Carlos Kleiber

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Carlos Kleiber (born July 3, 1930 in Berlin ; died July 13, 2004 in Konjšica , Slovenia ; actually Karl Ludwig Bonifacius Kleiber ; also early pseudonyms, such as "Karl Keller") was a conductor of Austrian descent. Kleiber was initially and from 1980 again an Austrian (occasionally Argentinian) citizen. He conducted the New Year's Concerts of the Vienna Philharmonic in 1989 and 1992 .

Carlos Kleiber rehearsing


Origin and career

Carlos Kleiber was born in Berlin as the son of the Austrian conductor Erich Kleiber and his American wife Ruth (née Goodrich). Ruth Kleiber was of Jewish descent on her mother's side ; on the father's side, her ancestors went back to the Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott . His parents met in Buenos Aires in 1926, where Ruth Goodrich worked at the US embassy. They married on December 26, 1926 in Berlin.

Carlos Kleiber grew up in Berlin until January 1935, then in Austria, Switzerland, briefly in France and from 1940 in South America. After entering Argentina and a temporary stay in Buenos Aires, he attended a boarding school in Chile for several years. Further stations were Cuba, New York and Buenos Aires. As general music director of the Staatsoper Unter den Linden in Berlin, his father had not accepted interference by the National Socialist rulers in his work and had emigrated from Germany to Argentina in 1935 . Here the German Karl Ludwig became the Spanish "Carlos".

In addition to attending school, Kleiber began composing and singing at an early age, learned to play the piano and timpani and made his first formative musical experiences in the wake of his father, whom he accompanied to rehearsals at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires , where Erich Kleiber until the end of the Nazi regime worked as a conductor. He also followed his father's rehearsals and performances in Chile, Montevideo, Cuba and New York. In 1949, Carlos Kleiber began studying chemistry at the ETH Zurich at the behest of his father , but dropped out in 1950 to study music in Buenos Aires with the support of his father.

Places of artistic activity

In Montevideo, Carlos Kleiber said he was the first to lead a small radio orchestra. He gained his first practical experience at an opera house in the Teatro de la Plata not far from Buenos Aires as an assistant and répétiteur . In 1952 he continued his career as a répétiteur at the Gärtnerplatz Theater in Munich . In 1955, Kleiber made his debut with Gasparone in Potsdam under the pseudonym "Karl Keller". After a short stop at the Vienna Volksoper , he was Kapellmeister at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein from 1957 to 1964 , where, after guest appearances at the Salzburg State Theater and in Hamburg, he conducted a rich repertoire from 1960 onwards.

1964–1966 he was also engaged as Kapellmeister at the Zurich Opera House . 1966–1972 he was first Kapellmeister at the Staatstheater Stuttgart , where he appeared sporadically until 1975. In 1966 he made his first foreign guest appearance with the Stuttgart State Opera at the Edinburgh Festival , where he conducted Alban Berg's Wozzeck , the work that his father had premiered in Berlin in 1925.

Kleiber had a guest engagement at the Bavarian State Opera from 1968 to 1973, after which he celebrated triumphs there as a guest until 1988. He also conducted at the Vienna State Opera ( Tristan and Isolde 1973, Carmen 1978, La Bohème 1985, Der Rosenkavalier 1974 and 1994). In 1974, 1975 and 1976 Kleiber performed at the Bayreuth Festival , where he conducted Tristan and Isolde . Also in 1974 he took up the rostrum of La Scala in Milan and the Royal Opera Covent Garden for the first time and directed performances of the Rosenkavalier .

In the USA, after a guest performance at the San Francisco Opera that was canceled in 1977, Kleiber conducted concerts with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1978 (and again in 1983) - his only US concert appearances remained. He was only seen at the Metropolitan Opera in 1988 , when he made his operatic debut there in La Bohème with Mirella Freni and Luciano Pavarotti . Later he also directed La traviata , Otello and Der Rosenkavalier here .

From the 1970s onwards he worked regularly with a number of orchestras, especially with the Vienna Philharmonic and the Bavarian State Orchestra , with whom he also toured several times. In 1989 and 1994, on the initiative of Federal President Richard von Weizsäcker , he conducted two benefit concerts for the Berliner Philharmoniker , but turned down the offer made to him by the orchestra to become Herbert von Karajan's successor.

Carlos Kleiber appeared less and less as he got older, although he was one of the most sought-after conductors. After Stuttgart he no longer accepted a permanent commitment. From the mid-1990s, he withdrew more and more. His last appearances took place on a tour of Spain with the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks in early 1999 in Las Palmas, Valencia and Cagliari.

