Born Reiner Frigyes in Budapest, he studied composition at the Academy with Hans Koessler and the piano with Béla Bartók. Nine years in Cincinnati, 10 in Pittsburgh, five at the Met and 10 in Chicago made him one of America’s most powerful musicians; under Reiner, the Chicago SO in particular developed a new flexibility. Janós Starker, principal cellist at Chicago and the Met, cited his attributes as being ‘knowledge, total control, minimal gestures, no time-wasting, and no show-biz’.
Tribute by Iván Fischer
The music life in the United States wouldn’t be the same without Fritz Reiner. Before his emigration he absorbed the best of Europe: he had close relationships with Bartók, Richard Strauss and other musical giants. He had one ambition: to create high musical standards in American cities. Among his wonderful recordings I like the early ones made in Pittsburgh most. He accomplished amazing collective virtuosity and musicianship! When he is criticised for being tyrannical one shouldn’t forget his purpose: to accomplish exceptional quality in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, New York and finally with the Chicago Symphony. I was very impressed when older Chicago orchestra members told me that although he was feared, he is mainly remembered as giving the best concerts ever with that legendary orchestra.
R Strauss Ein Heldenleben. Also sprach Zarathustra