The legendary Soviet conductor who led the Leningrad Philhamonic and East Berlin Symphony Orchestra during the Cold War recently passed away at age 98.
Kurt Sanderling won an admirable following in the West despite the long-standing tensions between the Soviet Union and America. Many remark that he was a truly incredible conductor, though much more obscure to global audiences because he consistently remained involved in musical activities in his homeland.
Sanderling won critical respect for his intellectual grasp of music and his skill at conveying emotion, particularly as a conductor of the Romantic composers Johannes Brahms, Ludwig von Beethoven and Robert Schumann.
He was a sensitive interpreter of the symphonies of Dmitri Shostakovich, a personal friend whose music echoed life in the Soviet Union under Josef Stalin.
“Mr. Sanderling was hyper-intelligent but at the same time he brought the most humane quality to his conducting,” pianist Mitsuko Uchida said in a 2005 interview with the Los Angeles Times. “With his strength of character and his great humanity, he contributed what players would not otherwise know.”
A large, somber man with wavy hair who bore a strong resemblance to former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Sanderling might have had a very different kind of career had it not unfolded primarily behind the Iron Curtain.
“Kurt Sanderling was a great conductor but too few people knew that because he spent so much time in East Germany and Russia,” Ernest Fleischmann, chief executive of the Los Angeles Philharmonic when Sanderling first performed with the orchestra in 1984, once observed…
Sanderling conducts the 3rd movement of Shostakovich Sinfonia No. 6