Work style

Music connoisseurs count Carlos Kleiber among the most important conductors at the end of the 20th century. In a survey by the BBC among 100 important contemporary conductors, he emerged as the greatest conductor of all time. However, his peculiarities and demands clearly set him apart from many of his colleagues. Carlos Kleiber limited himself more and more to a relatively small, selected repertoire with a growing career and increasing age ; he conducted more and more the same works. Before he raised the conductor's baton in front of an audience, there were often several hurdles to overcome: persuasion skills by the organizer, assurance of sufficiently measured samples to meet the artistic demands, the maestro's stage fright and his self-doubt that he would be able to implement a work according to his ideal. Herbert von Karajan's rumored saying that Kleiber only conducts when “his refrigerator is empty” goes far beyond Kleiber's character and artistic claim. There were, however, repeated discussions about Kleiber's fees and their role in obligations; For example, when he received an Audi A8 as a fee for a concert with the Bavarian State Orchestra in Ingolstadt in 1996 .

Carlos Kleiber opposed the music industry and the interpretation practice that sometimes tends to be superficial. It was less about getting the notes played correctly than about realizing the composer's intention authentically and genuinely. For this he studied the literature for each of his listed works intensively. The classical "union line" of the orchestras prompted him not only to intensive and demanding rehearsals, which caused him the displeasure of some musicians, but also to meticulous preparation of the individual orchestral parts , which he provided with his own entries on line types , phrasing , dynamics and the like and which were considered binding.

All of Kleiber's concerts are considered unforgettable by the audience, even the recordings are ascribed a special liveliness. Rumors that Carlos Kleiber could conduct have led to concert tickets being sold out within a few hours. The fact that Kleiber's spark jumped over even without long rehearsals was shown in his spontaneous takeover of conductors or at a young age, when the conductor was not yet able to assert his wishes so strongly. Later, quite a few engagements failed because orchestras and opera houses did not meet his requirements. Ultimately, this also led to the abrupt end of his short studio recording career in 1982 during the recording of Richard Wagner's Tristan und Isolde in Dresden. The recording dragged on for months and in the end Kleiber left in a hurry before the recordings were completed because he had a clash with the tenor Rene Kollo . The fact that the passage was added later in the studios (which made the release possible at all) led to Kleiber's break with the record company.

Kleiber spoke several languages ​​fluently (German, Spanish, English, French, Italian and Slovenian), which he also used eloquently in the rehearsals in the respective countries (and in letters). However, he largely eluded the public and gave no interviews. The only known interview, recorded on the occasion of a concert at the NDR in Hamburg in 1960, was documented for the first time in the Kleiber biography of Alexander Werner. O-tones are almost exclusively received through official or unofficial rehearsal recordings. His television recordings of rehearsals and performances of the Freischütz - und Fledermaus - overtures with the Südfunk-Sinfonieorchester from 1970, which vividly document his very personal working style, became famous.

An extraordinary characteristic of his musical rehearsal work was an imaginative faculty of imagination , with which he was able to convey musical moods and content vividly, especially in symphonic works using non-musical images . His instructions were often very imaginative, full of images and wit, as the few rehearsal recordings document.

Kleiber's conducting style was unconventional, as he tended to avoid vertical strokes within the usual percussion figures in favor of a more linear gestural-musical design oriented towards melodic guidance and musical flow. Often his beat figures were superordinate to the actual measure (in hemioles , transitions or followed the phrase and not the measure). If necessary, there was also great independence of the hands. This gave his conductor's gestures a special fluidity and elegance, which, however, did not lack precision if necessary.

The phenomenon of Kleiber's artistic work consists, among other things, in the fact that a highly sensitive, often humanly sensitive conductor often had to overcome self-doubts and scruples in order to meet the highest demands placed on himself with optimal working conditions, which primarily consisted of a musical one To have penetrated and appropriated the work down to its character and psychological subtleties in order to convey this to musicians and audience with great authenticity.


Carlos Kleiber was married to the Slovenian dancer Stanislawa Brezovar (called Stanka). They met in the ensemble of the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Düsseldorf and lived in Grünwald near Munich.

Carlos Kleiber's death at the age of 74 came as a complete surprise - although he was suffering from an inoperable prostate cancer - so that suspicions were raised that he had caused his death himself. When both his father and his mother died, there were also suspicions of suicide. Kleiber died in his holiday home in Slovenia and was buried at the side of his wife, who died six months earlier in December 2003, in the village of Konjšica (a district of Litija ), about an hour's drive from Ljubljana , not far from their birthplace in Zagorje ob Savi . Stanka and Carlos Kleiber left behind a son (Marko) and a daughter (Lillian).

Carlos Kleiber maintained friendships with many important artists and colleagues of his time, including the conductors Herbert von Karajan , Riccardo Muti , Claudio Abbado , Charles Barber and James Levine , the directors Franco Zeffirelli , Peter Jonas and Otto Schenk and the singers Plácido Domingo , Luciano Pavarotti and Lucia Popp .


“The sudden death of Carlos Kleiber leaves us all speechless. He was a brilliant person who was recognized even among his fellow conductors as the most important conductor of the second half of the 20th century. He was an exception in every sense of the word. "

"We have witnessed his fame, his frightening peculiarity, but above all his blazing art."

