Berlin finally remembers a Hungarian maestro

Berlin finally remembers a Hungarian maestro


norman lebrecht

August 31, 2018

Speaking last night at the Megève Festival in the Frech Alps, I was slightly disconcerted to find that no-one in the audience knew the name of Ferenc Fricsay, the brilliant Hungarian conductor who was brought to Berlin in 1947 to head the new RIAS radio orchestra, serving also as DG’s house conductor.

Fricsay died young of cancer in 1963.

Yesterday the Berlin Senate Department for Culture and Europe unveiled a commemorative plaque in his honour.

At last.


  • Olassus says:

    Ah, one of my favorites! Best studio Fidelio. Best Apprenti sorcier by a mile:

  • Thomas Silverbörg says:

    I know his grandson well- sing with him regularly.

  • Mike Schachter says:

    At last indeed, a very fine conductor.

  • Caravaggio says:

    You were talking to the walls, it appears. How can anyone interested in great music making and not asleep for six decades not know of this man?

    • RW2013 says:

      Ignorance is everywhere, especially in the “Frech Alps”.

    • Vaquero357 says:

      Not every classical music listener today is a record collector. The number of people who actually heard Fricsay in person has to be dwindling rapidly.

      And yes, a *much* underrated conductor – maybe partly because when he passed away there were so many other high-caliber podium talents still hard at work.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    Most disturbing to hear about Fricsay’s lack of name recognition. A great conductor, he richly deserves to be remembered.

    His Entführung aus dem Serail (DG) is one of my favorite recordings in my entire collection. Just about any recording I’ve heard of Fricsay is between very good and exceptional. And I have many of them.

  • Hilary says:

    He’s not under- appreciated at all.
    His recording of Beethoven’s 9th was used in ‘Clockwork Orange’. I suspect this was a deliberate choice on the part of he iconic film director as his go-to conductor tended to be Karajan.
    Some inspiring rehearsal footage on YouTube further demonstrating that he was/is far from unnoticed.

  • Nick2 says:

    A brilliant conductor who also regularly conducted at the Bavarian State Opera, the Berlin Philharmonic and at the Salzburg Festival. I also know one of his family who is adamant he did not die of cancer. For some years he had suffered from several quite major illnesses and died when his body became just too weak as a result.

  • Tamino says:

    At last? Finally?
    Fricsay is well remembered in Berlin all the time.
    Anyone who truly cares about these things knows that.

  • Michael Hurshell says:

    Indeed, the Fricsay DG box was issued about 4 years ago, and found a lot of takers I believe. In any case, I don’t really know anyone in Germany in the classical music business, or is a collector of classical audio, who doesn’t know about him (and most have a deep admiration for his work).

  • PaulD says:

    Radio station KUSC’s evening host plays Fricsay’s recordings. I recall seeing them in record stores, back in the day. He’s not been completely forgotten.

  • Michael Turner says:

    Fricsay is correctly well remembered for his Mozart and Beethoven but his Bartok and promotion of more contemporary composers is also of note. An excellent conductor who drew fantastic results from his players.

  • Alan says:

    As a conductor of Bartok’s music, Fricsay was unsurpassed.
    The composer’s true voice is heard through FF’s recorded performances.
    Please give them a hearing, if you have not yet done so!
    (And there you have my two forints’ worth.)

  • Monsoon says:

    It never ceases to amazing me how classical music critics find ways to criticize listeners:

    “Oh my god, these people are not familiar with a conductor who has been dead for 55 years!!! How dare they desecrate the concert hall with their nubishness.”

    “Clapping in between movements???!!! Get my fainting couch out and call the police to round up every last person who dared to express their appreciation of the music at an unappointed time.”

    “Attending a performance by a pianist who the media treats like a celebrity??? This will be the death of western culture!!!!

    • MacroV says:

      It’s not just classical music where people lament lack of historical knowledge. You’ll find the same in just about any form of art/entertainment. Or even sports; people who think Messi is the greatest-ever footballer (and he may well be) but have no knowledge of Di Stefano (Alfredo, not Giuseppe), Puskas, Garrincha, or maybe even Cruyoff. Or who think Kirk Gibson’s home run in the 1988 World Series was the greatest moment ever but don’t know about Don Larsen’s perfect game, etc..

  • Herbert von Solti says:

    Yes. The pictured DG set was released just last year I believe. For those not familiar with his work, it will be a revelation. Yes underrated. If he didnt die young he would have been long remembered. I did possess a recording or 2 of his on vinyl.