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The New York Philharmonic

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Kurt Masur

1991–2002, Music Director Emeritus

b. Brieg, Silesia (now Brzeg, Poland) July 17, 1927
d. Greenwich, Connecticut, December 19, 2015

Kurt Masur was 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 held the lifetime title of Honorary Guest Conductor of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. He received numerous honorary degrees from American colleges and conservatories, and was a professor at the Leipzig Academy of Music from 1975 until his death. 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 historical importance previously held by Mendelssohn, Nikisch, Furtwängler, and Walter. He was also heavily involved in the peaceful demonstrations that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall. At the same time that he began his tenure as Music Director at the Philharmonic, he was asked to run for president of the newly unified Germany. Upon his retirement as Music Director in 2002, he moved overseas to become principal conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra until 2007 when he began slowing his career. He was honored as Music Director Emeritus by the Philharmonic.

Masur’s collaboration with the New York Philharmonic was marked by a consistently high quality of playing and artistic spirit. His recordings with the Philharmonic include a Liszt / Kodály album and the four Brahms symphonies. Successful new initiatives introduced under his direction included the Rush Hour Concerts, Philharmonic Celebrations, Children’s Promenades, and Philharmonic Forums. Masur was also an outspoken advocate for, and demonstrated a major personal commitment to, music education in New York City. Masur died at the age of 88 from complications of Parkinson’s disease. His funeral was held in Leipzig, with music played by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra.

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