Gerd Albrecht, who led Hamburg State Opera and the Czech Philharmonic in the 1990s, has died at the age of 78.
A prolific recording artist, Albrecht spent almost his entire career in Germany with the exception of posts at the Zurich Tonhalle and Danish Radio and four years (1993-96) when he was controversially elected chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and subsequently deposed.
In the introduction to the German edition of my book The Maestro Myth, I reported that Albrecht had won the Czech vote by promising a record contract that he could not deliver. Albrecht applied to have the book banned, but the judicial process never got off the ground after Czech musicians supplied me with the incriminating faxes. In the immediate post-communist confusion, a part of the orchestra had become bedazzled by the prospect of western wealth.
Albrecht’s Wikipedia entry describes his period in Prague as ‘a musical success’. Not many who heard the orchestra in that time would share that conclusion. It was an unhappy period, ending in a bust-up with the President, Vaclav Havel.
Albrecht left behind a deeply divided orchestra. He was invited back for further engagements at the 2004 Salzburg Festival and for a 2006 South America tour. The orchestra has lately reverted to Jiri Belohlavek, the music director whom Albrecht displaced.
From 1997 to 2007, Gerd Albrecht was principal conductor of the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo. Since September 2012 he has been musical cirector of the Besançon International Music Festival.
His podium work can be judged on more than 50 recordings, some of them reviving music by Schreker, Korngold and other composers who were banned under the Nazi regime. Albrecht’s father had been an official in that regime.