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Josef Krips, born as the son of a doctor in Vienna on April 8, 1902, attended school at the "Humanistisches Gymnasium" and afterward studied music under Eusebius von Mandyczewski and Felix von Weingartner. In 1921 he received his first engagement as rehearsal pianist, chorus director and conductor at the Vienna Volksoper, and after short engagements in Aussig an der Elbe and in Dortmund, he became Germany's youngest general music director when he assumed the leadership of the opera house in Karlsruhe in 1926. Krips was appointed first conductor at the Vienna State Opera in 1933, where two years previously he had successfully debuted with a new production of Johann Strauss' "Zigeunerbaron" (Gypsy Baron). He became a professor at Vienna's Academy of Music in 1935. During the Nazi regime he was forbidden to work in his chosen profession, being forced to labor in a Viennese food production business instead. In secret, however, he continued to work as a rehearsal pianist. After the end of World War II, he made substantial contributions to the re-building of Vienna's musical life, concentrating not only on the State Opera and concerts with the Vienna Philharmonic and Vienna Symphony, but serving with distinction as director of Vienna's "Hofmusikkapelle" and conductor at the Salzburg Festival as well.
Beginning in 1950, Krips' career developed an increasing international emphasis. He took on positions as principal conductor for such orchestras as the London Symphony, the Buffalo Philharmonic, and the San Francisco Symphony, while at the same time remaining principal guest conductor of the Vienna State Opera, a function which he also fulfilled at numerous other opera houses including Covent Garden in London, the Metropolitan in New York, and the operas in Chicago, Berlin und Paris, to name just the most prominent ones. In addition to this, he was a guest conductor of more than 80 orchestras; a recipient of several national and international awards; and an honorary member of the Vienna State Opera, the Society of the Friends of Music in Vienna, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and the International Gustav Mahler Society. He conducted the last performance of his life, Mozart's "Cosi fan tutte", in Paris on June 8, 1974, and died four months later in Geneva on Oct. 13, 1974.
Josef Krips secured for himself a permanent place of honor in the musical history of Vienna as the creator of a legendary performance style of the works of Mozart with which he set timeless interpretive standards. He made outstanding contributions to the Vienna State Opera, where between Dec. 31, 1931 and Nov. 29, 1973 he conducted no less than 1,130 performances, among which were 48 premieres and 6 world premieres, and, as previously mentioned, was instrumental in the reawakening of musical life in Vienna after WWII. Lesser known is the fact that he not only played a consistent role in the history of the Vienna Philharmonic, but appeared on the orchestra's horizon at a most critical moment. On May 4,6,19, and 20, 1945 he conducted the Philharmonic in concertante opera performances in the Konzerthaus, followed by concerts with Beethoven's 9th Symphony on July 1 and 7, 1945, and then, on Sept. 16, 1945, the re-opening of the Golden Concert Hall of the Musikverein, which had been damaged in the last days of the war, with Schubert's "Unfinished" and Bruckner's 7th Symphony. Above all, Krips filled in on short notice for the first subscription concerts of the first season after the war on Oct. 13 and 14, 1945, conducting Weber's "Oberon" Overture, Strauss', "Till Eulenspiegel", and Beethoven's 7th Symphony. By taking over two additional subscription concerts, he thus rescued the continuity of a series which had been performed without interruption since 1860. The orchestra's chairman at the time, Fritz Sedlak, had feared that due to cancellations and conducting bans for conductors such as Wilhelm Furtwängler, Hans Knappertsbusch, Clemens Krauss and Karl Böhm, it would be impossible to keep the subscription series going, and was considering its discontinuation.
Josef Krips was also involved in the continuity of another Philharmonic tradition, the New Year's Concerts, which had been instituted under Clemens Krauss in 1941. Krips conducted these concerts in 1946 and 1947, until Krauss' conducting ban was lifted in 1948 so that he was again able to carry on this homage to the Strauss dynasty until his death in 1954. On August 1, 1946, at the first performance of the Salzburg Festival after the war, Krips conducted Mozart's "Don Giovanni". Later he led the first Philharmonic foreign tour after the war's end, taking the orchestra to Marseille, Nizza, Paris, Mulhouse and Basel in March of 1947, conducting works by Mozart, Beethoven, Weber, Schubert and Johann Strauss. The legendary gala concert of the Austrian Music Society on September 21, 1947 was also conducted in part by Krips, accompanying Richard Tauber's last concert appearance with the picture aria from "The Magic Flute" and Don Ottavio's aria "Dalla sua pace" from "Don Giovanni". Tauber's last opera performance was a Vienna State Opera production of "Don Giovanni" in London on Sept. 27, 1947, also conducted by Krips.
The long list of Philharmonic milestones with Josef Krips includes the memorial concert for the orchestra's concertmaster from 1881-1938, Arnold Rosé, on August 25, 1946; filmed productions of works of Mozart, Schubert und Johann Strauss in Schloss Leopoldskron in August of 1948; the performance of the prelude to "Palestrina" at the bestowing of the honorary membership of Hans Pfitzner on March 5, 1949; the Philharmonic's first studio production of a complete opera, "The Abduction from the Seraglio", from June 3 to 9, 1950; a performance of Franz Schmidt's Oratorio "The Book with the Seven Seals" at the Salzburg Festival on August 28, 1950; the first stereo recording of "Don Giovanni", selected as "Best Opera of the Year", from June 6 through 21, 1955; Philharmonic concerts during Vienna State Opera tours in Montreal in 1967 and Moscow in 1971; and the opening concert at the "Kongresshaus" in Villach (Carinthia) on Oct. 23, 1971. Fittingly, Krips last concert with the Vienna Philharmonic took place in the Golden Concert Hall of the Musikverein on Dec. 8, 1973, and was dedicated exclusively to the works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. With the Symphony in G minor, KV 550 and the Requiem, KV 626, he stepped down from the orchestra's podium for the last time.
"There is no conductor who profited more from his work with the Vienna Philharmonic than I did. During the first performance of "The Marriage of Figaro" which I conducted in Vienna, I paid more attention to the phrasing of the concertmaster Arnold Rosé than I did to the singers," wrote Josef Krips in his memoirs. "When people ask about my experience as a trainer of orchestras, I always say that I attempt to pass on those Viennese musical traditions, which shaped me. Wherever I go, the specific sound of the Vienna Philharmonic is my ideal." Fortunately, today's music lovers can get an idea of Krips' musical style from over 100 recordings and films which he made, and the number of those who have come to revere his Mozart style continues to increase over the years. In his obituary, the Viennese newspaper "Kurier" wrote that with Krips, "...a piece of Austria has died." Josef Krips played a part in Vienna Philharmonic history which has gained in significance with the passing of time. During his life, the orchestra documented its respect for his musical contributions and his humanitarian qualities by awarding him the Nicolai Medal and the Franz Schalk Gold Medal. Although he himself did not experience personal harm at the hands of the Nazi regime, he never hesitated after 1945 to offer assistance to those members of the orchestra who had suffered hardship. The inscription on the Franz Schalk Medal reads "Achtet mir auf meine Philharmoniker!" and without a doubt, Josef Krips, both musically and personally, made this one of the guiding maxims of his life.