Classical Music

Who is Gerhard Samuel?

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2010-03-05 19:10:17
2010-03-05 19:10:17

Gerhard Samuel is internationally known as a conductor, prolific composer, founder of festivals, tireless promoter of new music, and professor of music. He was born in Bonn, Germany, on April 20, 1924, and moved to America with his immediate family in 1939 to escape Nazi persecution. He passed away in Seattle, Washington in March,25,2008.

Gerhard Samuel studied at Eastman School of Music, and at Yale University under Hindemith. At Tanglewood he was a protégé of Koussevitsky. He worked on Broadway, promoted American music in post-war Paris, and was an Associate Conductor of the Minneapolis symphony. In 1959 he became Music Director of the Oakland Symphony and San Francisco Ballet. He founded the Oakland Chamber Orchestra and was first conductor of the Cabrillo Festival. One of his fondest memories of this time was taking members of the Oakland Symphony into inner city schools to participate in workshops with the students.

In 1971 he became Associate Conductor of Los Angeles Philharmonic under Meta and a professor at California Institute of the Arts. In 1976 he was appointed to the University of Cincinnati, College - Conservatory of Music (CCM). During Mr. Samuel's tenure as director of orchestral studies, he built the Philharmonia Orchestra from a struggling ensemble that couldn't afford to rent music to an institution of international reputation. In 1987, he took the orchestra to Carnegie Hall and in 1989, to the International Mahler Festival in Paris, the only invitation extended to an American orchestra. He was an extraordinary teacher and remained in contact with his students as they established themselves as accomplished musicians, composers and conductors.

Behind Samuel's public persona as performer and teacher, was a prolific composer of remarkable and enduring originality. His work is hyper-expressive melodically, evocative, sensuous and constantly shifting in sound and fabric. He was ceaselessly creative and his published compositions number approximately 70.

In 1997, Mr. Samuel decided to retire from his position with the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music to devote more time to guest conducting and to writing music. However, the Philharmonia was invited to participate in Expo 98 in Lisbon, the only American Orchestra to receive an invitation. Under his capable leadership, this orchestra received great praise for its many performances during its tour. As part of the 1998-99 season, Maestro Samuel was responsible for creating a tribute to the great Paul Robson with the Cosmopolitan Symphony Orchestra in New York.

In retirement, Samuel relocated to Seattle where he continued to compose and occasionally guest conduct. At the time of his death he was working on an opera based on Thomas Mann's novella "The Blood of the Walsungs". Gerhard Samuel will be remembered for his amazing career in the Classical Music world. Those who knew him personally will also remember him for his generosity, his love of all things beautiful, love of language (he spoke six!) and his wonderful humor. Those who knew him personally are very, very lucky.

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