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One of Germany’s greatest conductors, Wolfgang Sawallisch died on February 22 at his home in Grassau, Upper Bavaria.  He was 89.

Born in Munich in 1923, Sawallisch was trained at the Musikhochschule in Munich and upon graduation was engaged as a répétiteur at Augsburg, where he made his conducting début. He went on to become general music director at Aachen, Wiesbaden and Cologne, between1953-63. In 1953, he made his début with the Berliner Philharmoniker, becoming the youngest conductor to lead the orchestra. 1957 marks the year of important débuts: Sawallisch not only opened the 1957 Bayreuth Festival with Tristan und Isolde, but also made his début at the La Scala opera house in Milan, where in 1993 he became the first non-Italian to be awarded the Golden Baton. Sawallisch was also a highly accomplished pianist, and he made his London début in the same year as a pianist, accompanying the pre-eminent Elisabeth Schwarzkopf in a programme of lieder.

Sawallisch went on to take up various important positions. Between1960-70 he was the principal conductor of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, and the music director of the Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra between1961-73. From 1973 to 1980 he was artistic director of Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, and in 1982 he became artistic director of the Bavarian State Opera. In 1993, at the age of 70, Sawallisch succeeded Riccardo Muti in the role of music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, guiding the orchestra through financial and artistic turmoil. When he retired in 2003 he was named conductor laureate of the orchestra. He spent his retirement years at his country house in Grassau, Germany.

Sawallisch’s discography is large and distinguished, particularly in the Austro-German school of composers, and he made notable recordings operas such as Richard Strauss’s Capriccio, Die Frau ohne Schatten and Elektra, and Wagner’s Tannhäuser. He has also recorded the masses and shorter choral works of Schubert, as well as the complete symphonies of Beethoven, Brahms and Mendelssohn, the latter in editions prepared by himself.


Albums featuring Wolfgang Sawallisch

R STRAUSS Capriccio (1957-1958 recordings)
Schwarzkopf • Wächter • Gedda • Fischer-Dieskau • Hotter • Ludwig • Philharmonia Orchestra • Sawallisch
Naxos Historical 8.112034-35 [CD]

ORFF Die Kluge [Opera]  (1956 recording)
Cordes • Frick • Schwarzkopf • Sawallisch
Naxos Classical Archives 9.80289-90

R STRAUSS Horn Concertos Nos 1 & 2
BEETHOVEN Piano Quintet in E flat major

Brain • Philharmonia • Sawallisch
Naxos Classical Archives 9.81007

SCHUBERT Masses Nos 5 & 6
Donath • Springer • Rotzsch • Schreier • Adam • Leipzig Radio Chorus • Dresden Staatskapelle • Sawallisch
Newton Classics NC8802070 [CD]

HENZE Der Prinz von Homburg
Bavarian State Opera Chorus • Bavarian State Orchestra • Sawallisch
Arthaus Musik 100164 [DVD]

VERDI Don Carlos
Berlin Deutsche Opera Orchestra • Sawallisch
Arthaus Musik 101621 [DVD]
R STRAUSS Die Frau ohne Schatten
Bavarian State Orchestra • Sawallisch
Arthaus Musik 107245 [DVD]


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