Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos has died at the age of 80. The Spanish conductor and composer, who studied violin, piano and composition in his youth at the conservatories of Bilbao and Madrid, announced his retirement just a week before his death on 10 June. He had been suffering from cancer.
Born on 15 September 1933, Frühbeck de Burgos took up conducting while on military service in the Spanish Army. After being discharged he studied with Kurt Eichhorn at Munich’s Hochschule für Musik and was awarded the Richard Strauss Prize.
In 1962 he took over as director of Spain’s Orquesta Nacional, where he remained until 1978. He also served as music director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra from 1975 to 1976, the Vienna Symphony from 1991 to 1996, Deutsche Oper Berlin from 1992 to 1997 and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin from 1994 to 2000.
From 2004 to 2011, he was chief conductor and artistic director of the Dresden Philharmonic, and in the 2012-13 season began his post as chief conductor of the Danish National Orchestra on a three-year contract. He also forged longstanding links with the Philharmonia Orchestra in London, which he first conducted in 1965, and the Philadelphia Orchestra in the United States, which he first conducted in 1969.
He recorded extensively for EMI, Decca, Deutsche Grammophon, Spanish Columbia, and Orfeo. Notable recordings include Mendelssohn’s Elijah and St Paul, Mozart’s Requiem, Orff’s Carmina Burana, Bizet’s Carmen, and the complete works of Manual de Falla.
His final concert as a conductor was in Washington DC on 14 March 2014 with the National Symphony Orchestra.
Photo: Columbia Arts Management Inc