b. Pest [now Budapest], Hungary, May 7, 1850
d. New York, March 28, 1898
Anton Seidl studied at the Leipzig conservatory from 1870-1872 after which he went to Bayreuth to assist Richard Wagner in the preparation of the score and first complete performance of the Ring in 1876. After conducting at opera houses in Leipzig and Bremen, he came to he Metropolitan Opera in New York to replace Leopold Damrosch. According to the critic Henry T. Finck, Seidl was a charismatic conductor who could make the orchestra “sing and sigh and whisper, exult, plead, and threaten, storm, rage, and overwhelm.” By the time Seidl took the reins of the New York Philharmonic Society from Theodore Thomas in 1891, he had won an enthusiastic following in the concert hall as well as the opera house.
Seidl conducted the American premieres of many Wagner operas, including Die Meistersinger, Tristan und Isolde, Siegfried, and the first complete Ring Cycle. Considered one of the great Wagner conductors of his day, Seidl was also greatly admired for his interpretation of Beethoven, Liszt, and Berlioz. The latter two, now dead, were well on their way to becoming established members of the orchestral canon. Antonín Dvorák, however, was temporarily living in New York and his works figured often in Philharmonic concerts; Seidl conducted the world premiere of the “New World” Symphony in Carnegie Hall in 1893. The following year, Seidl conducted the premiere of Victor Herbert’s Second Cello Concerto, with the composer as soloist. Audiences and orchestra alike responded emotionally to Seidl’s flexible sense of tempo and rubato—a freedom of interpretation that startled his listeners. Under Seidl’s leadership, the Philharmonic achieved even greater financial and artistic success than they had under Thomas. The Orchestra also began to commission regular program notes, mainly from the eminent music critic Henry Krehbiel.