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Ferdinand Leitner 1912-1996
He was born in Berlin, where he gave his first piano recital at the Bechstein Hall as a wunderkind at the age of eleven. In addition to his regular schooling, at fourteen Ferdinand Leitner was already also studying singing, composition (with Franz Schreker and others) and conducting at the famous Staatliche Hochschule für Musik. Already a "finished" pianist at sixteen, he learned his trade from masters like Bruno Walter, Fritz Busch, Hans Richter and Karl Muck (with whom he worked as rehearsal pianist in Bayreuth in 1929), gaining the experience which would later lead to his being dubbed the "singers' conductor" by all who worked with him. In 1931, at the age of nineteen, he obtained a post as conductor and composer at the Berlin State Theatre.
In 1945, after the war, Eugen Jochum secured him a conducting post at the Hamburg State Opera, and in 1946 he became opera director of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich. The following year marked the beginning of an extremely productive period for him in Stuttgart, where he directed the opera and the symphony concerts and in 1950 was appointed general music director. Awards like the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (1959), the "Commandeur in de Orde van Oranje-Nassau" from the Netherlands and the Hans Georg Nägeli Medal from Switzerland reflect his growing reputation.
Innumerable guest performances at home and abroad - from 1956 he succeeded Erich Kleiber as head of the German season at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires and was music director of the Zurich Opera from 1969 to 1984 - and some 300 commercial recordings underpinned his excellent reputation as a conductor who knew few if any boundaries. He co-founded the Ansbach Bach Festival in 1947, indefatigably championed the works of Carl Orff and presented numerous world and local premieres of works by contemporary composers. His authority as a Wagner conductor and intimate collaboration with the composer's grandson Wieland Wagner led to Stuttgart being called the "Winter Bayreuth". His son Michael C. Leitner testifies to the attention he paid also to less familiar German Romantic composers like Heinrich Marschner, Otto Nicolai and Peter Cornelius. Nevertheless, Leitner's lifelong relationship with Mozart remained at the core of his sense of artistic identity: "Mozart is the only composer whom I have loved since I was eight, and that love has endured. Every melody must be singable. Dynamics are always a question of taste and of the instrument. Moderation is in any case the right thing, but the freedom of the instruments should not be restricted."
Ferdinand Leitner, the great universal classical conductor, died in Forch in Switzerland on June 3, 1996.
George Frideric Handel: Tamerlano, HWV 18
Act I: Esci, esci, oh signore
Act I: Forte e lieto a morte andrei - Non si perda di vista
Act I: Vo' dar pace a un'alma altiera - Il Tartaro ama Asteria
Act I: Bella Asteria - Il fortunato Andronico
Act I: Dammi pace, o volto amato
Act I: Se non mi vuol amar - Non ascolto più nulla
Act I: Ciel e terra armi di sdegno - S'ho a soffrir dall'amante esser tradita
Act I: Deh! Lasciatemi il nemico - Principessa infelice
Act I: Dal crudel che m'ha tradita
Act I: Chi vide mai - Benché mi sprezzi
Act II: Amico, tengo un testimon fedele
Act II: Ah, no! Dove trascorri, idolo mio? - Cerco in vano di placare - Signor, vergine illustre
Act II: Par che mi nasca in seno - Veggio da questi amori
Act II: Amor da guerra e pace
Act II: A' suoi piedi padre esangue
Act II: Sdegni! Ma di monarca a torto offeso
Act II: Voglio stragi
Act III: Figlia, siam rei, io di schernito sdegno
Act III: Cor di padre - Andronico, il mio amore
Act III: A dispetto d'un volto ingrato - Figlia, con atto vil tutta perdesti
Act III: Vivo in te, mio caro bene
Act III: Crudel più non son io - Se Irene al trono ascende
Act III: Se ad un costante core
Act III: Padre, amante - Folle sei, se lo consenti
Act III: E il soffrirete, d'onestade, oh numi - Empio, per farti guerra - Signor, tra tante cure
Act III: Vedrò ch'un di si cangerà - Oh, per me lieto
Act III: Fremi, minacci
Act III: Barbaro! Alfin sei sazio ancor?
Act III: Coronata di gigli e di rose - Ora, invitta regina