Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt

Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt (5 May 1900  28 May 1973) was a German conductor and composer.

Early life

Born in Berlin, he studied music in Heidelberg and Münster. He was also a composition student with Franz Schreker at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik, and received a doctorate in 1923.


He was a repetiteur at the Wuppertal Opera starting in 1923. He held conducting positions at the opera houses of Rostock (1928-1931) and Darmstadt (1931-1933). He had the post of first conductor at the Hamburg State Opera from 1935 to 1943. In 1944, he was named music director at the Berlin State Opera.

In 1945, after the end of World War II, the British military authorities invited Schmidt-Isserstedt (who had avoided joining the Nazi Party) to found an orchestra at the North German Radio in Hamburg. Six months later, he assembled the North German Radio Symphony Orchestra and conducted its first concert in November 1945. He was subsequently the orchestra's first principal conductor.[1] During his years in this role, he became an advocate of music by composers whose music had been outlawed in Germany during the Third Reich: such as Bartók, Stravinsky and Hindemith. His favorite composer, however, was Mozart, and he made several recordings and gave many notable performances of his works. In particular his recordings of Mozart's operas Idomeneo and La finta giardiniera are greatly admired.

In 1948, and again in 1949, he was guest conductor with the Radio Éireann Symphony Orchestra.[2]

From 1955 to 1964, he was principal conductor also of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra. He conducted memorable performances of The Marriage of Figaro at the Glyndebourne Festival in 1958, and of Tristan und Isolde at The Royal Opera, Covent Garden in 1962.

He made a well-regarded recording of all the Beethoven symphonies. In Germany, he was a noted champion of the music of Tippett.

Schmidt-Isserstedt's own compositions included songs, the opera Hassan gewinnt (Rostock, 1928), and works for orchestra.[3] His son was the British record producer Erik Smith.

Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt died in Holm, Pinneberg, West Germany, in 1973.


In 1937 he conducted the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and Georg Kulenkampff in a rendition of Robert Schumann's Violin Concerto in D minor. The original has been restored and reissued by Heritage Records here.

In 2002 Decca Records issued a box set of Schmidt-Isserstedt's recordings of all Beethoven's symphonies, piano concertos, some overtures and his violin concerto.

In 1988 Membran (reissue of Acanta, 1972) issued Reger's Eine Romantische Suite op. 125 and Vier Tondichtungen nach Arnold Bocklin op. 128.


  • Hans Christoph Worbs. The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, edited by Stanley Sadie (1992), ISBN 0-333-73432-7 and ISBN 1-56159-228-5


  1. Potts, Joseph E., "European Radio Orchestras: Western Germany" (September 1955). The Musical Times, 96 (1351): 473-475.
  2. Kehoe, P. J. (2017) The Evolution of the Radio Éireann Symphony Orchestra 1926–1954. Doctoral thesis, DIT, 2017; 115-117. https://arrow.dit.ie.appadoc/87
  3. Obituary for Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt (1973). The Musical Times, 114 (1566): 734.
Cultural offices
Preceded by
Principal Conductor, North German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Succeeded by
Moshe Atzmon
Preceded by
Carl Garaguly
Principal Conductor, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra
Succeeded by
Antal Doráti
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