Conductor Wolfgang Sawallisch on Symphony @ 7 This Week

Wolfgang Sawallisch passed away late last month. We'll pay tribute to him this week on Symphony @ 7.(Photo: EMI Classics)
Wolfgang Sawallisch passed away late last month. We'll pay tribute to him this week on Symphony @ 7.(Photo: EMI Classics)

Wolfgang Sawallisch died recently on February 22 at the age 0f 89.  He was a fine conductor with a great sense of musicality. 

He had retired to his home in Grassau, Upper Bavaria some years ago already due to declining health.  He was thought by some, perhaps, as a somewhat stodgy German Kapellmeister, but a number of his fine recordings belie that notion.  We will be featuring him all this week on Symphony @ 7.

Sawallisch will be remembered by many here for his 10-year period as music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, 1993-2003, a job he took on at the age of 70. 

He was very well-liked by the musicians, not least for re-establishing the lush “Philadelphia sound” after the somewhat controversial tenure of Ricardo Muti, who made the orchestra into a much more lean-sounding ensemble than Eugene Ormandy had created years earlier.  A violinist for the orchestra who retired in 2001 said, “(Leopold) Stokowski was the most charismatic conductor I ever played under, but Sawallisch was the most musical.”

Sawallisch came to Philadelphia after leaving a major post in Germany as music director of the Bavarian State Opera, a position he held from 1971 to 1992.  He was principal conductor of the Vienna Symphony from 1960 to 1970 and also music director of the Swisse Romande Orchestra from 1970 to 1980. 

The heart of his musical interest was in the great European classics, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schumann, Bruckner, Brahms, Dvorak, Wagner, Strauss, although not so much Mahler.

On a personal note, the first opera recording I ever got on CD was of his 1973 EMI release of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, with Peter Schreier, Walter Berry, Edda Moser, Anneliese Rothenberger, and Kurt Moll, when it appeared on that medium in the late 1980′s.  Additionally, Sawallisch’s recordings of the Four Symphonies of Robert Schumann with the Dresden State Orchestra have long been favorites of mine.  Musicality, indeed.

Join me this week as we present Wolfgang Sawallish leading various orchestras in symphonic music here on Classical 101 on Symphony @ 7.

Here he is leading the Philadelphia Orchestra in some Richard Strauss:

And here is Schumann’s Fourth Symphony:

 

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