German Conductor Wolfgang Sawallisch Dies at 89

Sunday, February 24, 2013 - 04:44 PM

German conductor Wolfgang Sawallisch, acclaimed for his musical brilliance and unpretentious leadership of the Bavarian State Opera and the Philadelphia Orchestra, has died. He was 89.

The Munich-based Bavarian State Opera, which Sawallisch led from 1971 to 1992, said he died Friday at his home in Grassau, southern Germany.

"His enormous personality and unrivaled artistry shaped this house for decades," the opera's current head, Nikolaus Bachler, said in a statement Sunday. "His name is linked to the Munich opera like no other. His influence continues to be felt until this day and will continue to do so."

Sawallisch also conducted the Bayreuth Festival, the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, the London Philharmonic, La Scala in Milan and Tokyo's NHK Orchestra, among others.

Born in Munich in 1923, Sawallisch began his career after World War II.

In 1953, he garnered international attention by becoming the youngest conductor invited to direct the Berlin Philharmonic. By 1960, he had become principal conductor of the Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra before moving to Munich in 1971.

Taking the helm of the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1992, at age 70, he guided the ensemble through a decade of financial and artistic turmoil. He was criticized by some for his traditional approach, but others praised the purity of his performance.

"With Sawallisch the music always sounded simple, clear, uncomplicated and transparent," the Vienna Symphony Orchestra said in its obituary of the conductor who led the ensemble on its well-received first tour of the United States in 1964.

At La Scala, where he made his debut in 1957, he was the first non-Italian to be awarded the Golden Baton in 1993.

Sawallisch "leaves an enormous void in the musical life of our time," the famed Milanese opera house said in a statement marking his passing.

The Bavarian State Opera said it would dedicate Verdi's Requiem, directed by Zubin Mehta, to Sawallisch on Monday.

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Comments [3]

L.Lubin from Fort Lee, NJ

I was stunned and saddened to learn of the death of one of my favorite conductors this past Monday. I am grateful to WQXR for making the announcement.

But I am equally stunned by how little of the Maestro's enormous recorded output has been played in the subsequent days. Among those recordings are the first ever of Orff's "Carmina Burana," made under the composer's supervision. Also what is still considered one of the top five sets of the Schumann symphonies, Bayreuth performances of Flying Dutchman, Tannhaueser and Lohengrin, and the first uncut recording of Strauss'
Die Frau ohne Schatten.

And now, a few days later the airwaves are full of Van Cliburn's passing, whose early retirement accentuated that his musical contributions were as much a matter of Cold War politics as talent. Out of respect for both artists I'll say no more about that.

Ruhe in Friede, Herr Meister Sawallisch. We are richer for all you left behind.

Feb. 28 2013 06:08 PM

Nice to read such a positive account from someone so obviously knowledgeable
All I am is an appreciative listener, but more of us are needed, IMHO.
Cheers,
Patricia Strong, MSW
trapped in Weiser, Idaho.com
1eattlelady@gmail.com

Feb. 26 2013 03:17 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

IT IS PARTICULARLY SAD TO LEARN OF THE PASSING OF WOLFGANG SAWALLISCH AT AGE 89.
HIS GEMUTLICHKEIT, BRUNO WALTER TYPE INTERACTION WITH HIS COLLEAGUES AND HIS APPROACH TO THE MUSIC WAS SO EMPATHETIC TO THE COMPOSER'S INTENTIONS THAT HE NEVER VULGARIZED OR STOOPED TO SENSATIONALIZE OR OVERSTEP BY SONORITY THE MUSIC SCORES'S PERFORMANCE PROTOCOLS. R.I.P.
I am a Wagnerian heldentenor, an opera composer, "Shakespeare" and "The Political Shakespeare" and director of the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute. My websites where one may download, FREE, my singing in four solo concerts at the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall by going to "Recorded Selections"; www.WagnerOpera.com, www.ShakespeareOpera.com and www.RichardWagnerMusicDramaInstitute.com. Roles that are represented in my singing to be heard on my websites are: Tristan, Siegfried, Goetterdaemmerung Siegfried, Lohengrin, Parsifal, Siegmund, Walther von Stolzing, Florestan, Federico and Eleazar.

Feb. 25 2013 06:45 PM

Feb. 25 2013 07:07 PM

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