Frederick Martin (Fritz) Reiner (December 19, 1888 - November 15, 1963) was one of the great international conductors of opera and symphonic music in the first half of the twentieth century.
He was born to a secular Jewish family in the Pest section of Budapest, Hungary. After preliminary studies in law (at his father’s urging), Reiner pursued the study of piano, piano pedagogy, and composition at the Franz Liszt Academy. During his last two years there his piano teacher was the young Béla Bartók. After early engagements at opera houses in Budapest and Dresden (where he worked closely with Richard Strauss) he moved to the United States of America in 1922 to take the post of Principal Conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. He remained until 1931, having become a naturalized citizen in 1928, then began to teach at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where his pupils included Leonard Bernstein and Lukas Foss. He conducted the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra from 1938 to 1948, then spent several years at the Metropolitan Opera, where he conducted a historic production of Strauss's Salome in 1949, with the Bulgarian soprano Ljuba Welitsch in the title role, and the American premiere of Igor Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress in 1951.
He was married three times and fathered two daughters, as well as a third daughter out of wedlock.
Even though his music-making had been American-focused since his arrival in Cincinnati, Reiner remained active in Europe throughout his time in the United States, so that when he became music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1953 he had a completely international career. The ten years that he spent in Chicago (his last concerts there were in the spring of 1963), mark the pinnacle of his career, and are best-remembered today through the many landmark recordings he made for RCA Victor.
In his last years Reiner's health deteriorated as a result of a major heart attack he suffered in October of 1960. He died in New York City at the age of 74. At the time of his death he was preparing the Met's new production of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung.
Reiner was especially noted as an interpreter of Strauss and Bartók and was often seen as a modernist in his musical taste; he and his compatriot Joseph Szigeti convinced Serge Koussevitzky to commission the Concerto for Orchestra from Bartók. In reality he had a very wide repertory and was known to admire Mozart's music above all else. Reiner’s conducting technique was defined by its precision and economy, in the manner of Arthur Nikisch and Arturo Toscanini. It typically employed quite small gestures - it has been said that the beat indicated by the tip of his baton could be contained in the area of a postage stamp - although from the perspective of the players it was extremely expressive. The response he drew from orchestras was one of astonishing richness, brilliance, and clarity of texture (Igor Stravinsky called the Chicago Symphony under Reiner "the most precise and flexible orchestra in the world"); it was more often than not achieved with tactics that bordered on the personally abusive.
- Hart, Philip, Fritz Reiner: A Biography. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1994. ISBN 081011125X
- Morgan, Kenneth, Fritz Reiner: Maestro & Martinet. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2005. ISBN 0252029356
- Tchaikovsky, Peter Ilich; Cliburn, Van; Kondrashin, Kirill; Reiner, Fritz; Rachmaninoff, Sergei, Piano concertos. NY, NY: RCA Victor Red Seal: BMG Music, 1987. OCLC 28011767
All links retrieved May 15, 2017.
Ernst von Schuch
|Chief Conductor, Dresden Staatskapelle
|Music Director, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
|Music Director, Pittsburgh Symphony
|Music Director, Chicago Symphony Orchestra
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