The German musician Kurt Masur, director of major orchestras such as the Gewandhaus of Leipzig and the New York Philharmonic, has died at the age of 88.

Masur served as musical director of the Philharmonic for 11 years, one of the longest periods in the history of the orchestra, in which he “set a standard and left a legacy that lives on today,” wrote the president of the New York Philharmonic, Matthew Vanbesien.

“What we remember most vividly is Masur’s profound belief in music as an expression of humanism,” said VanBesien. “We felt this powerfully in the wake of 9/11, when he led the Philharmonic in a moving performance of Brahms’s ‘Ein Deutsches Requiem,’ and musicians from the Orchestra gave free chamber concerts around Ground Zero.”

Masur died at a hospital in Greenwich, Connecticut, from complications of Parkinson’s disease, said the New York Philharmonic.

Born July 18, 1927 in Brieg, Germany – now Brzeg, Poland – Masur studied piano, composition and conducting at the College of Music in Leipzig. In 1955 he was appointed director of the Dresden Philharmonic, in the East Germany.

For 26 years he led the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig.

Leipzig was one of the highlights of the pro-democracy demonstrations that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the East German communist regime. Masur was part of a group that is credited with having prevented the repression of demonstrations.

On the German reunification celebration, on October 3, 1990, he directed Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. And after the reunification, he led the London Philharmonic, the Orchestre National de France, and other groups on three continents.

His passion was always the music; he even was credited with having tamed the New York Philharmonic, considered an unmanageable “set of egotism” when he replaced Zubin Mehta in 1991.

Masur was appointed music director emeritus, a title previously awarded only to Leonard Bernstein.

He was the principal conductor of the London Philharmonic from 2000 to 2007 and music director of the Orchestre National de France from 2002 to 2008. In 2007, when he turned 80, he directed the two orchestras together at a concert in London.

He was also named honorary guest conductor of the Israel Philharmonic.

In the recent years, Masur said his main concern was to encourage emerging young conductors, stating that his goal should be to create new impressions for uninitiated listeners, instead of getting on the show.

The New York Philharmonic said that a private funeral and a public memorial would be performed.

Source: The Star Democrat