1991–2002, Music Director Emeritus
b. Brieg, Silesia, July 17, 1927
d. Greenwich, Connecticut, December 19, 2015
Kurt Masur is one of the most widely admired and respected musicians of his generation, not only as a distinguished conductor, but also as a humanist. A frequent guest conductor with the world's leading orchestras, Masur holds the lifetime title of Honorary Guest Conductor of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. He has received numerous honorary degrees from American colleges and conservatories, and has been a professor at the Leipzig Academy of Music since 1975. Musical America named Masur Musician of the Year for 1993, and in 1996 he was awarded the Gold Medal of Honor for Music from the National Arts Club. The following year, he was awarded the titles of Commander of the Legion of Honor from the Government of France and New York City Cultural Ambassador from the City of New York. In 1998, Masur celebrated 50 years as a professional conductor.
Before becoming the New York Philharmonic's Music Director in 1991, Masur served as Kapellmeister of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, a position of profound historic importance previously held by Mendelssohn, Nikisch, Furtwängler, and Walter. Upon his retirement as Music Director in 2002, the Philharmonic named him Conductor Laureate.
Masur's close and intense collaboration with the New York Philharmonic has been marked by a consistently high quality of playing and artistic spirit. Masur's recordings with the Philharmonic include a Liszt/Kodály album and the four Brahms symphonies. Successful new initiatives introduced under his direction have included the Rush Hour Concerts, Philharmonic Celebrations, Children's Promenades, and Philharmonic Forums. Masur has also been an outspoken advocate for, and demonstrated a major personal commitment to, music education in the New York community.