KURT MASUR is well known to orchestras and audiences alike as both a distinguished conductor and humanist. In September 2002, Mr. Masur became Music Director of the Orchestre National de France in Paris. Effective with the beginning of the 2008/2009 season he will assume the title of Honorary Music Director for Life of the Orchestre National de France ensuring his close and active involvement with this Orchestra for many more years to come. From 2000-2007 he was Principal Conductor of the London Philharmonic. From 1991-2002 he was Music Director of the New York Philharmonic; following his eleven year tenure he was named Music Director Emeritus, becoming the first New York Philharmonic music director to receive that title, and only the second (after the late Leonard Bernstein, who was named Laureate Conductor) to be given an honorary position. The New York Philharmonic established the ”Kurt Masur Fund for the Orchestra”, which will endow conductor debut week at the Philharmonic in perpetuity in his honor. For many seasons, Maestro Masur served as Gewandhaus Kapellmeister of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, a position of profound historic importance. Upon his retirement from that post in 1996, the Gewandhaus named him its first-ever Conductor Laureate. Since 1992 he has held the lifetime title of Honorary Guest Conductor of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
Since 1989, when he played a central role in the peaceful demonstrations that led to the German reunification, the impact of his leadership has attracted worldwide attention. In 1995 he received the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany; in 1996 he was awarded the Gold Medal of Honor for Music from the National Arts Club; and in 1997 he was awarded the titles of Commander of the Legion of Honor from the Government of France and New York City Cultural Ambassador from the City of New York. Subsequently, in July 2007, Maestro Masur was upgraded by the French government to Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor, a rank that is rarely given to foreign citizens. On April 19, 1999, in Wroclaw, Poland, he received the Commander Cross of Merit of the Polish Republic, one of the country’s highest honors. In July 2004 the board of the Beethoven House Bonn appointed Maestro Masur unanimously to become chairman of the Beethoven House, the composer’s birthplace. In March 2002 the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Johannes Rau, bestowed upon him the Cross with Star of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany and in September 2007, the President of Germany, Horst Köhler, bestowed upon him the Great Cross of the Legion of Honor with Star and Ribbon. In September 2008 Maestro Masur received the Furtwängler Prize in Bonn, Germany. Mr. Masur is also an Honorary Citizen of his hometown Brieg. In October 2004 the city of Münster bestowed upon Maestro Masur the Freedom Prize.
A frequent guest with the world’s leading orchestras, Kurt Masur made his United States debut in 1974 with the Cleveland Orchestra; also that year he took the Gewandhaus Orchestra on its first American tour. He made his New York Philharmonic debut in 1981. Maestro Masur returns every season to the United States to conduct the major American orchestras such as the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony and the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington D.C. In Europe, Maestro Masur works with such orchestras as the Gewandhaus Orchestra, the Dresden Philharmonic, the Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic, the Orchestra of the Santa Cecilia in Rome, the Orchestras of Teatro La Scala and La Fenice, the London Philharmonic and many others.
In July 2007, Maestro Masur celebrated his 80th birthday in an extraordinary concert at the BBC Proms in London where he conducted joint forces of the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Orchestre National de France.
Education is very important to Maestro Masur. He often conducts youth orchestras and gives master classes. During the 2007/2008 season, Maestro Masur will return for master classes to the Manhattan School of Music in New York and to Bonn to continue his course on the art of conducting Beethoven that started during the 2006/2007 season.
Maestro Masur’s first recording together with the ONF of Beethoven’s Symphonies No. 2 and 6 came out on the label Naive in March 2004. Subsequently, Maestro Masur and the ONF brought out on CD Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5; two Shostakovich discs featured his 7th Symphony and his two Violin Concertos with the young Armenian violinist Sergey Kachatryan, again on the Naïve label. Mr. Masur made more than thirty recordings with the New York Philharmonic for Teldec Classics International, two of those winning ”Record of the Year” awards from Stereo review (Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13, Babi Yar, and Mahler’s Ninth Symphony). For Deutsche Grammophon, he, the New York Philharmonic, and Anne-Sophie Mutter recorded a Grammy nominated album of Brahms and Schumann and most recently Beethoven’s Violin Concerto and two romances. Mr. Masur has made well over 100 other recordings with numerous orchestras, including the complete symphonies of Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Tchaikovsky. With the London Philharmonic, the orchestra and the Maestro created their own record label and recently released recordings of Shostakovich Symphonies No. 1 and 5 and the War Requiem by Benjamin Britten.
Born in Brieg, Silesia, in 1927, Mr. Masur studied piano, composition, and conducting at the Music College of Leipzig. In 1948 he was designated Orchestra Coach at the Halle County Theater, and later became Kapellmeister of the Erfurt and Leipzig Opera theaters. He accepted his first major orchestral appointment in 1955, as Conductor of the Dresden Philharmonic. He returned to opera in 1958 as General Director of Music at the Mecklenburg State Theater of Schwerin. From 1960 to 1964 Mr. Masur was Senior Director of Music at Berlin’s Komische Oper, collaborating with influential director-producer Walter Felsenstein. In 1967 he was appointed the Dresden Philharmonic’s Chief Conductor, a post he held until 1972. In his capacity as the Leipzig Gewandhaus Kapellmeister, he led nearly a thousand performances between 1970 and 1996 and more than 900 concerts on tour.
Maestro Masur has been a professor at the Leipzig Academy of Music since 1975 and holds honorary degrees from the Breslau Academy of Music, the Cleveland Institute of Music, Colgate University, Hamilton College, Indiana University, The Juilliard School, Leipzig University, the Manhattan School of Music, the University of Michigan, Westminster Choir College, SUNY Binghampton, and Yale University. In 2008 Maestro Masur celebrates 60 years as a professional conductor.
You can find more information about Maestro Masur, his life and activities on his home page: www.kurtmasur.com.