A conductor on five continents has died

A conductor on five continents has died


norman lebrecht

September 14, 2014

We are sad to report the death of Peter Sandor Erös, a much-liked conductor whose flight from Hungary in 1956 led to the most international of careers. Peter, who was almost 82, was immediately accepted in Amsterdam as associate conductor of the Concertgebouw orchestra, moving on to a similar position with Georg Szell at the Cleveland Orchestra.

He was music director of the Malmö Symphony Orchestra(1966–69) in Sweden, with the Australian radio orchestras orchestras (1967–69, 1975–79), the San Diego Symphony and La Jolla CO and the Aalborg Symphony (1982–89) in Denmark. In addition, he made nine tours of South Africa, conducted the Israel Philharmonic and established a foothold in the Far East. Peter was truly international.

A gifted teacher, Peter’s Amsterdam students included the Dutch conductors Hans Vonk and Edo De Waart.

peter eros2


  • Steve says:

    Never heard of him. Doubt others have either or you would have put his name in the headline.

    • Max Grimm says:

      I had never heard of him either but not every person can have celebrity status.
      Here are some more details on his life.


      • Steve says:

        It’s “link bait” when you say a “conductor on 5 continents has died”. It makes you think it’s someone you know, was famous, or care about, not a filler story for a slow news day that needs a misleading headline to get us to click on it.

        “News is stuff you haven’t heard of before”. But I’d like it to be something that remotely interests me.

        • norman lebrecht says:

          Don’t like? Leave the site.

        • Pat kagan says:

          Sometimes news that is unexpected makes you think. For instance, when someone HAS to leave his home country suddenly, he may lose more than his family, friends, identity and reputation behind. He may leave his connections, making it unlikely that he’ll ever again rise to the place he once occupied in society or in the musical world. Could this conductor have held a lofty position in his own country, and starting again at an older age, never reached the same heights? It happened to many fine German musicians and composers who fled Germany because of their Jewish roots. We don’t know this man’s story, but it may be well worth knowing. If you have never been in the position of an immigrant, don’t judge too soon and perhaps miss out on something profound. Also, not all great musicians become famous or even seek fame. They have different priorities.

        • m quini says:

          He was more accomplished than many, and he did make an impact on the music world. That should be enough for him to merit the honor of this obituary. It doesn’t matter if YOU haven’t heard of him.

    • It’s a pity Erös seldom made recordings. He was the real deal. Call it a hunch, but he may have been averse to the process, although not as much as a certain well-known Roumanian maestro. His disc of orchestral music by Siegfried Wagner with the Aalborg SO, made for Isabella Wallich’s Delyse label, was a genuine surprise, brimming with a vitality and energy missing from almost every successive recording of Wagner the younger’s music I’ve snagged up over the years.

  • News is stuff you haven’t heard of before.

  • student says:

    Steve, you might want to just crawl back into that little egocentric hole you came out of…the many musicians, students and concert goers who had the pleasure of knowing this fine conductor and teacher appreciate this short announcement of his passing…obviously not every bit of news is interesting or relevant to all readers…

  • If he was so well known why wasn’t his name in the headline of the story? I’m against link bait headlines, which are common here. I had no problems with the story itself.
    I searched Amazon.com and couldn’t find a single listing for this “eminent conductor”.

  • bratschegirl says:

    Sorry to see that Steve, above, has apparently drunk the “Only people already considered celebrities could possibly be of any significance, to me or anyone else” Kool-Aid. A person less interested in finding offense where there is none might instead have reacted by thinking “Gee. I’ve never heard of this guy. Wonder what I might have missed?”

    I had the great good fortune to work with Maestro Eros briefly in my grad school days. He was a wise man and a wonderful musician and leader. I’m very sorry to learn that he is no longer among us.

    • Frank says:

      He conducted the San Diego Symphony for many years and guest conducted around the world. I was always a season subscriber. I was always impressed by his feeling for the music he was conducting and wonder why this talent is so often lacking in modern performances.

  • Peter Barach says:

    He was not an associate conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra. He was a Kulas Foundation Fellow. This was basically an apprenticeship. Not familiar with him.

