The 98-year-old maestro forged a career amid the turmoil of Nazism, Stalinist Russia and the Berlin Wall.

Kurt Sanderling, one of the greatest European conductors of the 20th century, died on September 17 at the age of 98. The last surviving legend in the tradition of Klemperer and Karajan, he was a leading exponent of Austro-German and Russian repertoire.

Born in 1912 to Jewish parents in East Prussia (now Poland), Sanderling began as a répétiteur for the Berlin State Opera at the age of 18. Dismissed from that post as a non-Aryan in 1933, and deprived of his German citizenship in 1935, he found refuge with family in Moscow. It was a time in which many of his music colleagues fled west, to America, but despite invitations from the Met and the Cleveland Orchestra he was unable to secure a US visa.

During the war years Sanderling gave one of the earliest performances of Shostakovich’s Sixth Symphony. He and the composer became lifelong friends from their first meeting in 1943 – Shostakovich described him as “one of the five musicians who have accompanied my life”. After five years with the Moscow Radio Orchestra Sanderling secured the position of “Permanent Conductor”...

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