The Leipzig General Music Director Gustav Brecher
Born in Eichwald in Bohemia (Dubí in the Czech Republic) on February 5, 1879, died near Ostende
in May 1940
His family moved to Leipzig in 1889, where he studied composing and conducting with Salomon Jadassohn. Brecher attracted attention as a composer when Richard Strauss conducted a tone
poem of his in 1896. He first conducted the Gewandhaus Orchestra in an opera in 1897.
In 1901 Gustav Mahler engaged him as a guest conductor at the Vienna Court Opera. Between 1903 and 1911 Brecher was at the Hamburg Opera, where he conducted the premiere of Ferruccio Busoni‘s opera Die Brautwahl. After holding posts in Cologne and Frankfurt, in 1924 Gustav Brecher was appointed general music director at the Leipzig New Theatre, where he applied „great energy“ to „the fight against programme routine, slapdash rehearsal work and provincialism“, as the Gewandhaus chronicle documents. It also states that he was „feared for his precise rehearsing“, which was ultimately of benefit all round, for though „the orchestra was often frustrated by the intensive and time-consuming rehearsing, it also gained from it“. At last, „opera of a high standard with precisely prepared and executed ideas“ had returned.
Brecher set his sights high. He wanted to develop Leipzig into a „premier German opera venue“.
He rejuvenated the repertoire, often enough revising texts himself; Brecher is considered one of the best libretto translators.
Brecher conducted an opera in Leipzig for the last time on March 4, 1933 – a production of Kurt Weill‘s „winter fairytale“ Der Silbersee. In the course of the performance, heckling by vociferous Nazis forced him to leave the rostrum, and he was suspended from his position as general music director shortly afterwards. He took his own life in exile a few years later. Still in March, only a few days after the Brecher incident, two of his
colleagues were forced to leave their posts in the same crude and insolent manner: Fritz Busch, general music director in Dresden, and Bruno Walter, conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig.
Brecher had however made Leipzig one of the
leading opera venues in Germany.