Kurt Masur 1927-2015
- Published: Monday, 21 December 2015 15:00
In memoriam Kurt Masur, Principal Conductor of the LPO 2000-2007
We are deeply saddened to learn of the death on Saturday 19 December of our former Principal Conductor, Kurt Masur.
In a relationship dating back to 1987, Maestro Masur conducted the London Philharmonic Orchestra in over 150 performances in London and around the world. As well as the core repertoire in which he excelled, he gave premiere performances of Adès, Dutilleux, Gubaidulina and Tan-Dun with the LPO. Together they also collaborated with jazz pianist Herbie Hancock, and toured the UK with Wynton Marsalis and his Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.
However Masur left his strongest mark in building the Orchestra's sound in performances of the core orchestral repertoire. Chief Executive and Artistic Director Timothy Walker said: 'I will remember Kurt Masur for his extraordinary ability to tune an orchestra to a concert hall, for his focus on the soundscape of the orchestra and for his total control of the ensemble through small but myriad gestures, full of meaning, that communicated to the audience the power of live music performance. His moral strength was evident in everything he did and his impact on his native country as well as the musical world is immeasurable.'
Stewart McIlwham, LPO President, said 'Kurt Masur's period as Principal Conductor of the London Philharmonic will be, especially for those of us privileged to have been a part of it, one of the Orchestra's greatest musical collaborations. His towering interpretations of Beethoven, Brahms and Bruckner had a unique weight and authority to them. He also brought a deep humanity and commitment to 20th-century music, in particular memorable performances of Britten's War Requiem and Shostakovich's 1st, 5th, 7th and 13th symphonies. His legacy will live on long in our memories as a truly great conductor and human being.'
Always keenly aware of key events in 20th-century history, in 2005 Masur conducted Britten's War Requiem on the 60th anniversary of Victory in Europe day, a performance subsequently issued on the LPO's CD label. His musical legacy endures in his recordings. He also conducted memorable double orchestra concerts where the LPO were joined by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in Mahler's First Symphony in 2001, and in 2007 by the Orchestre National de France in Bruckner's Seventh Symphony at a BBC Prom concert celebrating Masur's own 80th birthday.
Masur was supremely encouraging to young soloists and conductors, and a keen advocate of the Orchestra's Foyle Future Firsts students programme for aspiring professional players. He leaves a huge legacy of performers inspired by his example.
Current LPO Principal Conductor Vladimir Jurowski said: 'Kurt Masur was one of the most progressive musicians of his time – both musically and politically. He collaborated with Walter Felsenstein in Berlin, he was instrumental in the building of the new Gewandhaus in Leipzig, and he supported many contemporary composers, such as Schnittke, Gubaidulina and Kancheli. In 1989 his courageous behaviour prevented possible bloodshed on the streets of Leipzig. He could be a challenging colleague, but he firmly believed in the ideals of humanism for which he lived and to which his music-making was always dedicated.'
The LPO and Vladimir Jurowski will be dedicating their concert on Wednesday 27 January to the memory of Maestro Kurt Masur.
Hear Masur and the LPO in the first movement of Schubert's Unfinished Symphony, recorded at the BBC Proms in 2004.