Julius Rudel, Music Director for The Kennedy Center, 1968-1975
by Una Hanbury
Commissioned by the Kennedy Center in the early 1980s upon the
recommendation of a committee headed by former director of the National
Gallery of Art, J. Carter Brown
Austrian-born Julius Rudel (1921–2014) was one of the most famous and beloved opera and orchestra conductors of the 20th century. He rose to become the General Director of the New York City Opera in 1957, the Kennedy Center’s first Music Director in 1971 (at the request of Jacqueline Kennedy), and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Music Director in 1979.
Even as a child, he was drawn to music and often attended Vienna Philharmonic concerts. He began formal musical studies in his native city of Vienna but moved to New York after fleeing Austria when it was annexed by Nazi Germany. He completed his musical studies in New York in 1943 and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1944. After graduation, he was hired on the musical staff of the New York City Opera, remaining with that company for 35 years. Rudel loved opera and stated that it was “the most complete art form. It combines music, poetry, design, and movement. Like America, it is a beautiful mosaic.”
He was nominated for several Grammy® Awards, winning once.