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Gellhorn, the son of an architect, came from a musical Jewish family and was educated at the Schiller Realgymnasium, at Berlin University and at the Berlin Music Academy. He was a pupil of the composer Franz Schreker. When the National Socialists came to power he was obliged to leave Germany and settled in England, although he was interned in Mooragh Camp on the Isle of Man as an enemy alien from 1939 to 1941.
During his later career he conducted at Glyndebourne, at the Royal Opera House (at the invitation of its conductor, Karl Rankl); with the Carl Rosa Opera Company and for the BBC, where he conducted the BBC Singers for eleven years.
In later life he taught and coached singers and other musicians from his home in south-west London.
He married the actress Olive Layton in 1943; they had two sons and two daughters.
- Daily Telegraph, Obituary: Peter Gellhorn, 25 February 2004. Accessed 28 April 2009.
- Michael Kennedy and Joyce Bourne (eds.) "Gellhorn, Peter", The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. Accessed via subscription 28 April 2009.