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Karl Krueger (Conductor)

Born: January 19, 1894 - New York City, New York, USA
Died: July 21, 1979 - Elgin, Illinois, USA

The American conductor, Karl (Adalbert) Krueger, was born in New York, the son of a Leipzig University Professor. He was brought up in Atchinson, Kansas, and learned to play the cello and organ in his early youth. He studied at Midland College in Atchinson (B.A., 1913); with Chadwick (composition) and Goodrich (organ) at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston (1914-1915); and at the University of Kansas (M.A., 1916). He had also advanced musical training in New York, and when his studies ended, he became an organist at St. Ann's Episcopal Church in New York (1916-1920). In 1920 he made a concert tour of Brazil as an organist.

His father urged him to become a lawyer. Acquiescing, Karl Krueger went to Europe, where he studied law and philosophy (or economics according to Baker’s) at the Universities of Vienna and Heidelberg. At the same time, he continued with his pursuit of music, particularly in Vienna with Robert Fuchs. When he completed his law courses, he knew that he still wished to become a professional musician; and in music, what interested him most keenly was conducting. He approached Arthur Nikisch and asked to be his pupil. Nikisch was impressed by Krueger’s talent and accepted him. Krueger not only took lessons from the master, but he also toured with him as his protégé and assistant.

Nikisch sent Krueger to Vienna with an effusive letter of recommendation to Franz Schalk, the conductor of the Vienna Opera. Schalk appointed Krueger an assistant conductor of the Wiener Philharmoniker and the Wiener Staatsoper; it was here that Krueger acquired his extensive experience in a great and varied repertoire.

In 1926, Krueger received from the USA am offer to assume the principal conductor’s post of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. I have not doubt,” Franz Schalk wrote at the time, “that he will play an important role among the leading orchestral conductors of his time.” In Seattle, at any rate, Krueger played a role of importance, for it is generally credited that his vital performances succeeded in raising the orchestra to a position of note; there were many who felt that, with Krueger, the Seattle Symphony Orchestra had joined the 12 or 15 leading orchestras in America. He served in Seattle until 1932.

In 1933, a symphony orchestra was founded in Kansas City, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. It called on Karl Krueger to assume artistic direction and he accepted. He has since remained the principal conductor of the orchestra, and through his sincerity and gifts has brought prestige both to himself and to his orchestra. In May 1937, Krueger returned to Vienna for the first time since his apprentice years under Schalk, and was asked to give several guest performance with the Wiener Philharmoniker. The fact that he had preceded by Arturo Toscanini - who had scored a sensation in Vienna - did not dissuaded Krueger from accepting the invitation. “To conduct the Philharmonic immediately after Toscanini,” commented the Viennese critic, Ernst Decsey, “and right after his concert to make an impression, yes, even to win laurels - that is something!”

Karl Krueger served in Kansas City until 1943; from 1943 to 1949 he was Music Director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. In 1958 he founded the Society for the Preservation of the American Musical Heritage and made numerous recordings of American works. He wrote The Way of the Conductor: His Origins, Purpose and Procedures (New York, 1958).

Source: Dictators of the Baton By David Ewen (Alliance Book Corporation, 1943); Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Classical Musicians (1997)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (August 2010)

Karl Krueger: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works

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