b. Czernowitz (now Chernivtsi), Ukraine, August 29, 1855
d. Frýdek-Mistek, Czech Republic, June 7, 1932
Emil Paur, already a brilliant violinist and pianist, began his conducting career studying with Arthur Nikisch and Felix Mottl at the Vienna Conservatory. By the time he was 21, he was a professional conductor in a series of increasingly important positions, including the Staatstheater Kassel and the Stadttheater Königsberg, where he conducted the German premiere of Carmen, kicking off the worldwide triumph of Bizet’s opera. After a few years at the National Theater in Mannheim, he became Arthur Nikisch’s successor at the New Theater in Leipzig in 1889.
Paur came to the United States in 1893 to follow Nikisch as conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Five years later, the New York Philharmonic Society elected Paur as Anton Seidl’s successor. Emil Paur’s four-year tenure with the Philharmonic coincided with a temporary slump in its fortunes. The conservative Paur didn’t have the fiery persona of Seidl before him, and although single ticket sales did well, subscriptions were down.
His tenure as Music Director ran concurrent with his elected directorship of the National Conservatory of Music in New York (founded in 1885 by Jeannette Thurber), replacing Antonín Dvorák. Both positions terminated in 1902, at which point Paur returned to Europe temporarily. He was enticed back to America with a three-year contract at an annual salary of $10,000 to replace Victor Herbert as conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Herbert had led the ensemble for the previous six years and raised its level of performance to a par with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic Society. In Pittsburgh, Paur tried to introduce his compositions, conducting his own Symphony In der Natur. Unfortunately, this series of new music did not continue, and Paur had no more success in Pennsylvania than in New York. After limping through the 1909–10 season, the Pittsburgh Symphony folded. (The orchestra reformed in 1926, continuing through today.) He then returned to Germany, where he worked as an opera conductor in Berlin until his death.