Death of an eminent conducting professor

Death of an eminent conducting professor


norman lebrecht

December 29, 2015

Thomas Baldner, who has died aged 87, conducted leading orchestras in London and Berlin before joining the faculty of the Indiana University School of Music, where he taught until 2008.

A Hitler refugee, he founded the Greenwich Philharmonia in Connecticut and was artistic director of the Rheinisches Kammerorchester in 1950s Cologne, working with Stockhausen and Boulez on the newest of the new.




Dear Jacobs School of Music Family,

It is with sadness that I share the news of the death of Thomas Baldner. Thomas died on Sunday, December 27, 2015.

Thomas was born into a musical family. He began the study of music with his father, the famous German cellist Max Baldner, in his hometown of Berlin, and later was a student at the Berlin Academy of Music. As the first student from Germany in the postwar period, Thomas attended Indiana University between 1949 and 1952, subsequently receiving a bachelor’s and master’s degree in music. He was a master student of Pierre Monteux and was founder and conductor of the Greenwich Philharmonia in Greenwich Connecticut. Thomas returned to Europe, and for the next 25 years conducted orchestras from Berlin to Buenos Aires and from London to Tehran.

In 1976, Thomas was invited by Dean Charles Webb to join the faculty of the Indiana University School of Music, where he taught until his retirement in 2008. He conducted many orchestral and opera performances including tours of the School of Music ensembles in New York City. He was a conductor, pedagogue and master teacher to hundreds of aspiring conducting students, and his former students occupy major positions as music directors and conductors.

Thomas is survived by wife Bettina Baldner, daughter Karen Baldner  and his son Oliver (wife Elizabeth). We do not have any information on services to share at this time, but will be in touch if something is planned.




Gwyn Richards


Jacobs School of Music



  • Mark Mortimer says:

    I’m very sad to hear this. He was my teacher, friend and mentor at I.U. for 2 years. From him- I learnt so much about music and conducting. Our relationship soured somewhat at the end with disagreements over style/technique and I lost contact with him. But his influence haunts me to this day; A shy, complex man, rather unassuming in a profession noted for huge, overpowering egos. He had a profound and intellectual grasp of the symphonic repertoire and was particularly noted for his performances of Bruckner and the late Romantics. I’m sure the many that have passed under his tutelage at Indiana over the years will feel his loss greatly. My condolences to his family.

    • Bernard Chu says:

      Fellow Conductors,

      Jacob School of Music has arranged a celebration event for late maestro Thomas Baldner on 4pm, May 22 at Ford Hall. It’s a Sunday afternoon, one last call of our regular ad hoc concerts. Please be there and spread the word. Thank you!

  • Chris says:

    I was one of Baldner’s many conducting majors at IU. My first day of class with the other conducting students and two pianos playing, I conducted the Schubert Unfinished. I thought I knew the piece. In an hour, I got through maybe the first eight measures. It was a shock but I knew the demands that lay before me if I was to be his student. He made me look at music in different and deeper ways, something that has stayed with me.

    As Mark said above, he had an enormous grasp of the symphonic repertoire, especially the Germanic repertoire. But, as Norman correctly wrote, he worked on the “newest of the new”. He loved any music that pushed the envelope. He did many works by the German radical Hans-Joachim Hespos and was a champion of the music of John Eaton (who we also sadly lost recently). Even into his 80s, he would ask me what the “latest” was that he should listen to.

    One of his gifts as a teacher was his uncanny ability to bring out the best in his students. We were all his students yet we all conducted quite differently. He was able to harness what brought to the podium and run with it…not make us clones of him.

    He was unfailingly kind and supportive. He would praise us when we did well but was not afraid to speak his mind when we didn’t like something. (He once told me that my performance of a Mozart Divertimento was “deadly”.) I would still call him long after I graduated to seek his advice or just to chat. He took great interest in what I was doing, as he did with all of his students.

