Fritz Reiner

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Fritz Reiner

Fritz Reiner (born December 19, 1888 in Budapest , Austria-Hungary , † November 15, 1963 in New York City ) was an American conductor of Hungarian origin.


Fritz Reiner, who came from an assimilated Jewish family from Pest , first studied law for a few years at the urging of his father at the University of Budapest before attending the Franz Liszt Academy of Music to study piano with István Thomán and composition with Hans Koessler allow. Since 1909 répétiteur at the Budapest Opera, he made his debut as a conductor there in 1910, when he stepped in for a sick colleague and successfully performed a performance by Carmen . He was then appointed first conductor at the Laibach Opera House . From 1911 to 1914 he was a member of the Budapest Volksoper , where he conducted Parsifal , among other things .

Probably his most important influence was in Dresden, where he was court conductor from 1914 to 1921 . He learned his musical craft in the evening conducting operas and concerts at the Dresden Opera . In those years he worked a lot with Richard Strauss . Among other things, Reiner conducted the German premiere of Die Frau ohne Schatten here . He directed the Sächsische Staatskapelle and had guest engagements in Rome and Barcelona .

In 1922 he settled in the United States . He succeeded Eugène Ysaÿe as chief conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra until 1931. Invitations also took him to San Francisco, Philadelphia and Chicago, and in the 1936/1937 season he made guest appearances at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London .

He was then chief conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (1938-1948) for ten years and taught in Philadelphia from 1931 to 1941 at the Curtis Institute of Music (opera and orchestra departments), with whose orchestra he also worked on opera performances. His students also included the later famous musicians Lukas Foss and Leonard Bernstein . (When Bernstein once addressed him with "Fritz", Reiner replied: "It's Mr. Reiner.")

From 1948 he was engaged for seven years at the New York Metropolitan Opera , where, among other things, he conducted the famous performances of Salome with Ljuba Welitsch in the title role in 1949 and the American premiere of The Rake's Progress in 1951 . He has also performed in concerts with the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall . He also continued his international career, in 1955 he directed performances of the Meistersingers in the rebuilt Vienna State Opera .

However, Reiner achieved the greatest reverberation, which can still be heard today on numerous recordings, as chief conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra , which he headed from 1953 to 1963. In the spring of 1963 he conducted his last concert with this orchestra; his health had been in poor health since a heart attack in October 1960. Shortly before his death, he was busy with a new production of Götterdämmerung at the Met.

His first two marriages were with the daughters of the Hungarian soprano Elka Gerster . In his first marriage he was with the younger daughter Elca (1911-1916), in his second marriage from 1921/22 to 1930 with Berthe, the older one. He lived with his third wife, Carlotta, in Rambleside, Westport, Connecticut .

Fritz Reiner's grave is located in Willowbrook Cemetery in Westport, Connecticut .


Reiner was a conductor of extraordinarily high standards; many of his recordings are still unparalleled in terms of orchestral precision and brilliance. Orchestra musicians feared him because of his obsession with precision and his irascible temper. He left behind several sound recordings with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, but most of his numerous recordings with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra , which were recorded by RCA as early as 1954 on extremely good-sounding stereophonic records and some of which are still considered reference recordings, are legendary . like Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra , Strauss' Ein Heldenleben or Prokofiev's Alexander Newski .

He took over the musical direction of the premieres of the following works:


  • Stefan Jaeger (ed.): The conductors' book of Atlantis. An encyclopedia. Atlantis-Musikbuch Verlag, Zurich 1985, ISBN 3-254-00106-0 .
  • Brockhaus-Riemann music lexicon . Edited by Carl Dahlhaus, Hans Heinrich Eggebrecht. Atlantis-Schott, Zurich Mainz 1995, Volume 4, pp. 29f., ISBN 3-254-08397-0 .
  • Alain Pâris: Lexicon of Performers of Classical Music in the 20th Century . dtv / Bärenreiter, Munich / Kassel 1992, ISBN 3-423-03291-X , p. 593f.
  • Philip Hart: Fritz Reiner - A Biography . Northwestern University Press, Evanston 1994, ISBN 0-8101-1125-X .
  • Kenneth Morgan: Fritz Reiner. Maestro and Martinet . University of Illinois Press, Baltimore 2010, ISBN 978-0-252-07730-2 .

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