Siegfried Landau, Brooklyn Philharmonic Founder, Dies in House Fire

Classic Arts News   Siegfried Landau, Brooklyn Philharmonic Founder, Dies in House Fire
Siegfried Landau, the founding music director of the Brooklyn Philharmonic, died yesterday morning in a fire at his home in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. He was 85.

The Philharmonic, which announced his death, said that Siegfried's wife, former ballerina Irene Gabriel, perished with him. She was 70.

Born in Berlin in 1921 to an Orthodox Jewish family, Landau trained at the Stern and Klindworth-Scharwenka conservatories in Germany. According to The New York Times, the family fled Germany in 1939 and settled in London, where Landau enrolled at at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Trinity College of Music. He then continued his studies in New York with the conductor Pierre Monteux.

Before founding the Brooklyn Philharmonic, Landau guest conducted for the Carnegie Pops concerts, the Hunter College Series and Brooklyn Museum concerts. He taught at the New York College of Music and was music director for Shearith Israel Synagogue in Manhattan. He taught cantorial lore at the Jewish Theological Seminar and led the 92nd Street Y chorus for a number of years.

Landau served as music director and conductor of the Brooklyn Philharmonic for the first 17 years of the orchestra's history. On May 3, 1955 he conducted the orchestra in its first concert, an all-Beethoven program.

Nathan Milstein, Mischa Elman, Isaac Stern, Rudolf Serkin and many other prominent musicians joined the orchestra and Landau at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

From the start, Landau championed new music at the Philharmonic (known as the Brooklyn Philharmonia during his tenure). He resigned in 1971, reportedly because the financially troubled organization had shortened its season.

The Times quotes Maurice Edwards, a former executive director of the Brooklyn Philharmonia, as saying, "[Landau] put together a corps of top-notch, professional freelance players from New York. He did at least two or three new compositions each season, or revivals of neglected symphonic scores."

The paper quotes Landau as saying, "If I stayed with the same old warhorses year after year, if I permitted the repertoire to stagnate and become impoverished, I would no longer be serving the course of music. What is of enormous importance is that we take a stand against a tendency that is absolutely deadening to the future of Western music."

It seems appropriate, then, that the Brooklyn Philharmonic will dedicate its March 10 concert, which features new works of Osvaldo Golijov, to Landau and his wife.

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