    A great man and a great teacher. He will be missed but leaves a huge legacy.

  • Craig Zerbe says:

    I was a student from 1979 – 1982. Many good times in class. Great Teacher

  • Frances Franklin says:

    I cannot sleep for dreamin’; I cannot dream but I wake and walk about the house as though I’d find you comin’ through some door. -Abigail to John Proctor Act I

    RIP Mr. Baldner, who conducted me as Abigail Williams

  • Vincent Sorisio says:

    Maestro Baldner made quite an impact on my piano playing, especially regarding piano accompaniments of Lieder and Opera. I honor him with those great learning experiences. He will be missed.

  • Michael V W Gordon says:

    I thought the world of Thomas Baldner. He thought the world of me and showed me that on many levels and so many ways. He was one of those IU Music School greats who was not blinded by his own light. The great ones are really like that aren’t they?

  • Mursel says:

    You will be missed dear Maestro. He was a great teacher, mentor and a Great musician. I feel very lucky that I had opportunity to know him by being one of his students…

  • Mark Mortimer says:

    I wouldn’t say Thomas was a great teacher of conducting- he was adequate enough. As a man and musician he had many great qualities however. But to teach this most mysterious of musical art forms is one of the hardest things imaginable and some would say, nigh on impossible. Sure, you can teach the basic beat patterns, how to study scores and the technical aspects. But conducting is innate, the charisma and musical personality required to be really good at it is something you’re born with- you either have it or you don’t. I think TB would agree with this- at least in private- the long conversations we had together.

  • James J says:

    IU should release a CD album featuring Thomas Baldner’s late 1990 recording with her Philharmonic Orchestra, notably Bruckner No. 8, Beethoven Leonore No. 3 Overture, Richard Strauss Alpensinfonie, Tchakovsky’s Pathetique. Thank you!

  • Sean Gabriel says:

    I have many fond memories of performing under Maestro Baldner’s baton. He was indeed supportive- I could do no wrong. He had old world class and authority.

    • Bettina Baldner says:

      A Celebratio for Thomas Baldner will be held May 22nd at 4:00PM in Ford Hall followed by a reception

      • Mohammad Bayat says:

        Dear Mrs Baldner,

        My name is Mr. Mohammad BAYAT. I live in Tehran, IRAN where I had the pleasure to work with the late maestro Baldner with NIRT ( National Iranian Radio Television ) Chamber Orchestra as librarian and assistant manager during the times when the maestro conducted the orchestra in Tehran.
        We also met at your home in Tehran and many years ago in Germany ( Munchen ) where I was met at the train station by the late conductor and stayed a night at your house.
        He persuaded me to study music and composer’s biographies and listen to different classical pieces and would assign me with the first bar of composers melodies when we were at concerts in Tehran such as the first bar of Dvorak’s Serenade in E major which I love and listen to in memory of the late maestro.
        For many years I was looking around the web to read something about him and suddenly came to the news that my dear friend and the eminent artist has passed away on December 27,2015.
        May his soul rest in peace and my heartly condolences to you, his daughter Karen and son Oliver from Tehran , Iran.
        If you read this e mail I would be pleased to hear anything from you as Mr. Baldner’s wife at my e mail :

  • Henry Raymont says:

    Please provide more information on the memorial for Thomas Baldner. In 1954 I took a two-year leave from the Washington bureau of the United Press to join Hans Busch and Thomas as an opera coach. It was most rewarding for I learned something about ‘Middle America’.

  • Henry Raymont says:

    I am finishing a memoir, and a few days ago I attempted to renew contact with Tommy–only to learn of his recent death. Shall never forget his wonderful wit–and playing Schubert four-hands with Tutti Berman-Fischer

  • Michele says:

    I was a violin student at IU. Mr. Balder was an inspiring conductor. I learned so much from him. I was around back when his son died. Ever since there was such a sadness about the maestro. He was soft spoken, yet a powerful conductor. May he rest in peace.