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Das Philharmonische Tagebuch

土, 06. 9月 2008

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Enduring Standards

Prof. Horst Stein

General Music Director Horst Stein died in Vandoeuvres, in the province of Geneva, Switzerland at the age of 80 on July 27, 2008. Horst Stein was born on May 2, 1928, in Elberfeld (Wuppertal), Germany, and attended the Music High School in Frankfurt/Main, where he studied piano, oboe, percussion and voice. Thereafter he continued his studies in conducting at the College of Music in Cologne with Günter Wand, and began his professional career as a rehearsal pianist at the Municipal Theater in Wuppertal in 1947. Erich Kleiber hired him in 1955 at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden in Berlin, where he worked first as conductor and following that as the coordinating General Music Director until 1961. He went on to hold positions as General Music Director of the Hamburg State Opera from 1961-1963, and the Nationaltheater in Mannheim from 1963-1970. Between 1969 and 1971, he was engaged as the first conductor at the Vienna State Opera, where in the course of his career he eventually conducted a total of 532 performances of 38 different operas. He later returned to work once again in Hamburg, and from 1980-1985 was the artistic director and head conductor of the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande in Geneva. He also headed the Basel Symphony Orchestra until 1994 and the Bamberg Symphony until 1996.

This widely acclaimed conductor, who was particularly well known for his Strauss and Wagner interpretations, and conducted 138 performances in Bayreuth between 1969 and 1986, stood for the first time on the podium of the Vienna Philharmonic at the Salzburg Mozart Festival in 1970, and made his debut two months later (March 21/22, 1970) in the Philharmonic subscription concert series with Theodor Berger's "La Parola" and "Frauenstimmen im Orchester," plus Richard Strauss' "Also sprach Zarathustra."  In his additional nine appearances within this cycle, he conducted, among other things, the world premiere of Helmut Eder's  Fourth Symphony (October 15/16, 1977), Hans Pfitzner's cantata "Von deutscher Seele" (March 27/29, 1983), Franz Schmidt's monumental oratorio "The Book with Severn Seals" (April 15/16, 1989), as well as Anton Bruckner's 2nd, 3rd and 6th Symphonies. Overall he conducted 41 concerts with our orchestra in Vienna, Salzburg (Mozart Week and Salzburg Festival), Innsbruck, Bregenz, Zurich, Essen und Düsseldorf, He also conducted three opera productions at the Salzburg Festival: Richard Strauss' "Capriccio" (1985-1987, 1990), Mozart's "Die Entführung aus dem Serail" (1987-1989) and Beethoven's "Fidelio" (1990). Besides this, he conducted recordings of the complete piano works of Beethoven featuring Friedrich Gulda as soloist, as well as Anton Bruckner's Second and Sixth Symphonies.

In later years, ill health forced Horst Stein more and more to limit his musical activities, and as a consequence our orchestra also saw less and less of him. In his last concert with the Vienna Philharmonic, the subscription concerts of April 27/28, 1991, he conducted Paul Hindemith's Symphony "Mathis der Maler", Carl Maria von Weber's Bassoon Concerto with soloist Michael Werba, and Robert Schumann's Fourth Symphony. His last premiere at the Vienna State Opera was "Die schweigsame Frau" by Richard Strauss in 1996, and his final performance at the opera was "Ariadne auf Naxos" on March 14, 1999. Little did we realize on that evening that we were seeing him for the last time. On May 2, 2008, he was able to celebrate his 80th birthday. On this occasion Ulla Schulz, the wife of our principal flutist who had previously performed the flute concerto of Jacques Ibert on the afore-mentioned subscription concerts of October 15/16, 1977 with Stein conducting, and with whom he had retained a close friendship, delivered birthday greetings from the Vienna Philharmonic.

Even from the moment Horst Stein retired from the podium, he left a gap which was never closed, and of which all musicians who worked with him over an extended period of time are painfully aware. With his passing, the international music world lost one of its most well grounded conductors, an outstanding Kapellmeister in the highest sense of the word, an interpreter par excellence, who especially in the opera could move performers as well as audiences, always maintaining sovereign control over orchestra and stage, and setting enduring standards of excellence.

-- Dr. Clemens Hellsberg

 

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