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Born in 1888
Inducted in 1998
The brilliant Fritz Reiner, who capped his career by creating new standards of orchestral excellence in Chicago, began conducting in the opera house. He attended law school in Budapest while studying at the Academy of Music (where Bela Bartok was one of his teachers), and in 1909, the year he completed his law studies, he made his conducting debut at the Comic Opera, where he had been serving as a coach. In 1910 he received his first appointment, as conductor of the Landestheater in Laibach (today’s Ljubljana); in the following year he returned to Budapest for a three year tenure at the Volksoper, and from 1914 to 1921 he was chief conductor at the Court Opera in Dresden. During his Dresden years Reiner conducted his first Ring cycle, he got to know Richard Strauss and attended performances by Arthur Nikisch in Berlin and Leipzig which helped to shape his own outlook as a conductor. He conducted in Barcelona, Hamburg, Vienna and Rome, and in 1922 he came to the United States as music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. He held the Cincinnati position until 1931, when he became professor of conducting and director of the orchestra and opera departments at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. By then Reiner was music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, whose podium he held from 1938 to 1948. In 1953, Reiner went to Chicago to fulfill his destiny in the position that would bring him his greatest triumph. Before the end of his first season with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra he began the series of recordings that was to bring him and the orchestra recognition on a level attained by few other musicians. The recordings, on RCA Victor, made spectacular use of the newly developed stereophonic technique. He recorded with the Vienna Philharmonic, and to Chicago he brought a stunning roster of guest conductors and soloists Beecham, Bruno Walter, Szell, Giulini, Bohm. Failing health brought about Reiner’s resignation from the Chicago post in 1962, but he continued the connection, both in concerts and in recordings, for another season as “musical adviser.” Two months before his death, in New York, he made what proved to be his valedictory recording two Haydn symphonies with a specially formed orchestra that included several of his players from Chicago.