IN: News & Features

Frühbeck To Cease Conducting (Has Died on June 11th)


Rafael Frühbeck in 1959
Rafael Frühbeck in 1959

We are very sorry to learn that the maestro died earlier today (June 11th) in Pamplona.

A message from Mark Volpe, BSO Managing Director:

The Boston Symphony Orchestra is profoundly saddened by the death of the great Spanish conductor, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, who conducted the orchestra annually at Symphony Hall and Tanglewood from August 2000 until his most recent appearances last November. In addition, he worked regularly with the fellows of the Tanglewood Music Center and enjoyed a special relationship with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus.

Although his debut with the Symphony came in 1971, Rafael Frühbeck became essential only during the James Levine era, filling in on many occasions for the ailing music director. Those of us who watched Frühbeck’s recent BSO appearances, though, could not help worrying about the condition of one of our very favorite guest conductors. Thus we were more saddened then surprised, when Frühbeck today announced the end of his career: “After meeting with my doctors I have come to the following conclusion: I have to recognize publicly that I have cancer and that in this state of health and with deep sorrow I am not able to conduct at my standards and the moment to quit professional matters has come.”

The BSO’s official announcement follows:

Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos has resigned his position as Chief Conductor of the Danish National Symphony Orchestra and has signaled an immediate end to his conducting career. The 80-year-old Spaniard, who has been beset with health problems in recent months  was the favorite guest conductor of many orchestras including and especially the Boston Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, and the orchestras of Los Angeles, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, National, Detroit, St. Louis, Houston, and the New World Symphony.

Frühbeck copnducts BSO in 2009 (Michael J. Lutch photo)
Fruhbeck copnducts BSO in 2009 (Michael J. Lutch photo)

Born in Burgos, Spain in 1933, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos studied violin, piano, music theory and composition at the conservatories in Bilbao and Madrid, and conducting at Munich’s Hochschule für Musik, where he graduated summa cum laude and was awarded the Richard Strauss Prize. From 2004-2011, he was Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Dresden Philharmonic, and in the 2012-13 season began his post as Chief Conductor of the Danish National Orchestra. Maestro Frühbeck has made extensive tours with such ensembles as the Philharmonia of London, the London Symphony Orchestra, the National Orchestra of Madrid, and the Swedish Radio Orchestra. He has toured North America with the Vienna Symphony, the Spanish National Orchestra, Dresden Philharmonic, and Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra.

Named Conductor of the Year by Musical America in 2011, other numerous honours and distinctions he has been awarded include the Gold Medal of the City of Vienna, the Bundesverdienstkreutz of the Republic of Austria and Germany, the Gold Medal from the Gustav Mahler International Society, and the Jacinto Guerrero Prize, Spain’s most important musical award, conferred in 1997 by the Queen of Spain. In 1998 Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos received the appointment of “Emeritus Conductor” by the Spanish National Orchestra. He has received an honorary doctorate from the University of Navarra in Spain. Since 1975 he has been a member of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando. Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos has recorded extensively for EMI, Decca, Deutsche Gramophone, Spanish Columbia, and Orfeo. Several of his recordings are considered to be classics, including his interpretations of Mendelssohn’s Elijah and St. Paul, Mozart’s Requiem, Orff’s Carmina Burana, Bizet’s Carmen, and the complete works of Manual de Falla.”

Replacement conductors for his performances this summer and during the BSO 2014-15 season will be announced at a later date.


3 Comments [leave a civil comment (others will be removed) and please disclose relevant affiliations]

  1. He has certainly been a life saver for the BSO. We could be sure that we would hear a fine performance when he was on the podium.

    I hope he will recover from his current health problems and be able to enjoy a long and happy retirement

    Comment by Joe Whipple — June 5, 2014 at 3:09 am

  2. This is sad news; the BSO must do its best to compensate. Let’s not recapitulate past decision.
    We have written the following letter to Mr. Anthony Fogg, Artistic Administrator of the BSO:

    Dear Mr. Fogg, We encourage you to consider Courtney Lewis as a replacement for Maestro Frugos de Buergos who has had to withdraw. We’re sure that you are aware of Mr. Lewis’s community outreach as conductor of Boston’s Discovery Ensemble, as well as his success in Los Angeles, Minnesota, Rochester, and Houston, and his new role as Assistant Conductor of the New York Philharmonic.
    He has also served as “cover” for our own BSO.

    Comment by Martin Cohn — June 10, 2014 at 7:55 pm

  3. Saddened to learn of his death. RIP

    Comment by Joe Whipple — June 12, 2014 at 1:58 am

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