Frederick Martin (Fritz) Reiner (December 19, 1888 - November 15, 1963) was one of the great international conductors of opera and symphonic music in the 20th century.

Even though his music-making had been American-focused since his arrival in Cincinnati, Reiner remained active in Europe throughout his time in the United States, so that when he became music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1953 he had a completely international career. The ten years that he spent in Chicago (his last concerts there were in the spring of 1963), mark the pinnacle of his career, and are best-remembered today through the many landmark recordings he made for RCA Victor.

Reiner was especially noted as an interpreter of Strauss and Bartók and was often seen as a modernist in his musical taste; he and his compatriot Joseph Szigeti convinced Serge Koussevitzky to commission the Concerto for Orchestra from Bartók. In reality he had a very wide repertory and was known to admire Mozart’s music above all else. Reiner’s conducting technique was defined by its precision and economy, in the manner of Arthur Nikisch and Arturo Toscanini. It typically employed quite small gestures - it has been said that the beat indicated by the tip of his baton could be contained in the area of a postage stamp - although from the perspective of the players it was extremely expressive. The response he drew from orchestras was one of astonishing richness, brilliance, and clarity of texture (Igor Stravinsky called the Chicago Symphony under Reiner “the most precise and flexible orchestra in the world”); it was more often than not achieved with tactics that bordered on the personally abusive.

Edited by vxla on 18 Jan 2007, 15:41

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