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Wolfgang Sawallisch (born 26 August 1923) is a Germanmarker conductor and pianist.


Sawallisch was born in Munichmarker, and studied there privately for composition and pianoforte: at the conclusion of the war, in 1946 he continued his studies at the Munich High School for Music and passed his final examination for conducting. He began his career at the opera house in Augsburgmarker in 1947. There he became first coach and later principal conductor: in 1952-53 he was personal assistant to Igor Markevitch at the International Summer Academy Mozarteum, Salzburgmarker.

In 1953 he conducted the Berlin Philharmonic, becoming the youngest person ever to do so. When he debuted at the Bayreuth Festspielhausmarker conducting Tristan und Isolde in 1957, he was the youngest conductor ever to appear there as well.

From 1960 to 1970 he was Principal Conductor of the Vienna Symphony. From 1971 to 1992, Sawallisch was Music Director of the Bavarian State Opera, and for several years from 1983, concurrently was the general manager of the company.

From 1993 to 2003 he was Music Director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and is currently its Conductor Laureate. He is also Honorary Conductor Laureate of the NHK Symphony Orchestra, Tokyomarker. He was the recipient of a Suntory Music Award in 1993.

After his tenure with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Sawallisch returned for guest-conducting appearances in Philadelphia and at Carnegie Hallmarker. However, ill health related to orthostatic hypotension prevented Sawallisch from conducting in subsequent years. In an article from The Philadelphia Inquirer of August 27, 2006, Sawallisch himself stated his retirement from the concert podium:

"It can happen without announcement that my blood pressure is too low.
This instability gives me the necessity to finish my career after 57 years of concert and opera conducting."

Sawallisch and his wife Mechthild were married for 46 years until her death in 1998. They had a son, Jörg. Sawallisch is an honorary member of The Robert Schumann Society. In 2003, Sawallisch helped to establish a music school in Grassau, Bavariamarker, naming the school the Wolfgang Sawallisch Stiftung (Wolfgang Sawallisch Foundation).

Prominent interpretations

Sawallisch has been acclaimed as an interpreter of the music of Richard Strauss. As a pianist, he has accompanied a number of prominent singers in lieder, including Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Dame Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Dame Margaret Price. He has also been acclaimed for his interpretations of the symphonies of Anton Bruckner.

Sawallisch has also recorded, as piano accompanist, Franz Schubert's Die Winterreise and Robert Schumann's Liederkreis and other songs with Thomas Hampson. One of his most celebrated live concert appearances as a pianist was on 11 February 1994 in Philadelphiamarker, when Sawallisch substituted for The Philadelphia Orchestra at an all-Wagner concert on the night that a severe snow storm prevented much of the orchestra from arriving at the Academy of Musicmarker.

Recording highlights

His other recordings for EMI include highly regarded issues of Richard Strauss' Capriccio and the four symphonies of Robert Schumann with the Dresden Staatskapelle. He made a quadrophonic stereo album (probably the only one ever made) of Mozart's The Magic Flute in 1973 for EMI, starring Peter Schreier as Tamino, Walter Berry as Papageno, Edda Moser as the Queen of the Night, Anneliese Rothenberger as Pamina, and Kurt Moll as Sarastro. Other recordings (EMI, Orfeo and Sony) include:

One of his final concert and recording projects in Philadelphia focused on the music of Robert Schumann.


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