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Acclaimed Swiss conductor dies at 82

During his long career, Peter Maag was guest conductor for numerous symphony and opera orchestras Keystone

The Swiss conductor Peter Maag, whose international career included critically acclaimed recordings with the London Symphony Orchestra, has died at the age of 82.

This content was published on April 17, 2001 - 12:43

Born in the city of St Gallen, Maag's first chosen fields of study were literature and philosophy. "Then he wanted to become a pianist and was a pupil of Alfred Cortot," says René Karlen, director of the Bern Symphony Orchestra. "He really wasn't sure what to do at this stage of his life."

But fate was to lend a hand in the form of maestro Wilhelm Furtwängler, who recognised Maag's musical talent and potential and encouraged him to take up the conductor's baton.

A conductor at opera houses in Düsseldorf and Bonn in the 1950s, he became internationally known in the 1960s after a series of recordings of works by Mendelssohn and Mozart with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Maag also served as artistic director or chief conductor in theatres across Europe, including the Volksoper in Vienna.

At the height of his fame, he decided to take a break and spent two years meditating in a Tibetan monastery. "I decided it was time to retire because I was having too much success," Maag said later. "Those two years spent meditating and praying in a small cell purified my soul."

It proved to be only a temporary retirement. After returning to Europe, he served as chief conductor of the Bern Symphony Orchestra for seven years. But Maag's later years were spent mostly in Italy, where he was in great demand as a guest conductor, especially of works by Mozart.

In 1989 he co-founded a workshop for young conductors and composers in Treviso, in the Veneto region. His death, in Verona, followed a long illness.

by Richard Dawson

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