"I believe that art and culture are like water and air, but with Carlos Kleiber's music I feel that when you are touched by it, you are happy to be alive."

- Tadatsugu Sasaki


In 1978 he was awarded the Cultural Honorary Prize of the City of Munich . In 1990 he was accepted into the order Pour le mérite for science and the arts . In 1993 he received the Austrian Decoration of Honor for Science and Art , after he had already received Austrian citizenship in 1980, as well as the Golden Baton of La Scala in Milan and the German Record Prize , the Bavarian Order of Merit , the Bavarian Maximilian Order for Science and Art and the Great Federal Cross of Merit with a Star . In 1984/85 he was awarded the Premio Abbiati .

The Bavarian State Opera and the Friends of the Munich National Theater donated a Carlos Kleiber Prize in honor of the conductor, who died in 2004, on the occasion of his 80th birthday . Starting in 2011, the prize is to be awarded to young conductors and répétiteurs every two years. The award comes with prize money of 10,000 euros and also includes a guest appearance as a conductor at the Bavarian State Opera. The jury is made up of the State Director and General Music Director of the Bavarian State Opera, a member of the Bavarian State Orchestra and a representative of the Friends of the National Theater. On November 4, 2011, the Greek conductor Constantinos Carydis received it as the first prize winner .


The number of his published recordings is low: mainly Weber's Freischütz , Wagner's Tristan und Isolde , two live video recordings of Strauss ' Rosenkavalier , Verdi's La traviata , Otello , Strauss ' Fledermaus (both for the record and as a video live Recording), the Beethoven Symphonies No. 4 (live recording and video), 5 , 6 (live recording) and 7 (live and both for the record and as a video production) as well as the Coriolan overture on video, Johannes Brahms ' 4th Symphony (Record and video) and 2nd symphony (video), Schubert's 3rd and 8th symphonies (B minor; unfinished ), Mozart's symphonies No. 33 and 36 (both on video), Haydn's symphony with the bang , three variations Bergs Wozzeck , Gustav Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde ( Vienna Symphony ), Dvořák's Piano Concerto with Svjatoslav Richter and the New Year 's Concerts of the Vienna Philharmonic in 1989 and 1992. Alexander Borodin's 2nd Symphony was recorded together with the New York recording e of his father Erich published on CD. Shortly before his death, Kleiber gave TDK the rights to publish a Carmen video recording from 1978.


  • Traces in the void - the conductor Carlos Kleiber. (Engl .: Traces to Nowhere - The Conductor Carlos Kleiber. ) Documentation, Germany, Slovenia, Austria, 2010, 52 min., Script and direction: Eric Schulz , production: Centauri, Servus TV , first broadcast: July 25, 2010.
  • Carlos Kleiber - The world has lost me. (Engl .: Carlos Kleiber - I am lost to the world. ) 2010, script and direction: Georg Wübbolt, production: BFMI, ZDF , 3sat , first broadcast: February 26, 2011. DVD release: March 21, 2011 by C Major Entertainment , Synopsis by Berlin Phil Media.


Web links

Commons : Carlos Kleiber  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Harvey Sachs: The Conductor Who Could Not Tolerate Error . In: New York Times , July 25, 2004. Retrieved October 14, 2007. 
  2. Ruth Goodrich Kleiber (1900-1967) - Find a Grave ... Accessed July 9, 2020 .
  3. ^ Copyright, 1926, by the New York Times Company by Wireless To the New York Times: KLEIBER WEDDING SURPRISE; Berlin Opera Director Mysteriously Marries Miss Ruth Goodrich. In: The New York Times . December 31, 1926, ISSN  0362-4331 ( [accessed July 9, 2020]).
  4. a b c d e Alexander Werner: Carlos Kleiber - A Biography. Schott, Mainz 2007; 2nd edited edition 2009.
  5. Arthur Jacobs: Kleiber, Carlos. In: The Penguin Dictionary of Musical Performers. Viking, London 1990.
  6. a b Press release of the Bavarian State Opera from July 20, 2004.
  7. ( Memento from October 29, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  8. BBC Press Office, March 17, 2011
  9. Kleibi picks the Audi (English)
  10. ^ Christian Thielemann: My life with Wagner , p. 247.
  11. ^ Charles Barber: Corresponding With Carlos. 9/2010
  12. see literature
  13. Stanislava Brezovar Kleiber. Short biography through her hometown (Slovenian) ( Memento from January 30, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  14. a b Christine Lemke-Matwey: "Don't shred your soul, hey!" , DIE ZEIT No. 29/2014, July 10, 2014.
  15. Carlos Kleiber: "The world has lost me", a film by Georg Wübbolt from 2010.
  16. ^ Süddeutsche Zeitung , July 20, 2004
  18. ^ Program of the New Year's Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic in 1989
  19. ^ Program of the New Year's Concert by the Vienna Philharmonic in 1992
  20. ^ Carlos Kleiber - I Am Lost To The World (2010). In: YouTube . C Major Global, September 1, 2014, accessed January 22, 2016 .