FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) ó Carlos Kleiber, the celebrated perfectionist conductor whose mystique grew partly out of the rarity of his performances, has died. He was 74.
Carlos Kleiber (photo: DG/Neumeister) Kleiber died last Tuesday [13 July] after a long illness and was buried Saturday [17 July] at Konjsica, Slovenia, the Slovenian news agency STA said. A relative, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Kleiber had died and said the conductor wanted to be buried next to his wife, who was Slovenian and died in December.
"The greatest living conductor has left us," Ioan Holender, director of the Vienna State Opera, told the Austria Press Agency on Monday.
The son of famed conductor Erich Kleiber, Carlos Kleiber was an independent who refused to accept positions with companies, instead preferring to guest-conduct wherever and whenever he pleased.
He was considered one of the great conductors of the late 20th century, along with Leonard Bernstein, Herbert von Karajan and Georg Solti. Kleiber was a mysterious figure in the music world, refusing all interviews, but he repeatedly left orchestra players notes filled with instructions, which became known as "Kleibergrams."
"Carlos Kleiber was a musical genius beyond words," Luciano Pavarotti said in a statement released through his spokeswoman, Terri Robson. "Music-loving audiences the world over were deprived of the privilege of experiencing him in public in more recent years, but he was a unique conductor and an extraordinary interpreter and the music world has suffered a tragic loss."
Kleiber's performances were electric, filled with precise tempi and unusual color. The tenor Pl·cido Domingo, himself a conductor, called Kleiber the consummate conductor. Asked what attributes he would want from every living conductor, Domingo was quoted in Helen Matheopoulos's 1982 book Maestro as saying he would want "the cheering of Jimmy Levine, Claudio Abbado's special way of indicating a legato, Zubin Mehta's incredible facility. "But from Carlos Kleiber, I would want ... everything."
Kleiber largely retired after 1994, conducting only a pair of concerts each in 1996 and 1997 before his final public performances, five concerts of Beethoven's Fourth and Seventh Symphonies followed by the overture to Johann Strauss Jr.'s Die Fledermaus with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in Spain and Italy in January and February 1999.
When encountered by an AP reporter in his hotel's rooftop restaurant after the opening performance on Grand Canary Island and asked whether he had plans to conduct again in New York, he replied, "Maybe next year," sounding more like he was trying to end the conversation quickly than give an accurate answer.
Kleiber made his U.S. debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on Oct. 12, 1978, conducting the overture to Weber's Der Freisch¸tz, Schubert's Third Symphony and Beethoven's Fifth. He returned to Orchestra Hall in June 1983 for Butterworth's English Idylls No. 1, Mozart's Symphony No. 33 and Brahms's Symphony No. 2.
His only other American performances were at the Metropolitan Opera, where he made his debut on Jan. 22, 1988, in a revival of Puccini's La BohËme.
"Puccini's bittersweet tale of bohemian lovers in Paris had been heard 639 times at the Metropolitan Opera before Friday night's performance, but it's doubtful it ever sounded better," AP critic Mike Silverman wrote.
Kleiber conducted 19 performances in all at the Met over a two-year period, also leading the company in a new production of Verdi's La traviata and revivals of Verdi's Otello and Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier. After that, he refused all overtures to return to the United States.
Carlos Kleiber was born in Berlin on July 3, 1930. His father had performed for the first time in the United States in 1930ñ31 with the New York Philharmonic and after the family fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s, the young Kleiber grew up in Argentina.
After the war, he studied chemistry in Switzerland, but his love for music led him to a 1954 conducting debut in Potsdam, East Germany, in Karl Millˆcker's operetta Gasparone. Instead of conducting under his own name, Kleiber conducted that night under the name Karl Keller, Matheopoulos wrote.
There was no immediate information on survivors.
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