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Karl Straube (Conductor, Organ, Thomaskantor)

Born: January 6, 1873 - Berlin, Germany
Died: April 27, 1950 - Leipzig, Germany

The prominent German organist, choral conductor, and pedagogue, (Montegomery Rufus) Karl (Siegfried) Straube, was the son of a German father and an English mother. He studied the organ under Heinrich Reimann, and from 1894 to 1897 gave organ recitals all over Germany and elsewhere, arousing wide admiration for both the virtuosity and the musical quality of his playing. In 1897 he was appointed organist of Willibrode Dom at Wesel. In 1902 he went to Leipzig as organist of the Thomaskirche, a post he retained until 1918. In 1903 he became conductor of the Leipzig Bach Society, and in 1904 conducted the second German Bach Festival. In 1908 he conducted the Bachfest Leipzig on the occasion of unveiling of Seffner’s Bach monument, and further Bachfest Leipzig in 1911, 1914, 1920 and 1923 - this last one being held to commemorate the bi-centenary of J.S. Bach’s appointment as Thomaskantor.

Meanwhile, in 1907, Karl Straube had been appointed organ-teacher at the Leipzig Conservatorium, and was granted the title ‘Royal Professor’ in 1908. In 1918 he succeeded Gustav Schreck as Kantor of the Thomasschule, and in 1919 effected the merging of the Bach Society in the Gewandhauschor, of which he is a conductor. In 1925 he was the chief organiser of an important Händel Festival at Leipzig and conducted the greater part of it. Since his appointment as cantor in 1918, his duties have been so exacting and multifarious that he has almost given up playing the organ in public, but the general German opinion is that he is the finest organist that Germany has produced in recent generations. His repertory included all the best organ music, new and old, and his powers of improvisation are unrivalled. Max Reger met him in early years, and it is owing to his admiration for Straube’s playing that he produced most of his finest organ works. At one time, indeed, there was a kind of friendly warfare between them. Max Reger was determined that he would write works which could be defeat even Straube’s virtuosity, but after each onslaught Straube was left with the victory. As a conductor, whether of the Thomanerchor or Gewandhauschor, he has done an immense amount of admirable work, introducing music hitherto unknown in Germany - early Netherlands, Italian, and English church music, as well as modern choral works of different nationalities, including Ralph Vaughan Williams’ unaccompanied Mass in G minor; while his interpretation of accepted masterpieces such as J.S. Bach's Passion music and the B minor Mass (BWV 232) or George Frideric Handel’s oratorios was always masterly. His profound knowledge of music of all periods, coupled with his exceptionally wide general culture and his ever-fresh curiosity about anything that touches human affairs, made him one of the leading figures in the artistic and intellectual life of the first half of the 20th century.

Source: Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1952 Edition), Author: Hugh Butler
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (April 2001)

Karl Straube: Short Biography | Recordings of Vocal Works
Thomaskantors: Thomanerchor Leipzig | Gewandhausorchester Leipzig | General Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2

Links to other Sites

Karl Straube, Organist und Thomaskantor [German]
Karl Straube [Picture]
Karl Straube (Wessel) [German]
Nachlass Karl Straube (1873-1950) [German]

Karl Straube (Berümhte Wessler) [German]
Karl Straube als Bearbeiter [German]
nmz 97-11 - Leserbrief - Ehrenrettung für Karl Straube? [German] Straube, Karl [German]
Straube, Karl (Leipzig Lexikon) [German]

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