Foreign Minister Frank‑Walter Steinmeier issued the following statement on the death of the conductor Kurt Masur, who passed away in New York today (19 December) at the age of 88:
I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Kurt Masur. He was a great artist who always sought and found the message of humanity and understanding in music. Alongside his special importance as a top international conductor, his extraordinary presence on the stage and his vast catalogue of recordings, he will be especially remembered as an exponent of this message of humanity and civic courage.
Kurt Masur headed the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra for almost 30 years and remained faithful to this orchestra long after he became a conductor of international repute. As a unique musician, he gained a standing far beyond Germany, to which his work in New York, Paris, London or Israel bear testimony. As a conductor who came to fame in the GDR, after 1990 he became a representative of Germany’s unity, also abroad.
Kurt Masur was not only an outstanding artist but also politically engaged. Particularly in Leipzig, people remember with gratitude his courage during the momentous events of autumn 1989. On 9 October, the day of the Monday demonstrations in Leipzig, Masur – together with other prominent citizens of the city – drafted an appeal for “No violence!”, which did much to ensure that the protest went off peacefully. During our last encounter, I talked to him about his role and that of music as champions of reconciliation in and between societies.
We mourn the loss of one of the most important conductors of the 20th and 21st centuries, as well as a great German.