    • Jonathan Pasternack says:

      Thank you for your interest in this subject. George Szell met and became very impressed with the young conductor Peter Erös during Szell’s many visits to the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orkest. Szell invited Erös to Cleveland where he immediately arranged for the young conductor’s debut; under Szell’s sponsorship, Erös was able to arrange for a short leave of absence from his duties with the Concertgebouw in order to make his first trip to the U.S. Szell utilized funds from the Kulas grant to help defray Erös’ expenses while in Cleveland. Soon after this period, Szell introduced Peter Erös to Columbia Artists Management; Erös was then added to CAMI’s conducting roster. In no way was Erös considered an “apprentice” by Szell. There are extant letters from Szell attesting to this that I and others have seen; it is my hope that they will be included in a future biography of Erös.

      • Peter Barach says:

        It is not a putdown of his talent to say he was Szell’s apprentice. It’s just a factual correction. James Levine was one of Szell’s apprentices in the same Kulas Foundation program a year before Peter Erös

        But Peter Erös was not, as incorrectly stated in Mr. Lebrecht’s article, appointed an associate (or assistant) conductor in Cleveland. In contrast, Levine was appointed an assistant conductor in Cleveland (and while he held that position, I saw him play Rhapsody in Blue at a children’s concert, conducted by Robert Shaw).

  • linda says:

    I was saddened to see such a hurtful comment. I did not know of Mr. Eros before reading this article, and was glad to have the opportunity to learn about him, and his work.

    My condolences to his family, friends, musicians, students and admirers of his work.

  • Amadeus says:

    A remarkable man who touched very many lives.

  • Eleanor says:

    Wow, Steve. What a jerk.
    I played under Peter Eros in the San Diego Symphony. He was very competent and musical. Maybe not a superstar, but we benefitted greatly from his knowledge and talent. I’m very sorry to hear of his passing.

  • Jonathan Pasternack says:

    Thank you so much for this post! Peter Erös’ artistry and humanity touched so many lives during his 50-year career as a professional conductor. His life story is an extraordinary one and deserves to be told: how he survived both Hitlerism and Communism in Hungary, how he earned the respect and admiration (in his early-mid twenties!!) of Ferenc Fricsay, Otto Klemperer, Edvard Van Beinum, and George Szell, how he successfully transformed the San Diego Symphony into a full-time and fully professional ensemble… What a wonderful man! What an inspiring musician and teacher! “Ja, der Geist spricht, daß sie ruhen von ihrer Arbeit; denn ihre Werke folgen ihnen nach.”

  • Edgar Brenninkmeyer says:

    I have not had the experience of hearing a performance under the late maestro. But I have heard performances under Hans Vonk (gone way too early) and Edo De Waart, and I treasure the memories of them: both impress through exquisite musicianship. Which, undoubtedly, is the legacy of their teacher, for whom I am grateful even more now that I learn of his passing. If I may be allowed to paraphrase the Gospels: you will know a true master by their pupils…

  • Stephen says:

    I am truly sorry if you have never heard of him, or heard him perform. I heard him perform often growing up in San Diego, and he was a wonderful conductor who showed a deep musical intelligence and terrific sense of place. Many of my friends who played in the symphony were extremely fond of him.

  • john says:

    Thank you, Norman, for recognizing the passing of Peter. He was a wonderful musician, a respected conductor, and had an amazingly sharp sense of humor. I still hear his voice when I return to certain pieces and what insight he brought to the scores. I will miss him.
    I can only wish that when “steve” passes, he will have a quarter of the talent and respect that Peter commanded, but judging from those douche-baggy comments, I’m not so sure that is in the cards. Sorry “steve”.
    And hello, Eleanor! Yes, it’s me.

  • Jerome Hoberman says:

    Peter Eros was the orchestra director at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore when I was a student there. I remember well a Nielsen symphony he conducted — my first live Nielsen, who was then rarely performed in the US — led with enthusiasm and charisma. He was extraordinarily generous to and supportive of a young, aspiring conductor.

  • Dave T says:

    Had never heard of him either. That is no measure of his importance, either way. Glad I have heard of him now. PSE, RIP.

  • Stephen Cera says:

    Peter Eros was a wonderful conductor, a complete professional, and also a modest man. I heard him in Baltimore, both with the Peabody Symphony and then as guest conductor with the Baltimore Symphony. He produced exceptional results without any trace of excess on the podium. I remember particularly bracing and stylish Mozart and Tchaikovsky.

  • Mark Stratford says:

    Re: Steve’s tiresome moaning…

    Slipped Disc clearly has a big worldwide following and we should all just phase into the things that interest us. For example, I followed every word of those brilliant Isaac Stern threads and skipped countless other topics.