Fritz Reiner

Conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony who bought it to national prominence

Fritz Reiner was born in Budapest in 1888. He studied piano, piano pedagogy, and composition at the Franz Liszt Academy. His piano teacher was Béla Bartók. Fritz conducted at opera houses in Budapest and Dresden where he worked with Richard Strauss.  In 1922 Frtiz moved to the United States to become the Conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. He left Cincinnati in 1931 to teach at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia where his pupils included Leonard Bernstein and Lukas Foss. He conducted the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra from 1938 to 1948.  After leaving the PSO Reiner conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Under Fritz Reiner's direction the PSO enjoyed ten prolific years.  The PSO signed a record contact with Columbia Records and was invited to perform abroad. Several noted composers made world premieres of their works with Reiner conducting the PSO.  In 1942 during World War II Reiner accepted dozens women into the PSO for the first time. 

"He was a genius, apart from all other conductors I've ever known. He was tyrannical, he was cruel, he was bitter, he was ruthless in his treatment of us if we didn't know what was happening. His standards were incredibly high, and I bless him for it." -Leonard Bernstein