Gerd Albrecht


Born: July 19, 1935 Died: February 2, 2014
Gerd Albrecht is a leading German conductor. He is best known for his interpretations of late Romantic and twentieth-century German repertory.

His father was Hans Albrecht (1902-1961), a well-known musicologist. He was a choral scholar at the age of fifteen and began conducting when he was sixteen. He studied at the Hamburg Musikhochschule (Hamburg Music Academy) from 1955 to 1958. There his conducting teacher was Hans Brückner-Rüggeberg. He also studied musicology, philosophy, and the science of art in Hamburg and Kiel Universities.

In 1957, he won the prize at the International Young Conductors Competition at Besançon, and in 1958 the Hilversum Conductors Competition. This led to his appointment in 1958 as a choir rehearsal director at the Stuttgart State Opera in 1958, a typical entry-level position for talented young conductors in Germany, where there are numerous state-supported opera houses. In 1961, Albrecht became Principal Conductor of the Mainz City Opera until 1963.

This was the beginning of steady advancement through the ranks of opera chief conductors in Germany. He was successively Music Director of the Buhnen Lübeck (1962-1966) - the youngest German conductor of that house -and the Kassel Staatsoper (Music Director, 1966-1972) and in 1972 was appointed Principal Conductor of the Berlin Deutsche Opera, West Berlin's opera house and one of the leading operatic venues in Germany, succeeding Lorin Maazel.

While at Kassel, he began presenting TV broadcasts intended to acquaint young and old with classical and operatic music. He continued this practice in his later posts. In 1974, Albrecht received the German Television Grimm Prize for his achievements in children's broadcasting, and for devising and establishing "Instrument Museums" where children can learn about musical instruments.

In 1975, in addition to his position in Berlin, he became the Principal Conductor of the Tonhalle-Orchestra of Zurich, a leading Swiss ensemble, succeeding Rudolf Kempe. In both Zurich and Berlin, he became known as an exacting conductor who would call for additional rehearsals when needed, as in the case of a Mahler's Third Symphony performance in Zurich that required twelve rehearsals.

He left the Berlin Deutsche Opera in 1977 and the Tonhalle in 1980. During this period, he guest conducted widely. He became well known for reviving the music of Romantic German composers Ludwig Spohr, Hans Zemlinsky, and Max Reger, and for performances of music of Schumann and Dvorák and other Romantic masters. He also became associated with the leading German and Austrian composers of the first part of the twentieth century (Schoenberg, Berg, Webern, and Hindemith), the composers Viktor Ullman, Gideon Klein, and Pavel Haas (all of whom where murdered in Nazi death camps), and more recent composers such as Fortner, Ligeti, Reimann, Penderecki, and Schnittke, many of whose works he premiered either at Berlin or in his later position as Music Director of the Hamburg State Opera and Philharmonic State Opera of Hamburg (1888-1997).

In 1993, the Czech Philharmonic, Prague's leading orchestra, having reorganized itself as a self-governing orchestra, voted by an overwhelming majority to engage Albrecht as their Principal Conductor. He took up that post in September 1993. However, his position as the first German conductor of that orchestra was widely attacked in the newspapers and in political circles, leading Albrecht to resign, leaving in January 1996.

In 1998, he took up the position of Principal Conductor of the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra, and at the start of the 2000 season, Chief conductor of the Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Albrecht has won numerous prizes and recognition for his conducting, television productions, and writings, which include books on music and collections of fairy tales for children.

There are 54 Gerd Albrecht recordings available.

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