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Thomas Mayer (Conductor)

Born: September 2, 1907 - Nowawes, near Potsdam, Germany
Died: March 20, 2002 – Klosterneuburg, near Vienna, Austria

The German-born conductor, Thomas Mayer, studied conducting and composition at the Academy of Music in Berlin. One of his first professional assignments was the position of conductor at the Leipzig Opera.

Since he left Germany in 1938, Thomas Mayer had wide experience in conducting orchestras and opera, in South America, Central America, the USA, and Canada. He began his career in America as right hand man to Erich Kleiber and Fritz Busch at the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires. After five years there, he went to Santiago De Chile as permanent conductor of the German Opera Season. From 1945 to 1947 he was conductor of the State Orchestra in Montevideo in Uruguay, with time out to return to Buenos Aires for a few symphony concerts and to direct a Teatro Colon production of Arthur Honegger’s Jean d’Arc du bucher.

In 1947. Thomas Mayer went to the Metropolitan Opera in New York as first assistant to Fritz Busch, and shortly afterwards led the Cincinnati Summer Opera in its first production of Salome, with Astrid Varnay. Later he flew to Caracas, Venezuela, to conduct Tristan and Isolde, with Kirsten Flagstad, Harshaw, Lorenz and Herbert Janssen. He was then invited to conduct the Venezuelan Symphony Orchestra, and during 1949-1950 conducted 21 concerts, with a Bach Festival and L.v. Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (for which he trained the chorus himself).

Thomas Mayer continued to spend the summers conducting in South and Central America. He was guest conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the CBC Symphony Orchestra and in the summer of 1956 conducted the Benjamin Britten’s opera The Rape of Lucretia at the Stratford (Ontario) Music Festival. At Stratford, he was termed by critics as “”remarkably able,” “alert” and “able to capture the drama as well as the beauty,” “one would be hard to put to imagine a better production of the work,” the New York Times reported. He has been re-engaged by Stratford in 1957 and conducted the CBC Symphony Orchestra on August 21, 1957, in its final concert.

Thomas Mayer was conductor of the Halifax Symphony Orchestra since October 1955, and was very active there, giving as many as 70 concerts a season, including regular concerts, special concerts for children, concerts on tour and radio concerts (for the CBC). He strengthened the Halifax orchestra by importing young professional musicians (graduates of the Juilliard and the like) and creating enough employment for them to earn a living as full-time musicians.

At the beginning of 1957-1958 season, after two month guest conducting in Mexico, Thomas Mayer became Chief Conductor of the Ottawa Philharmonic Orchestra (actually the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra). He was also engaged as conductor of the Ottawa Children’s Concerts as autonomous body affiliated with the Philharmonic.
The plan to convert the ensemble under Mayer's leadership in a professional orchestra, failed the opposition of the musicians' unions in 1960 in Montreal and Toronto, the orchestra was disbanded, and Mayer left Canada. In 1958, he came back to Germany; in 1961 he conducted at the Hamburg State Opera Carmen and Tosca once each.

The College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati called Thomas Mayer in 1963 to Associate Professor and Director of Musical Organizations (similar probably with the office of university music director) for three years Mayer held this office, his only high school office before him.

The orchestra of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) in Perth, Western Australia, which Thomas Mayer directed in 1965, summoned to his directorship. In 1970 he moved to Hobart, Australia, to conduct the also belongs to the ABC Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. As a guest conductor he appeared in Melbourne and Sydney in appearance. One season he simultaneously served on the Elizabethan Opera Company, the predecessor of the Australian Opera. An intended appeal to New Zealand fell through.

After retirement in 1974, Thomas Mayer moved his residence in fulfillment of a dream before World War II to Kufstein in Tyrol, Austria. Apart from gradually less and less frequent guest appearances in Australia, Mayer performed now mainly in Berlin. He earned his "charity" as a conductor of the local "Hohenfels-Konzerte." Because hearing loss Mayer had to give up conducting in 1984. Once, in 1987, he was polaaned to appear in Perth, Australia, during a festive concert.

After the death of his first wife, Thomas Mayer married the widowed Slovak singer Anna Hrušovská, whom he already knew from his time in Aussig kannte. Mayer spent the last years of his life in a retirement home in Klosterneuburg near Vienna. In July 2001, he gave his last interview with the Canadian broadcast journalists Adrian Hoffman.

Source: Ottawa Citizen (Mar 2, 1957); Hamburg University Website, English translation by Aryeh Oron (June 2013)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (June 2013)

Recordings of Bach’s Instrumental Works




Thomas Mayer


Harpsichord Concerto No. 1 BWV 1052 [w/ pianist Glenn Gould]

Links to other Sites

Thomas Mayer Chosen To Conduct Philharmonic (Google News)

Thomas Mayer (Universität Hamburg) [German]

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