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Erich Kleiber

The eminent Austrian conductor is renowned for his performances of the music of Mozart and L.v. Beethoven. He also composed; among his works are a Violin Concerto, Piano Concerto, orchestral variations, Capriccio for Orchestra, numerous chamber music works, piano pieces, and songs.




Born in Vienna, Kleiber studied in Prague. In 1923, after conducting a stirring performance of Beethoven's Fidelio at the Berlin State Opera, he became that institution's music director. He was known for his interpretations of the standard symphonic and operatic repertoire, as well as for championing new works. In 1925 he conducted the première of Alban Berg's opera, Wozzeck. When Berg's second opera Lulu was branded Entartete Musik (degenerate music) by the Nazi Party, Kleiber, who was not Jewish and therefore could have continued his career under the Nazi regime, resigned from his post at the Berlin Opera in protest. Kleiber moved to Buenos Aires, where he worked at the Colón Theater, becoming its music director. Here he specialized in the German operatic repertoire, particularly the works of Wagner. Through the prestige of his name, he was able to attract such luminaries to the Colón as Emanuel List, Kirsten Flagstad, Viorica Ursuleac (in her only appearances in the Western Hemisphere) and Set Svanholm. Some of his performances from this period have been made available on CDs of varying quality, depending upon the conditions under which the original recordings took place. In 1938, Kleiber became an Argentine citizen. After World War II, he was offered his erstwhile post at the Berlin State Opera, which was at that time in the Russian zone of the divided city, but after discovering that the Communists were no more to his taste than the Nazis had been, he resigned without having conducted a single performance. He became a roving guest conductor, never again having any permanent post. Erich Kleiber died on the 200th anniversary of Mozart's birth in Zurich. Kleiber made a few recordings, mainly for Decca. Two operatic recordings are still considered among the finest of these works: Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro (with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, and Cesare Siepi as Figaro) and Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier. The former was included in Gramophone magazine's 100 Greatest Recordings. Kleiber also composed; among his works are a Violin Concerto, Piano Concerto, orchestral variations, Capriccio for Orchestra, numerous chamber music works, piano pieces, and songs.