Kurt Masur’s permanent legacy

Kurt Masur’s permanent legacy


norman lebrecht

October 08, 2021

The Gewandhaus concert hall in Leipzig turns 40 today.

It was built through Kurt Masur’s close connection with the East German ruler Erich Honecker and the facade is standard 1970s brutalism.

But the internal acoustic, rigorously monitored by Masur, is almost perfect, with a sound decay time of 1.9 to 2 seconds. Among all the halls build in the last half century, it sounds close to the best.

Thanks again, Kurt.



  • Michael Turner (conductor) says:

    Kurt Masur – a fine musician and a great human too.

    • Mark Mortimer says:

      Yes Michael- agree with the first part- but not so much with the second. The way he treated the kids of The Indiana University Symphony orchestra in rehearsals of Beethoven 7 & Shostakovich 1 about twenty years back displayed a rather nasty nature.

  • Gary Freer says:

    Another great German musician who had to operate within a vicious authoritarian regime and engage with it on occasion. Indeed, we are told he had a ‘close connection’ with it.

    Just saying ….

    • Akutagawa says:

      I see where you’re going with this, given our esteemed host’s Furtwängler fixation. But for all its faults, the East German regime can’t seriously be compared with the Third Reich. It may have been authoritarian, but at no point in its 40 year history was it ever genocidal.

  • sam says:

    His biggest mistake was to take the New York Philharmonic job, he didn’t need it, and truth be told, he wasn’t what New York needed either, it diminished him, putting him in the position to be fired by Deborah Borda.

    So before she fires Jaap van Zweden, hopefully he can have the same input in the new Geffen Hall as Masur had at the Gewandhaus.

    • Angelo says:

      It’s way too late for that. One wonders how that renovation developed with so many forwards and backwards movements. The ultimate design by committee…(Don’t forget the building is owned jointly by NYPhil and Lincoln Center – the only building on the campus with this arrangement.)

    • Couperin says:

      Before she fires Jaap? Hardly.

      The musicians fired him.

  • Nicholas Edwards says:

    It is said that they didn’t demolish the remains of the burned-out Neues Gewandaus until the new hall was completed and signed off by Kurt Masur. But actually, the old hall — model for Boston Symphony Hall amoungst others — probably had a much better acoustic than the current 40 year old hall does.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    I’ve been to the Gewandhaus for a concert with their splendid orchestra; it is absolutely stunning!!

  • Sisko24 says:

    Yes, Mr. Masur was an excellent musician and was precisely what the NY Phil needed back then. Under him they no longer played as if they hated their colleagues’ playing and were attempting to drown it out. He did want some renovations done which he did get. The most important one he wanted was the permanent re-installation of a pipe organ in (then named) Avery Fisher Hall. Too bad he didn’t get his wish as it would have been a grand accomplishment and a mammoth acoustical improvement to the hall. Too bad the latest forthcoming ‘renovation’ won’t have a pipe organ in it. Well, no one ever said New York was at the forefront of everything. (Just some things!).

  • Kyle A Wiedmeyer says:

    Kurt’s son Ken-David recently helped open the new concert hall of his ensemble the Milwaukee Symphony and it, too, has pretty good acoustics. Reverberant yet warm.