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Hans Rosbaud (1895–1962) was born in Graz, Austria, and went on to study music at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt am Main. He became the first chief conductor of the Hessicher Rundfunk Symphony Orchestra of Frankfurt in 1928. During the 1920s and 1930s, he presented premieres of works by Arnold Schoenberg and Béla Bartók. During the Nazi era, his freedom to present new music was restricted. In 1945 he was named music director of the Munich Philharmonic. In 1948, Rosbaud became the first chief conductor of the South West German Radio Orchestra in Baden-Baden, where he remained for the rest of his life. In 1954, he conducted the first performance of Schoenberg’s opera Moses und Aron.
He regularly conducted the KRSO in Cologne and the Berlin Philharmonic, and was a popular guest conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Gramophone recently remarked that Rosbaud ‘was one of the unsung heroes of mid-20th-century music, who … gave thoroughly rehearsed and assimilated performances and premieres of the widest possible range of music’. Prominent in his legacy are recordings of the music of Bruckner, Mahler, Sibelius, Stravinsky and Boulez.
After the Second World War, Rosbaud became the single most important interpreter of and advocate for Sibelius’s music in the German-speaking world.
The composer’s Symphony No.6 would have been completely unknown in Germany in the 1950s, and yet Rosbaud understood Sibelius’s language as few conductors ever have.
The Sibelius is an important addition to the Rosbaud discography since he never recorded the Symphony No.6 commercially.
Throughout his career, Rosbaud manifested a special affinity for French culture and music. After the war, he was the first German-speaking conductor to be invited to perform in France. Here he conducts totally idiomatic and stunning performances of Debussy’s masterpieces.
Debussy’s Nocturnes are an important addition to Rosbaud’s discography.
ICA Classics recently released Rosbaud’s sensational performance of Mahler’s Symphony No.5 (ICAC5091), which received ecstatic reviews.