Kurt Masur

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Kurt Masur at the desk of the Dresden Philharmonic (December 2012)

Kurt Masur (born July 18, 1927 in Brieg , Lower Silesia , † December 19, 2015 in Greenwich , Connecticut ) was a German conductor . From 1970 to 1996 he was Gewandhauskapellmeister in Leipzig, from 1991 to 2002 music director of the New York Philharmonic and from 2000 to 2007 chief conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra . In addition to his musical work, he is also known for his political commitment, particularly during the Peaceful Revolution in Leipzig - as one of the Six in Leipzig on October 9, 1989.


Kurt Masur with his wife Tomoko Masur, son Ken-David and daughter Carolin (1981)

Kurt Masur was the son of an electrical engineer who ran a specialist electrical shop. Kurt Masur completed his training as an electrician; at times he worked in his father's company. He said of himself that he enjoyed practical work very much.

His older sister's piano lessons aroused his interest in playing the piano. At the age of 10 he received piano lessons from the second organist of the Brieger Church, and he began to play the organ. From 1942 he studied piano and cello for two years at the Landesmusikschule Breslau . At the age of 16, he received the medical diagnosis that the little finger of his right hand could no longer be stretched, which ruled out a career as a pianist. So the decision matured to conduct instead. In 1944/45 he was called up for military service with the paratroopers .

After his return he studied from 1946 to 1948 at the Leipzig University of Music - Mendelssohn Academy piano with Sigfrid Grundis , Fritz Weitzmann and Franz Langer , composition and orchestral direction with Heinz Bongartz and Kurt Soldan , but dropped out. That's why he later called himself an "amateur".

Masur was married to Brigitte Stütze for the first time until 1966. They had already met in Silesia and together they had three children, two sons and a daughter. In 1966 his daughter Carolin was born, whose mother, the dancer Irmgard Elsa Kaul (* 1938), he married in 1971. She died in 1972 in a car accident in which Masur was behind the wheel and which claimed two more lives. The exact circumstances of the accident remained unclear as there are different versions of what happened. In his third marriage, he was married to the Japanese violist and soprano Tomoko Sakurai since 1975 . The son Ken-David (* 1977), who is a conductor, comes from this marriage. Masur has a total of five children.

The grave of honor for Kurt Masur (November 2017)

On October 10, 2012, it was publicly announced that Kurt Masur had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for several years .

After several falls (April 2012 and February 2013) Masur only appeared rarely; most recently he conducted while sitting in a wheelchair. Kurt Masur died in hospital in Greenwich, Connecticut, USA on December 19, 2015 at the age of 88. After a public memorial service to the St. Thomas Boys Choir and 28 musicians from the Gewandhaus Orchestra under the direction of Gotthold Schwarz in Leipzig's St. Thomas Church Masur urn was on January 14, 2016 close family in the Division II of the Leipzig crematorium and the cemetary buried. A memorial concert took place in the Gewandhaus on April 16, 2016. In his memory, Kurt-Masur-Platz was named after him on September 8, 2017 in Leipzig . In November 2017, his family erected a tomb for him on an honorary grave site in Leipzig. The design of the tomb with a bust in the middle comes from Markus Gläser . The bust shows Masur in his typical hand position while conducting .


Kurt Masur shaped Leipzig's musical life as the Gewandhaus Kapellmeister for almost thirty years . After completing his studies, from 1948 to 1951 he was the solo repetitor and conductor at the Landestheater Halle an der Saale . After working as first conductor at the Erfurt Municipal Theaters (1951–1953) and the Leipzig Municipal Theaters (1953–1955), he became conductor of the Dresden Philharmonic in 1955 . From 1958 to 1960 he was musical director at the Mecklenburg State Theater in Schwerin and from 1960 to 1964 at the Komische Oper Berlin . From 1964 to 1967 he made guest appearances in various European countries and in Brazil ; from 1967 to 1972 he was chief conductor of the Dresden Philharmonic.

From 1970 to 1997 Masur was Gewandhauskapellmeister in Leipzig; he gave over 900 touring concerts with the Gewandhaus Orchestra. In this function he pushed through the construction of the new (third) Gewandhaus for the orchestra (opened in 1981), which had not had its own venue since its destruction in the war in 1943. From 1976 to 1980 he was principal guest conductor with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra . From 1991 to 2002 he was also the music director of the New York Philharmonic . From 2000 to 2007 he was chief conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra . From 2002 to 2008 he was also the musical director of the Orchester National de France in Paris . In 2006 he conducted the Venice New Year's Concert . Kurt Masur has been the honorary conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra since 1997. He has also been Guest Conductor of Honor with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra since 1992 and Honorary Conductor of the Dresden Philharmonic since 1994 .

