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Gerd Albrecht (Conductor)

Born: July 19, 1935 - Essen, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany-
Died: February 2, 2014 - Berlin, Germany

The German conductor, Gerd Albrecht, was the the son of Hans Albrecht (1902-1961), a well-known musicologist. He was a choral scholar at the age of 15 and began conducting when he was 16. He studied at the Hamburg Musikhochschule (Hamburg Music Academy) from 1955 to 1958. There his conducting teacher was Hans Brückner-Rüggeberg. He also studied musicology, philosophy, and the science of art in Hamburg and Kiel Universities. In 1957, at age 22, he won the prize at the International Young Conductors Competition at Besançon, and in 1958 the Hilversum Conductors Competition.

This led to Gerd Albrecht's appointment in 1958 as a choir rehearsal director (repetiteur) at the Stuttgart State Opera in 1958, a typical entry-level position for talented young conductors in Germany, where there are numerous state-supported opera houses. In 1961, he became Principal Conductor of the Staatstheater Mainz until 1963. This was the beginning of steady advancement through the ranks of opera chief conductors in Germany. He was successively General Music Director of the Buhnen Lübeck (1962-1966) - the youngest German conductor of that house - and the Kassel Staatsoper (Music Director, 1966-1972) and in 1972 was appointed Principal Conductor of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, West Berlin's opera house and one of the leading operatic venues in Germany, succeeding Lorin Maazel.

While at Kassel, Gerd Albrecht began presenting TV broadcasts intended to acquaint young and old with classical and operatic music. He continued this practice in his later posts. In 1974, he received the German Television Grimm Prize for his achievements in children's broadcasting, and for devising and establishing "Instrument Museums" where children can learn about musical instruments.

In 1975, in addition to his position in Berlin, Gerd Albrecht became the Principal Conductor of the Tonhalle-Orchestra of Zürich, a leading Swiss ensemble, succeeding Rudolf Kempe. In both Zürich and Berlin, he became known as an exacting conductor who would call for additional rehearsals when needed, as in the case of a Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 3 performance in Zurich that required twelve rehearsals.

Gerd Albrecht left the Berlin Deutsche Opera in 1977 and the Tonhalle in 1980. During this period, he guest conducted widely. He became well known for reviving the music of Romantic German composers Ludwig Spohr, Hans Zemlinsky, and Max Reger, and for performances of music of Robert Schumann and Dvorák and other Romantic masters. He also became associated with the leading German and Austrian composers of the first part of the 20th century (Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg, Anton Webern, and Paul Hindemith), the composers Viktor Ullman, Gideon Klein, and Pavel Haas (all of whom where murdered in Nazi death camps), and more recent composers such as Fortner, Ligeti, Reimann, Penderecki, and Schnittke, many of whose works he premiered either at Berlin or in his later position as Music Director of the Hamburg State Opera and Philharmonic State Opera of Hamburg (including Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg; 1988-1997).

In 1993, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Prague's leading orchestra, having reorganized itself as a self-governing orchestra, voted by an overwhelming majority to engage Gerd Albrecht as their Principal Conductor. He took up that post in September 1993. However, his position as the first German conductor of that orchestra was widely attacked in the newspapers and in political circles, leading Albrecht to resign, leaving in January 1996. With the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, he conducted the first commercial recording of Dvořák's opera Dimitrij.

From 1998 to 1997, Gerd Albecht was Principal Conductor of the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra, and became its conductor laureate after 2007. From 2000 to 2004, he was Chief conductor of the Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, with which he made commercial recordings for such labels as Chandos. He died at age 78 in Berlin.

Gerd Albrecht was a leading German conductor. He was best known for his interpretations of late Romantic and 20th century German repertory. His work in contemporary opera included conducting Aribert Reimann's Lear in both its world premiere and its USA premiere, as well as making the first commercial recording of the opera. His other commercial recordings include Robert Schumann's Genoveva and Manfred, and the first commercial recording of Hans Werner Henze's Gogo no Eiko (The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea) in its revised Japanese-language version. His recordings include many other complete operas by Berlioz, Ferruccio Busoni, Dvořák, Gurlitt, Halévy, Henze, Paul Hindemith, Janáček, Krenek, R. Liebermann, Marschner, Massenet, Mercadante, Meyerbeer, Puccini, Reimann, Schnittke, Schoeck, Arnold Schoenberg, Schreker, Spohr, Spontini, Ullmann, Wolf, Zemlinsky.

Gerd Albrecht won numerous prizes and recognition for his conducting, television productions, and writings, which included books on music and collections of fairy tales for children.

Source: Wikipedia Website (December 2015), All Music Guide (Author: Joseph Stevenson)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (February 2016)

Gerd Albrecht: Short Biography | Radio-Symphonie-Orchester-Berlin | Recordings of Instrumental Works

Links to other Sites

Gerd Albrecht (Wikipedia)

Gerd Albrecht- Biography (AMG)

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