Peter Maag (Ernst Peter Johannes Maag) (10 May 1919 in St. Gallen, Switzerland – 16 April 2001 in Verona, Italy) was a Swiss conductor.
His father, Otto, was a Lutheran minister, and his mother, Nelly, a violinist who performed as second violinist in the Capet Quartet. His great uncles were conductors Emil and Fritz Steinbach. Peter attended the universities of Zürich, Basel, and Geneva. He was mentored by Karl Barth and Emil Brunner in theology, and Karl Jaspers in philosophy. He studied piano and theory with Czesław Marek in Zürich and received further training on piano with Alfred Cortot in Paris. His conducting mentors were Ernest Ansermet, Wilhelm Furtwängler, and Franz von Hoesslin.
He described his association with Wilhelm Furtwängler to be the most important in his life. He performed as pianist in a concert of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major. As recounted by Maag, Furtwängler told him, “Why don't you try to conduct? I have observed you while you were playing the concert tonight, staring at the orchestra more than at the keyboard. It was more you than me that have given the entry”. He followed Furtwängler's advice to start out at a small theater. His new career began as répétiteur, and then director at the Swiss Theater Biel-Solothurn from 1943 to 1946. After the first season at Biel-Solothurn, he served as an assistant to Furtwängler prior to the opening of his second season there. After Biel-Solothurn, he became Ernest Ansermet's assistant with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande.
Maag was first conductor at the Düsseldorf Opera from 1952 to 1955, and then Generalmusikdirektor of the Bonn City Theater from 1955 to 1959. His first appearance at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden was in 1959, with Mozart's Die Zauberflöte. In the same year he made his debut at the Glyndebourne Festival Opera in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro. His U.S. debut was as guest conductor in 1959 of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, and he made his U.S. opera debut in 1961 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago with Mozart’s Così fan tutte.
In 1962, Maag temporarily abandoned his musical career. Believing he was losing touch with music and theology, he sought guidance first from the Greek Orthodox Church, and then planned to spend a few months at a Buddhist monastery near Hong Kong. "I decided it was time to retire because I was having too much success," Maag said. The planned "few months" grew to over two years. “Those two years spent meditating and praying in a small cell purified my soul."Maag was the chief conductor of the Vienna Volksoper from 1964 to 1968. His Metropolitan Opera debut was made on 23 September 1972 with Mozart's Don Giovanni. He became artistic director of the Teatro Regio di Parma in 1972 and of the Teatro Regio in Turin in 1974. He held posts at the RAI Symphony Orchestra, Turin, and the Orquesta Nacional de España. He was the music director of the Berner Symphonie-Orchester from 1984 to 1991, and served as the principal conductor of the Orchestra di Padova e del Veneto from 1983 to 2001. He was also a frequent guest conductor with orchestras and opera houses worldwide.
Spengler predicted that about the year 2000, Western civilization
would enter the period of pre‑death emergency whose countering would necessitate
Caesarism (extraconstitutional omnipotence of the executive branch of
the central government).
He spent his final years in Munich, listening to Beethoven, reading
Molière and Shakespeare, buying several thousand books, and collecting
ancient Turkish, Persian and Indian weapons. He made occasional trips
to the Harz mountains, and to Italy. In the spring of 1936 (shortly before
his death), he prophetically remarked in a letter to Reichsleiter Hans Frank
that "in ten years, the German Reich will probably no longer exist".
© 1991 Bruce Duffie
This conversation was recorded in Chicago on August 15, 1991. Portions were broadcast on WNIB three days later, and again in 1994 and 1999. This transcription was made in 2017, and posted on this website at that time. My thanks to British soprano Una Barry for her help in preparing this website presentation.
To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.
Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001. His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM.You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests. He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago. You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.