Peter Maag Biography

Ernst Peter Johannes Maag (St. Gallen, Switzerland, 10 May 1919 – Verona, Italy, 16 April 2001).


Better known as Peter Maag, he was a Swiss musician and conductor, historically recognized for his handling of the operatic repertoire of Verdi and Mozart, pieces that were always performed masterfully, in different stages, by the orchestras under his direction. He also recorded several of these executions on records, currently considered to be highly-listed collectible pieces.

Early Life


Peter Maag was born on 10 May 1919, in St. Gallen, Switzerland, into a Lutheran family with a great musical tradition. His father, Otto Maag, was a virtuoso musician, while his mother, Nelly, became a second violin within the Capet Quartet. Very little is known about his first years of life.

His university education received it in several houses of study, having the opportunity to attend the universities of Zurich, Basel and Geneva, where he studied Theology and Philosophy, with professors Emil Brunner and Karl Barth. During his stay in Zurich, he also studied piano and music theory, with Czeslaw Marek.

Later in Paris, under the mentoring of Alfred Cortot, he continued his piano training. Also, in Switzerland, he began his studies in OrchestraL Conducting, an area in which he had Ernest Ansermet as a teacher.

Beginnings as director

As pointed out by several historians, Peter Maag himself recounted that it was the conductor Wilhelm Furtgangler, who suggested that he dedicate himself to the Orchestral Conducting, following his participation as piano No. 4, in a Beethoven concerto conducted by Beethoven.

As reported by Magg, Furtw-ngler would have asked him why he did not lead, noting that throughout the performance, Maag had been more attentive to the orchestra, than of his instrument, also achieving more harmony with the total of the musicians, as the director himself. Maag did not disregard Furtvanler’s advice, since then dedicating himself to management.

His career in this musical area had the opportunity to start, in 1943, at the Swiss theater Biel-Solothurn, where he entered in principle as a corgamer, later becoming Director. At this time, he was also working as an assistant to Furtgangler in recess between seasons at the Biel-Solothurn. After the end of his working relationship with the Biel-Solothurn, in 1946, he began at the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, as an assistant to director Ernest Ansermet.

Scenarios and recordings

Although Peter Maag was not as media musician as other contemporaries, he left recordings of several of his pieces. The first of these took place in October 1950, when he began recording with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, for Decca Records.

This album consists of several mono recordings, featuring Symphonies No. 29 and No. 34, as well as Mozart’s Serenade No. 9 “Posthorn”. Between 1952 and 1955 he became the first Orchestra Director at the Dusseldorf Opera. Later, in 1955 he became the General Musical Director of the Bonn City Theatre.

In February 1957, he began recording some works by Mozart, Mendelssohn and Schumann’s Piano Concerto, with the London Symphony Orchestra. The following year, he also had the opportunity to record two LPs, in Paris, with works by Delibes, Rossini and Chopan, performed, under his direction, by the Orchestre de la Société des Concert du Conservatoire.

In 1959, after his working relationship with the Bonn City Theatre ended, it became the year of debuts for Maag. He performed at the Royal Opera House in Convent Garden, with Mozart’s “Magic Flute”; at the Glyndebourne Opera Festival, where he did so with Mozart’s “Figaro Weddings”; as well as in the United States, where he assisted as guest conductor of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra.

Two years later, in 1961, he would also make his debut at the Lyric Theatre in Chicago, with Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte”. However, the following year, a vocational crisis caused him to abandon his career, believing that he was losing his talent. Maag also experienced a severe crisis in his religious faith, for which he sought answers in the Greek Orthodox Church, as well as in Buddhism.

Two years later, he decided to return. Between 1964 and 1968 he assumed the position of Senior Director of the Vienna Volksoper. In 1972 he made his Metropolitan Opera debut with Mozart’s Don Giovanni, from which he conducted his orchestra for three years. That same year he also became Artistic Director of the Teatro Regio in Parma.

In 1974 he took over the Artistic Directorate of the Teatro Regio in Turin, where he also conducted the RAI Symphony Orchestra. Likewise, in Spain, he had the opportunity to conduct the National Orchestra of Spain. In June 1975 she recorded Verdi’s “Luisa Miller” in the company of the National Philharmonic Orchestra for Decca Records.

Three years later, he also had the opportunity to record Ferdinando Paer’s opera “Leonora”, conducting the Bavarian State Orchestra. Between 1984 and 1991, he served as Music Director of the Berner Symplhonie-Orchester.

Recognitions and final years

His reputation as Music Director spread throughout the world, being called as guest conductor to numerous orchestras and theaters throughout the latitudes. He also earned him several accolades, such as the Toscanini Medal of Parma, in 1969; as well as the Verdiana Medal in 1973 and the Toscanini Presentation Baton in 1975.

Personally, he married twice: the first, with the designer Jasmina Bo’in, originally from Bosnia-Herzegovina, and with whom he had a son, named Greorg Maag; the second, with Mari Franchi, with whom he conceived his daughter Costanza. He eventually died in Verona, Italy, on 16 April 2001, at the age of eighty-two.

Image source: larena.it

Peter Maag Biography
Source: Education  
August 6, 2019


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