A mighty exponent of Wagner and Strauss, and the last in the tradition of Karajan and Fürtwangler, passes away at 89.

Wolfgang Sawallisch was a genuine maestro, gifted with an outstanding technique, and also a fine lieder accompanist. He leaves behind an impressive legacy of recordings, many of them for EMI.

It is as a conductor of the works of Wagner and Richard Strauss that he will be best remembered but he was also a noted interpreter of the classical and romantic repertoire. He was a gifted opera conductor, especially at Bayreuth in the 1950s and 60s and at La Scala. His lengthy tenure at the Staatsoper in Munich is regarded as a golden age. As a pianist, his regular lieder partners included Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Lucia Popp, Brigitte Fassbaender and Margaret Price. A modest man, both on the podium and in private life, Sawallisch had a singularly professorial manner. His interpretations were always informed and never indulgent – and unlike his rival, Karajan, he was refreshingly disinterested in fame and the media machine.

Wolfgang Sawallisch was born in Munich in 1923 and began piano lessons at the age of 5. An epiphany during a performance of Humperdinck’s Hänsel...

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