The conductor Gerd Albrecht has died; he was 78. During a long career that started as a répétiteur at the Stuttgart Opera, he served as principal conductor of the Tonhalle Orchestra in Zurich (1975-80), Czech PO (1993-96), Yomiuri Nippon SO (1998-2007) and Danish National SO (2000-04). Among his early positions, Albrecht was senior Kapellmeister at Mainz Musicipal Theatre and Generalmusikdirector in Lübeck. In the opera house he was also Generalmusikdirecktor of Hamburg Opera (1988-97).
Albrecht's period at the Czech Philharmonic – as the first foreign conductor to head the ensemble – was a controversial one. After an incident involving an invitation for the orchestra to perform at the Vatican under a different conductor, the Czech President Vacláv Havel was pulled into the resulting furore when Albrecht vetoed the visit to Rome. Relations were patched up, but following a centenary concert in 1996 for which he shared conducting honours with Jiří Bělohlávek – and at which Havel was conspicuously absent – the orchestra made their sympathies obvious and Albrecht resigned amonth later. His tenure in Denmark was also not without incident either, with Albrecht making a spontaneous speech criticising the US invasion of Iraq, for which he later had to apologise.
Musically, Albrecht's sympathies were broad and he championed new music (giving the world premiere and US premiere of Aribert Reimann's Lear, for example) as well as rare repertoire from the early 20th century.
His extensive discography includes operas by Schreker, Dvořák, Schoeck, Spohr and Meyerbeer, orchestral works by Schulhoff, Krenek, Ullmann, Zemlinsky, Busoni, Hindemith and Wellesz as well as more mainstream composers like Brahms, Mendelssohn and Wagner. He recorded for CPO, Orfeo, Capriccio, Supraphon among other companies.