provision in the contract, he would be instrumental in picking his successor. Masur was surprised and upset by the idea that the board was, in effect, forcing him to retire. The board chairman, Paul Guenther denied plans to oust Masur. He told Newsday that if Masur decided to stay beyond the 2001-02 season, a new contract would be negotiated. Previously, Masur had been under an "evergreen contract," which was renewed every year to take effect for the next three years. His salary under the 1998 contract was reported as $1.3 million per year.

Masur will assume the role of principal conductor with the London Philharmonic effective with the 2000-01 season. In London, he will be involved with the Youth Orchestra, and has expressed a desire to increase working relationships between the London Philharmonic and leading music colleges. He is also hoping to broaden the reach of the orchestra in London with programs like "rush-hour concerts" which were successful in New York.

Music is indeed Masur's life. As he told the Orange County Register in 1999, "I was asked once, 'Mr. Masur, what do you plan to do if you retire?' I told them, 'Look, conductors don't retire. They die."'

Further Reading

Agence France-Presse, July 15, 1997.

Bangor Daily News, Bangor, Maine, October 14, 1993.

Chicago Sun-Times, February 8, 1991.

Commentary, August 1, 1995.

Europe, April 1, 1996.

Guardian, November 13, 1998.

Independent, London, April 3, 1994; October 17, 1997; November 13, 1998.

Jerusalem Post, October 22, 1999.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 3, 1998.

Newsday, October 25, 1993; March 2, 1998.

Orange County Register, January 5, 1999.

San Diego Union-Tribune, April 21, 1991; September 6, 1993.

San Francisco Chronicle, January 5, 1990.

Sun-Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale, June 1, 1997.

USA Today, September 15, 1992.

Washington Post, January 14, 1990; April 12, 1990.

Great Conductors Online, Kurt Masur,, (November 5, 1999).

New York Philharmonic Conductor Info.,, (November 5, 1999). □

Masur, Kurt

views updated May 17 2018

Masur, Kurt (b Brieg, Silesia, 1927). Ger. conductor. Cond., Erfurt 1951–3, Leipzig City Th. 1953–5, Dresden PO 1955–8, Schwerin 1958–60. Chosen by Felsenstein as mus. dir., Berlin Komische Oper 1960, staying until 1964. Returned to Dresden PO 1964–7; cond., Leipzig Gewandhaus Orch. 1970–98. Eng. début 1973. Prin. cond. NYPO from 1991; LPO from 2000, mus. dir. French Nat. Orch. from 2001.