On October 9, 1989, the day of the Leipzig Monday demonstrations , Masur was one of the six prominent Leipzigers (alongside the secretaries of the SED district leadership Kurt Meyer, Jochen Pommert and Roland Wötzel , the cabaret artist Bernd-Lutz Lange and the theologian and Stasi employee Peter Zimmermann) who made the call No violence! composed. This appeal was broadcast several times over the loudspeakers of the Leipzig city radio during the demonstration and contributed significantly to its peaceful course. On December 27, 1989, Masur became the first honorary citizen of Leipzig after the fall of the Berlin Wall . In 2014, Masur received the Golden Hen in the “Politics” category for his involvement in the Peaceful Revolution .

In 1991, under Masur's chairmanship, the International Mendelssohn Foundation was established. V. founded for the preservation and restoration of the Leipzig Mendelssohn House , in which he was involved until the end. In 2007 he was awarded the International Mendelssohn Prize in Leipzig and was President of the Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy Foundation . He was also a member of the board of trustees of forum thomanum Leipzig eV

From 2004 to 2013, Kurt Masur was CEO of the Beethoven House in Bonn. Here he introduced the annual master classes for young artists in 2006.

Honors were awarded to Masur at an early stage: the GDR awarded him the Leipzig Art Prize and three times the National Prize (1969/1970/1982). In 1975 he was appointed professor at the Leipzig University of Music "Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy" . In 1984 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Leipzig . On January 26, 1990, Masur was one of the founders of the Leipzig Cultural Foundation and was elected its first President (until 1995). In 1994 he became a board member of the German National Foundation . Masur was a member of the Saxon Academy of Arts and the Academy of Arts Berlin . In 2003 he was made an honorary member of the " Beethoven House Association ". His legacy is administered by the International Kurt Masur Institute in Leipzig.


Complete works, overview

Masur's work included a rich repertoire; his best-known recordings include the works of Bruckner , Dvořák , Liszt , Mendelssohn , Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky, as well as the nine symphonies by Beethoven . He played the latter several times with the Gewandhaus Orchestra . There are also recordings of Bach , Brahms , Britten , Bruch , Cerha , Debussy , Mahler , Shostakovich , Schubert , Schumann and Sibelius of Masur ; but also by Gershwin , whose works he published on record in 1975 .

Together with Annerose Schmidt he recorded all of Mozart's piano concertos ; together with Emil Gilels and the State Symphony Orchestra of the USSR, Beethoven's piano concertos. He recorded the Brahms Violin Concerto with both Yehudi Menuhin and Anne-Sophie Mutter and also accompanied Mother in works by Beethoven and Mendelssohn. Masur also gave concerts with Cyprien Katsaris , Hélène Grimaud and Helen Huang.

He recorded Mussorgsky's pictures at an exhibition several times in the lesser-known orchestration by Sergei Gorchakov .

Under the direction of Masur and the operas Fidelio (Beethoven), Ariadne auf Naxos (Strauss) and Genoveva by Robert Schumann added. For the German Television also was Walter Felsenstein 's production of Giuseppe Verdi's Othello recorded in Masur as musical director held.

Masur's numerous recordings were mainly released by Eterna and Philips (recordings with the Gewandhaus Orchestra), but also by Teldec (recordings with the Gewandhaus Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic ); most of the recordings are available on CD. Recordings with the Orchester National de France appeared on Naïve Records.

Selected recordings


International Kurt Masur Institute

The International Kurt Masur Institute has been based in the Mendelssohn House in Leipzig since November 2017 .


  • On the occasion of his 91st birthday, he was honored by the search engine Google with a doodle on the homepage in 2018 .


  • Johannes Forner: Kurt Masur - Times and Sounds. Biography. Propylaea, Berlin / Munich 2002, ISBN 3-549-07153-1 .
  • Dieter Härtwig : Masur, Kurt. In: Friedrich Blume (Hrsg.): Music in past and present (MGG). Volume 16, Bärenreiter, Kassel 1976, p. 49716 f.
  • Dieter Härtwig: Kurt Masur (= portrayed for you ). German publishing house for music, Leipzig 1976, OCLC 2817813 .
  • Dieter Härtwig: Kurt Masur . In: Dietrich Brennecke, Hannelore Gerlach, Mathias Hansen (eds.): Musicians in our time. Members of the music section of the GDR Academy of the Arts . Deutscher Verlag für Musik, Leipzig 1979, p. 231 ff.
  • Bernd-Lutz Lange , Sascha Lange : David versus Goliath - memories of the Peaceful Revolution . Aufbau-Verlag, Berlin 2019, ISBN 978-3-351-03787-1 (221 pages).
  • Christiane Niklew:  Masur, Kurt . In: Who was who in the GDR? 5th edition. Volume 2. Ch. Links, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-86153-561-4 .
  • Ulla Schäfer (Ed.): "Courage and Confidence given ..." Letters to Kurt Masur, October 9, 1989 to March 18, 1990. Ullstein, Frankfurt am Main / Berlin 1990, ISBN 3-550-07412-3 .
  • Jonathan L. Yaeger: The Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in East Germany, 1970–1990 , Bloomington, IN 2013, OCLC 892728780 (Dissertation Indiana University Bloomington 2013, 339 pages, (English)).
  • Karl Zumpe (Ed.): Kurt Masur. Gewandhaus Kapellmeister in Leipzig. Ullstein, Frankfurt am Main / Berlin 1990, ISBN 3-550-06590-6 .
  • Roland Mey: Kurt Masur disenchanted . 2nd supplemented edition, self-published, Leipzig 2019, ( online)


