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Fritz Stiedry (Conductor, Arranger)

Born: October 11, 1883 - Vienna, Austria
Died: August 8, 1968 - Zürich, Switzerland

The Eminent Austrian-born Amewrican conductor, Fritz Stiedry, studied at the conservatory in Vienna with Mandyczewski (composition), and also pursued a degree in law from the University of Vienna, graduating with a doctorate in that field. His musical gifts, however, drew the attention of Gustav Mahler and in 1907 Stiedry was appointed assistant conductor at the Vienna Court Opera. That same year, and again on G. Mahler's recommendation, Stiedry was engaged by Dresden as an assistant to Ernest von Schuch (1907-1908). In quick succession came other engagements in Teplitz, Pozman, Prague, Nuremberg, and Kassel. At Kassel's Court Opera, Stiedry was made chief conductor in 1913 and from 1914 (AMG) or 1916 (Baker's) to 1923 he was first conductor at the Berlin Opera. After his Berlin engagement, he guest conducted widely, spending one year at the Vienna Volksoper, succeeding Felix Weingartner (1923/1924-1925). After travelling as a guest conductor in Italy, Spain and Scandinavia (1925-1928), he returned to Berlin as music director of the Städtische Oper (1928/1929-1933), a position previously held by Bruno Walter. In this period, Stiedry served as president of the Berlin division of the International Society for Contemporary Music. During his tenure at the opera, Stiedry worked with stage director Carl Ebert, the two of them undertaking several productions of middle-period Verdi and mounting a new Der Ring des Nibelungen. In 1932, the conductor presided at the world premiere of Kurt Weill's Die Bürgschaft, a tragic opera to a text by Casper Neher, described by the composer as "a return to real music-making." Unfortunately, the Nazi's assumption of control in 1933 made it clear that neither composer nor conductor had a future in Germany and Stiedry left for the Soviet Union.

From 1934 to 1937, Fritz Stiedry served as general music director of the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra. His responsibilities included conducting concerts in Moscow as well, and he led opera performances in both Leningrad and Moscow on a guest basis. He was involved in rehearsals for the premiere of Dmitri Shostakovich's Fourth Symphony; however the premiere was canceled for reasons that remain controversial. Some claim that D. Shostakovich felt Stiedry unable to deal with the symphony's complexities: however others say that the real reason was that Communist Party officials pressured the composer to withdraw the work.

In 1937 (AMG) or 1938 (Baker's), Fritz Stiedry immigrated to the USA, and became a naturalized American citizen. In 1938, Stiedry entered upon a productive period as conductor of the freshly formed New Friends of Music Orchestra in New York. The music of J.S. Bach figured prominently in his programming and he led a series of Haydn symphonies, several of them newly edited by musicologist Alfred Einstein and not performed since the composer's lifetime. In 1940, Stiedry turned his attention to Mozart with a cycle of that composer's concertos and symphonies.

During the 1945-1946 season, Fritz Stiedry conducted the Chicago Lyric Opera and in 1947 at Glyndebourne. On November 15, 1946, he made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera of New York directing a performance of Siegfried which also introduced heldentenor Set Svanholm to the theater. He ramained othe roser of the Met as one of its most distinguished conductors until 1958. His conducting won positive reviews for its breadth and liveliness, qualities observed and valued in other performances of Wagner, Mozart, and Verdi over the course of 12 seasons and more than 250 performances. When Rudolf Bing became Metropolitan manager in 1950, Stiedry's role became even more central. He was on the podium for Bing's calling card production of Don Carlo in 1950 and both oversaw and led the celebrated Così fan tutte of 1951.

As a conductor, Fritz Stiedry championed the 2nd Viennese School of composition. He was a close friend of Arnold Schoenberg, and conducted world premieres of his opera Die glückliche Hand in Vienna (1924) and his Second Chamber Symphony with the New Friends Orchestra in New York (1940).

Source: All Music Guide (Author: Erik Eriksson); Bakerís Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Classical Musicians (1997); Wikipedia Website
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (October 2009)

Fritz Stiedry: Short Biography | Arrangements/Transcriptions: Works | Recordings

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Fritz Stiedry (Wikipedia)

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