Kurt Masur is well known to orchestras and audiences alike as both a distinguished conductor and a humanist. In September 2002 he became music director of the Orchestre National de France in Paris, and, in September 2008, became that ensemble's honorary music director for life. From September 2000 to 2007 he was principal conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. From 1991 to 2002 he was Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, and was subsequently named Music Director Emeritus — the first New York Philharmonic music director to receive that title, and only the second (after Leonard Bernstein, who had been named Laureate Conductor) to be so recognized. The New York Philharmonic established the Kurt Masur Fund for the Orchestra, which endows a conductor debut week at the Philharmonic in his honor in perpetuity. From 1970 until 1996 Mr. Masur served as Gewandhaus Kapellmeister of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, a position of profound historic importance; upon his retirement in 1996 the Gewandhaus named him its first-ever conductor laureate. Mr. Masur is a guest conductor with the world's leading orchestras and holds the lifetime title of honorary guest conductor of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. In July 2007 he celebrated his 80th birthday in a concert at the BBC Proms in London, where he conducted the joint forces of the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Orchestre National de France.
A professor at the Leipzig Academy of Music since 1975, Kurt Masur has received numerous honors, including the Cross of the Order of Merits of the Federal Republic of Germany (1995); Gold Medal of Honor for Music from the National Arts Club (1996); the titles of Commander of the Legion of Honor from the French Government, and of New York City Cultural Ambassador from the City of New York (1997); and the Commander Cross of Merit of the Polish Republic (1999). In March 2002 the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Johannes Rau, bestowed upon him the Cross with Star of the Order of Merits of the Federal Republic of Germany, and in September 2007 he received the Great Cross of the Legion of Honor with Star and Ribbon from the President of Germany, Horst Köhler.
In September 2008 Mr. Masur received the Furtwängler Prize in Bonn, Germany. He is also an honorary citizen of his hometown, Brieg. He has made more than 100 recordings with numerous orchestras, and in 2008 celebrated 60 years as a professional conductor.