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Hungarian Conductor Ferenc Fricsay was Born in 1914

Fricsay was a protégé of Bela Bartok, Zoltán Kodály, Ernst von Dohnanyi, and Leo Weiner


Ferenc Fricsay was born in Budapest in 1914. He served distinguished conducting positions with the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra, Budapest Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Bavarian State Opera, and the Berlin Philharmonic.

Accepted to the prestigious Franz Liszt Academy at age 14, Fricsay studied piano, violin, clarinet, trombone, percussion, conducting, and composition. He was mentored by Béla Bartók, Ernst von Dohnányi, Jenö Hubay, Zoltán Kodály, and Leó Weiner, among others.

In 1930, Fricsay began directing his father’s Young Musicians Orchestra, which comprised gifted musicians aged 14 to 16. His father was a violinist and Hungary’s highest-ranking military musician at the time.

At age 19, Fricsay was selected from 57 applicants for the position of music director and conductor of the Szeged Philharmonic Orchestra, where he remained for a decade until 1943.

Throughout the 1940s, Fricsay performed with the Budapest State Opera, and appeared at the Vienna Volksoper and the Salzburg Festival. From 1949 to 1952, he served as chief conductor of the Berlin RIAS Orchestra and became general musical director of the West Berlin opera house.

During this time, he also signed an exclusive contract with the Deutsche Grammophon (DG) label. He was then one of the few internationally renowned artists to collaborate with only one record label.

In the 1950s, Fricsay made guest performances and concert tours in Argentina, West Germany, Switzerland, England, Israel, USA, Munich, and was featured at the Lucerne Festival.

In 1956, he served as general music director of the Munich State Opera for two years. He was also chief conductor of the Radio-Symphony Orchestra of Berlin from 1959 to 1961, during which he toured with renowned violinist Yehudi Menuhin.

“Fricsay is his own man; he has his own personal destiny, which took him from Budapest via Vienna to Berlin, always at the fault lines of a conflict that deeply affects us all and that cannot be dismissed with the catchword ‘politics,’ wrote esteemed Austrian pianist Erik Werba in 1962, according to Lutz von Pufendorf for DG.

“He has his personal affinities, which extend from Mozart to Kodály, from Beethoven to Brahms to Bartók, from the multifariousness of art to the unity of life,” Werba added. “But Fricsay achieves this synthesis without violence. The most important Hungarian conductor — which he is — along with the German tradition becomes a European humanist with an unclouded, free view of the world.”

Fricsay died from an illness in a Basel hospital at age 48 on February 20, 1963.

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