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Wolfgang Sawallisch, one of Germany's greatest conductors, has died at the age of 89, the Bavarian State Opera, where he was general music director and manager for 20 years, announced on Sunday.
Sawallisch died late Friday at his home in Grassau, upper Bavaria, the opera said in a statement.
"The Bavarian State Opera is deeply saddened by the death of Wolfgang Sawallisch," said the opera's current chief Nikolaus Bachler.
"For decades, he left his stamp on our house with his great personality and his inimitable art. His name, like no other, is connected with the Munich opera and even today his influence can still be felt," Bachler said.
A gala performance scheduled for Monday of Giuseppe Verdi's "Requiem" by the Bavarian State Opera orchestra and conducted by Indian-born maestro Zubin Mehta would be dedicated to Sawallisch's memory, he added.
The performance had been scheduled to mark the bicentenary of Verdi's birth, which the musical world is celebrating this year.
Sawallisch was born in Munich in 1923.
After studying at the Munich conservatory, his first position as a conductor was in Augsburg. He was subsequently music director at the operas of Aachen, Wiesbaden and Cologne.
In 1953, he made his debut with the Berlin Philharmonic and he conducted at the Bayreuth Festival, the annual summer music festival dedicated to the works of Richard Wagner, between 1957 and 1962.
Sawallisch was general music director (GMD) in Hamburg from 1960 to 1970, during which he was also chief conductor of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra.
In 1971, he was appointed GMD in Munich and in 1982 he became artistic director of the Bavarian State Opera, a position he held until 1992.
The conductor was also music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, one of the most prestigious orchestras in the United States, between 1993 and 2003.
He conducted the world's greatest orchestras, including the Orchestra Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, the Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala in Milan, the London Philharmonic and the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Orchestre de Paris, the Concertgebouw Orkest, the Vienna Symphony and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
Sawallisch was also a pianist, performing chamber music and accompanying the world's top singers.
© 2013 AFP
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