Decker was born in Cologne, Germany, where he studied at the Hochschule für Musik with Philip Jarnach and Eugen Papst. He made his conducting début at the age of 22 at the Cologne Opera, and four years later was appointed to the Staatsoper Wiesbaden and subsequently to the positions of conductor of the Wiesbaden Symphony Orchestra and Generalmusikdirecktor in Bochum. In 1948, Decker was introduced to the composer Richard Strauss at a card game of whist. Strauss casually mentioned that he had just finished orchestrating four songs he had recently composed (the Four Last Songs).
Although comfortable conducting virtually any work in the orchestral repertoire, Decker was famous for his mastery and approach to the music of Richard Wagner, Richard Strauss, Anton Bruckner, Max Reger and Gustav Mahler. His performances of works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Joseph Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven were praised for their balance and clarity. His approach to Spanish and South American music was bold and charismatic. He conducted the world premieres of dozens of orchestral works by Canadian composers, and conducted 85 different operas during his distinguished career.
Decker was Music Director of the Municipal Orchestra of Bochum (1956–1964), the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra (1962–1967), the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (1967–1975), the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra (1985–1991), and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (1991–1996, as chief conductor). He served as Artistic Advisor to the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra (1975–1977) and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (1980–1982). He was Principal Guest Conductor of Ottawa's National Arts Centre Orchestra (1991–1999) and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (2003–2004).
He worked with soloists as diverse as Arthur Rubinstein, Emil Gilels, Shura Cherkassky, Clara Haskil, Ida Haendel, Martha Argerich, Hélène Grimaud, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Jessye Norman, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, and Jon Vickers. His television broadcast of a Christmas concert with Luciano Pavarotti and orchestra, filmed at Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal in 1978 was broadcast annually around the world.
- "À la mémoire de Franz-Paul Decker". Dignity Memorial. Retrieved 21 May 2014.
- "Mor l'exdirector titular de l'OBC, Franz-Paul Decker" (in Catalan). Ara. 2014-05-21. Retrieved 21 May 2014.
- "Franz-Paul Decker". Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 21 May 2014.
- "FRANZ-PAUL DECKER". Naxos Records. Retrieved 21 May 2014.
- "Honorary Degree Citation - Franz Paul Decker* | Concordia University Archives". archives.concordia.ca. Retrieved 2016-04-04.
|Music Directors, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra
|Music Director and Principal Conductor, Orquestra Ciutat de Barcelona
Antonio García Navarro