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Remembering Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos

Posted June 12, 2014

Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos NY Philharmonic

We lost a dear friend yesterday: Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, a genteel and gentle conductor whose passion, warmth, and originality led to exhilarating and colorful performances from his Philharmonic debut in 1969 through his most recent appearance in December 2013.

The eminent maestro inspired the following quotes back in December:

"The whole Orchestra loves him. Everywhere you go, everyone adores him.” — Assistant Principal Timpani Kyle Zerna

"He's basically a poet. He gets certain colors out of this orchestra, and the sound immediately changes. It’s like working in black and white, then all of a sudden having millions of colors available.” — Concertmaster Glenn Dicterow

“He has an unbelievable enthusiasm for making music. He wants to get down to it, and we love him for that.” — Associate Principal Bassoon Kim Laskowski

"I always look forward to Maestro Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos's time with us because his obvious pleasure in sharing his deep knowledge and love of Berlioz, Mozart, and Strauss with us makes each rehearsal and concert a joyful occasion. His elegant and clear baton technique, his dignity coupled with enthusiasm encourages any orchestra to play its best. These qualities are rare, even in an experienced conductor." — Bassist Orin O’Brien

In July 2013 during the Orchestra’s annual residency at Bravo! Vail, Frühbeck began the rehearsal minutes before the scheduled start-time, unaware that Philharmonic President and Executive Director Matthew VanBesien was waiting in the wings to surprise him with an 80th birthday gift. "He graciously accepted the gift as we applauded and acknowledged his greatness, again put his arms up, and without hesitation began Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique one more time. He was so eager to get to the music-making, nothing else mattered: the sign of a true artist.” — Trumpet player Ethan Bensdorf

Play us out, Maestro Frühbeck: “When you like the orchestra and the orchestra likes to play with you, you enjoy it immensely. You do music the way you want, and you are happy. And the orchestra is happy. And everybody’s happy, including the public.” 

Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos NY Philharmonic

(Photos by Chris Lee: top, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos conducting the New York Philharmonic in October 2012; bottom, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos balancing his baton on the floor backstage at Avery Fisher Hall before conducting the Philharmonic in October 2012)