Joseph Keilberth

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Joseph Keilberth.

Joseph Keilberth (19 April 1908 – 20 July 1968)[1] was a German conductor who specialised in opera.


Keilberth began his career in the State Theatre of his native city, Karlsruhe, joining as a répétiteur in 1925 and conducting from 1935 to 1940.[2][3] In 1940 he became director of the German Philharmonic Orchestra of Prague.[2][3][4] In 1945, near the end of World War II, he was appointed principal conductor of the venerable Saxon State Opera Orchestra in Dresden.[3][4] In 1949 he became chief conductor of the Bamberg Symphony, formed mainly of German musicians expelled from postwar Czechoslovakia under the Beneš decrees.[3] Starting in 1950, Keilberth became a guest conductor at the Berlin State Opera, and was named chief conductor of the Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra.[3] Keilberth became a conductor of the Bavarian State Opera in 1951, and he succeeded Ferenc Fricsay as its artistic director in 1959.[1][2]

Ring Cycles at Bayreuth and in recording[edit]

Keilberth conducted at the Bayreuth Festival from 1952 until 1956,[1] with complete Wagner Ring Cycles from 1952, 1953 and 1955, as well as a well-regarded recording of Die Walküre from 1954 (the whereabouts of rest of the cycle are unclear) in which Martha Mödl, perhaps the greatest Wagnerian actress and tragedian of her time, sang her only recorded Sieglinde. He made the first stereo recording of the Ring Cycle in 1955, as well as a so-called "second cycle" with Mödl, rather than Astrid Varnay, as Brünnhilde. Mödl's accounts of Brünnhilde, from the 1953 Ring as well as the 1955 "second cycle," are her only recordings of the role other than Wilhelm Furtwängler's 1953 Rome Ring and commercial Walküre in 1954.

Other recordings[edit]

Among his other recordings, his outstanding interpretations of Wagner's Lohengrin at the 1953 Bayreuth Festival released on Decca-London and Weber's Der Freischütz made in 1958 for EMI, as well as a 'live' set of Richard Strauss's Arabella (featuring Lisa della Casa and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau) made in 1963 for DG are still considered among the best versions. He conducted the TV-broadcast German-translation performance of Rossini's The Barber of Seville, featuring Fritz Wunderlich, Hermann Prey and Hans Hotter. His Haydn 85th Symphony and Brahms Fourth Symphony recordings on Telefunken are no less distinguished.


He died in Munich in 1968 after collapsing while conducting Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde in exactly the same place as Felix Mottl was similarly fatally stricken in 1911.[1] His final recording, a Meistersinger, came a month before his death — at the Bavarian State Opera on 21 June.

Decorations and awards[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Brunner, Gerhard (2001). "Keilberth, Joseph". Grove Music Online. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.14827. Retrieved 2023-06-13.
  2. ^ a b c Kennedy, Joyce; Kennedy, Michael; Rutherford-Johnson, Tim, eds. (2013-05-21). "Keilberth, Joseph". The Oxford Dictionary of Music (6 ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-957810-8. Retrieved 2023-06-13.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Josef Keilberth, 60, Dead; German Opera Conductor". The New York Times. New York. 22 July 1968. p. 35. Retrieved 2023-06-13.
  4. ^ a b "Joseph Keilberth". The Musical Times. 109 (1507): 842. 1968. ISSN 0027-4666. JSTOR 952968. Retrieved 2023-06-13.

External links[edit]

Cultural offices
Preceded by Music Director, Berlin State Opera
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Principal Conductor, Bamberg Symphony Orchestra
Succeeded by