During his career, German composer Kurt Sanderling, naturalised Russian in 1940, conducted many important Soviet and European orchestras, such as the Leningrad Philharmonic, the Berlin Symphony Orchestra and the Dresden Staatskapelle. He was best known for his interpretations of symphonies by Brahms and Shostakovich.
As a student in Königsberg, Kurt Sanderling was also a repetiteur (rehearsal directory)in Berlin then fled the Nazi regime, fearing for his Jewish roots. He settled in the Soviet Union and worked with the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra under Georges Sébastian. In 1942, he was appointed joint principal conductor with Yevgeny Mravinsky of the Leningrad Philharmonic, a position he then held until 1960. He also taught at the Leningrad Conservatory for several years. In 1960, he returned to East Germany to take on the chief conductorship position of the Berlin Symphony Orchestra as well as of the Dresden Staatskapelle.
Sanderling worked with many important composers, such as Shostakovich, whom he interpreted many works from and deeply admired, and more particularly Jean Sibelius, a composer whose popularity he wanted to expend through recordings of all his symphonic works.
From 1977, after leaving the Berlin Orchestra, Sanderling made his international debut as a guest conductor and honorary conductor in Europe and abroad, especially in Japan, where he was appointed honorary conductor of the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo. He also interpreted many East German composers, such as Günther Kochan (Divertimento for orchestra in 1965), Siegfried Matthus, Ernst Hermann Meyer (Serenata pensierosa in 1965), Rudolf Wagner-Régeny (Einleitung und Ode in 1967), and Ruth Zechlin (Thema mit 5 Veränderungen for large orchestra in 1971). He announced his retirement from conducting in 2002, at the age of 90.
A few key dates in the life of Kurt Sanderling:
1936: Left Germany for the Soviet Union
1942: Conducted the Leningrad Philharmonic
1943: Met composer Dmitri Shostakovich
1960: Returned to Germany
2002: Appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire
2002: Announced his retirement
Biography from Radio France’s document database (December 2015)