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Manfred Gurlitt (Conductor)

Born: September 6, 1890 - Berlin, Germany
Died: April 29, 1973 - Tokyo, Japan

The German opera composer, conductor and teacher, Manfred Gurlitt, was cousin of the eminent musicologist and editor, Wilibald Gurlitt. He studied in Berlin theory and composition with Hugo Kaun, composition with Engelbert Humperdinck, conducting with Karl Muck, and piano with Rudolf Breithaupt and Moritz Mayer-Mahr.

From 1908 to 1910, Manfred Gurlitt was a coach at the Berlin Court Opera, and then acted as musical assistant to Karl Muck at Bayreuth. In 1911-1912, he was second conductor in Essen, then in Augsburg for two years. in 1914 he was given the post of first conductor at the Bremen Stadttheater, a job he held until 1924. In 1920 he founded a Society for New Music in Bremen to encourage avant-garde and rarely heard pre-classical works. In 1924 he returned to Berlin and was granted the title of Generalmusikdirektor, appeared as a guest conductor at the State Opera and on the Berlin Radio, and taught at the Hoscschule für Musik (or Charlottenburg Musikhochschule). Later he appeared as guest opera conductor in Germany and Spain.

After the Nazis came to power in 1933, Manfred Gurlitt was denounced as a 'cultural Bolshevist' and lost his official posts. In order to avoid being arrested by the Gestapo, he emigrated to Japan in 1939 where he became active as an opera conductor. In 1953 he founded his own Gurlitt Opera Company in Tokyo, and in 1969 he became a professor at the Showa College of Music.

In 1956, Manfred Gurlitt was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross of the German Federal Republic's order of merit, however he never returned to live in Germany, bitter at the neglect of his music in post-war Germany.

His opera Wozzeck (1926), after the play by Georg Büchner, appeared four months after the opera of the same title by Alban Berg and has remained in its shadow. He also wrote Soldaten (1930) after the play by Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz and Nana (1933) after the novel by Émile Zola.


Die Heilige 'musical legend' in 3 parts after Carl Hauptmann (January 27, 1920, Bremen)
Wozzeck 'musical tragedy' in 18 scenes and one epilogue, op. 16 after Georg Büchner (April 22, 1926, Bremen)
Soldaten opera in 3 acts after Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz (November 9, 1930, Düsseldorf)
Nana opera in 4 acts (1931/32) after Émile Zola/Max Brod (April 16, 1958, Dortmund)
Nächtlicher Spuk opera in 3 acts (1934-1936) after Paul Knudsen
Warum? opera in a prologue, 4 acts, and sequel (1934-1936/1942-1945)
Nordische Ballade opera in 4 acts (1934/44) after Selma Lagerlöf/Manfred Gurlitt
Wir schreitten aus (1958)

Other Works:
Seguidilla bolero, Feliza; incidental music for two Spanish plays
Music for films
Goya symphony
Shakespeare symphony
Cello concerto
Chamber concertos for piano and violin
Piano quintet in C minor
Piano sonata
Songs with chamber orchestra

Source: Wikipedia & Hutchinson Encyclopedia Websites; Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Classical Musicians (1997)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (March 2008)

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works




Manfred Gurlitt


BWV 56 [w/ baritone Gerhard Hüsch]

Links to other Sites

Manfred Gurlitt (Wikipedia)

Gurlitt, Manfred (Hutchinson encyclopedia)

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Last update: Monday, May 29, 2017 06:08