  • Germany your artists. Kurt Masur. Germany / ARD 2009, 45 min. Script and direction: Reinhold Jaretzky. Production: Zauberbergfilm Berlin

Web links

Commons : Kurt Masur  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Arte interview with Kurt Masur from October 8, 2004
  2. Johannes Forner: Kurt Masur - Times and Sounds. Biography. Propylaea, Berlin / Munich 2002, p. 50.
  3. ^ Sermon in the funeral service for Prof. Kurt Masur on January 14, 2016. In: Sermons 2016. Thomaskirche Leipzig, January 14, 2016, archived from the original on July 19, 2018 .;
  4. How difficult is it to be Masur's daughter? . In: BZ , August 31, 2003. Retrieved December 19, 2015. 
  5. The maestro and tact. The Leipzig Gewandhaus Kapellmeister Kurt Masur becomes chief conductor of the New York Philharmonic . In: Der Spiegel . No. 37 , 1991, pp. 218-224 ( online - Sept. 9, 1991 ).
  6. Jan Brachmann: I have become more radical. In: Berliner Zeitung . October 11, 2003, archived from the original on March 24, 2014 .;
  7. ^ Homepage of David Masur
  8. ^ The conductor Kurt Masur has Parkinson's disease . In: Welt Online , October 10, 2015. Retrieved December 19, 2015. 
  9. ^ Conductor Masur fell at concert . In: Welt Online , April 27, 2012. Accessed December 19, 2015. 
  10. Kurt Masur broke his hip . In: Welt Online , February 27, 2013. Accessed December 19, 2015. 
  11. Kurt Masur conducts Mendelssohn Evening in Berlin - Faith, Love, Harmony . In: tagesspiegel.de , June 19, 2014. Accessed December 19, 2015. 
  12. There is only one thing for me: keep going . In: Welt Online , July 7, 2014. Accessed December 19, 2015. 
  13. ^ Margalit Fox: Kurt Masur Dies at 88; Conductor Transformed New York Philharmonic in: The New York Times , December 19, 2015
  14. ↑ The legendary conductor Kurt Masur is dead . In: Welt Online , December 19, 2015. 
  15. Matthias Roth: Farewell to Kurt Masur in the Thomaskirche. In: Leipziger Volkszeitung , January 6, 2016, p. 9.
  16. knerger.de: Kurt Masur's grave
  17. Masur's legacy flows into the new institute In: Leipzig Official Journal. January 23, 2016, p. 1.
  18. ^ LVZ-Online: Kurt-Masur-Platz will be inaugurated on Friday in Leipzig. Retrieved September 6, 2017 .
  19. Christian Wolff : forum thomanum - an educational campus for the music city Leipzig, in: Stefan Altner / Martin Petzoldt (eds.): 800 years Thomana, Stekovics, Wettin-Löbejün 2012, p. 402.
  20. Beethoven-Haus Bonn website. Retrieved December 21, 2015
  21. International Kurt Masur Institute. Accessed December 30, 2018 (German).
  22. Johannes Forner: Kurt Masur - Times and Sounds. Biography. Propylaen, Berlin / Munich 2002, pp. 375–385.
  23. Discography on kurtmasur.com
  24. Masur conducts Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 on: dw.com 2015
  25. Kurt Masur becomes an honorary member of the Beethoven House Association. Retrieved October 11, 2018 .
  26. Zasłużeni dla Wrocławia on wroclaw.pl (Polish)
  27. The Rabbi and the Conductor. Kurt Masur receives the Leo Baeck Medal. In: Jüdische Allgemeine , July 22, 2010; Retrieved September 19, 2010
  28. Kurt Masur is honored with the ECHO Klassik 2010 for his life's work. In: Neue Musikzeitung , October 1, 2010, accessed on November 22, 2011
  29. ^ Saarbrücker Zeitung , December 17, 2010, p. B4
  30. Kurt Masur receives the Freemasons' Culture Prize . In: Die Welt , March 30, 2012; accessed on January 27, 2016.
  31. Kurt Masur School - former 3rd elementary school celebrates new name. In: LVZ June 1, 2017. Accessed June 3, 2017 .
  32. International Kurt Masur Institute opens in November in Leipzig with Anne-Sophie Mutter. In: Website of the International Kurt Masur Institute. Retrieved November 5, 2017 .
  33. Kurt Masur: Classic Google Doodle for the 91st birthday of the German conductor . In: GoogleWatchBlog . July 18, 2018 ( googlewatchblog.de [accessed July 18, 2018]).