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Renowned conducting teacher has died

May 27, 2016 by norman lebrecht

16 comments.


Students are sharing news of the death last night of Gustav Meier, possibly the most sought-after conducting teacher in the US.

Gustav, who was 86 and suffering from cancer, retired three years ago as head of conducting at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore, handing over to one of his past pupils, Marin Alsop.

His alumni include the late Yakov Kreizberg, Antonio Pappano, John Mauceri,  Carl St. Clair, Rico Saccani, Alexander Mickelthwaite and Bobby McFerrin. Summers, he taught at Tanglewood.

Aside from his teaching career, Gustav was music director for forty years of the Greater Bridgeport Symphony Orchestra, Connecticut, 1972–2013.

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UPDATE: WE have received this message from Peabody Dean, Fred Bronstein:

“All of us at Peabody are saddened to hear of the passing of Gustav Meier, a great musician, pedagogue and colleague who for 18 years made Peabody’s conducting program one of the best of its kind.  Gustav Meier provided a daily example of the intellect, artistry, and mastery he worked to cultivate in his students, always delivered with a gentleness, charm, and grace that is rare.  His influence shaped the careers of countless professional conductors and musicians working today.  Through them, and through the graduate conducting program he built up at Peabody, his impact will live on.  We are honored to have known and worked with Gustav and send our deepest condolences to his family.”

UPDATE2: Marin Alsop’s tribute here.


Comments (16)

  1. CDH says:

    Worked with him some years ago. One of the most wonderful men I ever met in the world of music, and that includes a few legendary figures. A very fine teacher and inspirational to young conductors.

  2. jaxon says:

    He was also a beloved instructor for many years at the Cabrillo Festival in California, helping develop young conductors’ skill at interpreting and advocating for contemporary music. A crucial activity.

    1. jaxon says:

      Off topic, but it perplexes me how little attention the Cabrillo Festival gets, despite its status as the only organization that does what it does – commissioning and performing new works for symphony orchestra, with as many composers as possible in attendance simultaneously, interacting with the performers and the audience, with as many as 15-20 substantial pieces by living composers given numerous open rehearsals and then performed over a couple weeks’ time. From unknown young composers to people like John Adams, Chris Rouse, Jennifer Higdon, etc.

      In pieces about Marin Alsop it is almost never mentioned, despite the fact that she’s been attached to it for 25 years. Meier had been affiliated nearly as long, coming to the Festival every summer. But in this admittedly brief obit, we just hear he spent his summers at Tanglewood, helping students learn how to prepare Beethoven’s 9th and so on. Gustav Meier had a major influence on the landscape of new music in America thanks in part to his association with Cabrillo.

      1. Max Grimm says:

        I hadn’t heard of the Carbillo Festival until now. Nonetheless, a possible reason why it doesn’t receive more attention might be because of “what it does – commissioning and performing new works” (given many music lovers’ general disposition toward contemporary music).

      2. MWnyc says:

        Jaxon, the Cabrillo Festival does get mentions in the classical music press (which is small in the US, of course), and it gets (or got) covered by the newspapers in San Francisco, San Jose, and (sometimes) Los Angeles.

        But it’s a two-weekend event in a smallish, out-of-the-way California city; I think the combination of size and location is why it’s not better known.

  3. Jeffrey Biegel says:

    This is very sad news. Gustav was a guiding light and mentor to so many young conductors, and soloist who were privileged to work with the master. I’ll always remember our Rachmaninov 2nd piano concerto together, and Leroy Anderson’s concerto as well which he enjoyed. We also performed the original 1924 Rhapsody in Blue in 1997, which he was surprised to see all of the original piano parts. Will miss him, as will many whom he left an indelible mark on. He left a tremendous impact on many musicians and his faithful audiences will remember his inspired performances for many years to come.

  4. MR says:

    Gustav was a giant in the conducting field. Hard to believe he’s gone, and he will be forever missed.

    Note: the article states that he retired from Peabody three years ago — in fact he retired just this past year.

  5. michael crawford says:

    As a young sixteen year old double bassist at the University of Michigan I found his sound advice and masterful approach to teaching the young very influential. His prowess pedagogically was amazing, having trained and nurtured many of the conductors I have played under as an adult musician. The University of Michigan is forever in your debt.

  6. Bennie says:

    Very sad news. He was on the faculty of University of Michigan at Ann Arbor (1976–1995) too. I sneaked in a few of his classed there. Timeless experience. RIP.

    1. Dave T says:

      Also MD of the Greater Lansing (Michigan) Symphony Orchestra for 28 years beginning in 1978.

  7. Alexander Platt says:

    — and coming so soon after the passing of his fellow-great and alter-ego, Otto-Werner Mueller. I doubt that we shall see the likes of them again, in the world of conducting pedagogues: people who really knew everything. Was quite humbled to worship at the feet of both of them.

  8. Jupiter says:

    He was one of a kind. Probably the most gifted teacher I have seen in my life. Like Stella Adler for acting, Dorothy Delay for violin, Rosinnna Lhevinne for piano… he was simply put on this earth to teach his art.
    I don’t think anyone in the last 50 years could explain physical conducting gesture and then TEACH how it expressively grows out of little black dots on a page.

    Good bye dear Maestro

  9. Richard Needleman says:

    RIP. He was towering

  10. David Katz, chief judge, The American Prize says:

    I share with colleagues (and friends) Alexander Platt and Jeffrey Biegel my sadness at the news of the passing of this legendary pedagogue and artist. After Otto-Werner Mueller’s death earlier this year, Meier might have been the last of that group of great conducting teachers who came of age following the Second World War and brought an indispensable European insight to American classrooms and podiums. Luckily, those men, and Bruck and Lert and Rudolf before them, did their jobs well, helping to forge many of the major talents of today, while influencing the work of conductors throughout the county now in positions large or small. They will be missed so very much, because, as Alexander writes without hyperbole, they did “know everything,” and in their individual ways, shared everything. God’s speed.

  11. Frano says:

    I’ve played under his baton in the University Symphony Orchestra of UofM School of Music in Ann Arbor, Michigan. To me, his most remarkable qualities as an artist, as well as pedagogue were his lighthearted (yet never irresponsible or trivial) vision of conducting the orchestra and his respect and confidence to the musicians.
    RIP, maestro!

  12. Jean-Ronald LaFond says:

    As a singer and conductor, I cannot imagine anyone who taught me more about the art of music making. He inspires me everyday to look more deeply, to find new dimensions and to remain humble before the composer. I thought I would gotten to see him again before he left us. One of the saddest news I can receive right now.


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