Life and Works
Kurt Masur is recognised as a stalwart interpreter of the great nineteenth century Austro-German classics. He brings an old-world fastidiousness to rehearsals, insisting on fidelity and attention to details such as dynamic contrast and balance between instrumental sounds. Now in his ninth decade, he continues to conduct when able, despite suffering from Parkinson's Disease. Masur is also recognised for his vocal support of anti-government protestors in the run-up to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
Prior to his debut in 1948, Masur studied piano, composition and conducting in Leipzig. Appointments to provincial opera houses gave him a practical understanding of conducting and administration. From 1955 to 1958 he was conductor of the Dresden Philharmonic, returning there in 1967 for a further five years. From 1960-64 he was director of music at the Komische Oper in what was then East Berlin. In 1970 he accepted the venerable title of Kapellmeister of the prestigious Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, a position he held until 1996. At the same time, Masur was forging relationships with the leading orchestras of North America and Europe.
From 1991 to 2002 Masur served as music director of the New York Philharmonic, then as principal conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra (2001-07) and as music director of the Orchestre National de France (2002-08). Throughout his career he has made many recordings, particularly in Leipzig and New York. His signature repertoire of the core Austro-German classics is well represented on disc, but Masur has also documented the music of Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky with audible commitment. Recordings on the LPO Live label include a notable Shostakovich Symphony no.5 and Britten's War Requiem.