Sixten Ehrling, former conductor at Sweden's Royal Court and in Detroit, dies at 86

Tuesday, February 15th 2005, 8:45 am
By: News On 6

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) _ Sixten Ehrling, who conducted at the Royal Opera in Stockholm during its golden age in the 1950s and then left for the United States, where he led the Detroit Symphony for a decade, has died. He was 86.

The Royal Opera said Tuesday that Ehrling, who was known for his vast knowledge of music and for his sharp temperament, died Sunday in New York City, where he had resided since the early 1970s.

Born in 1918 in Malmoe, Ehrling was graduated by the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm, where he studied piano and violin. After conducting Sweden's Royal Opera and receiving the coveted Jenny Lind scholarship in 1939, he joined the Dresden State Opera in Germany, where he worked under the conductor Karl Bohm. He returned to Sweden a year later.

His breakthrough came in 1950, when he conducted Stravinsky's ``Rite of Spring'' at the Stockholm concert hall, a showpiece he often returned to through the years.

He then moved to the Swedish opera house, where he became the principal conductor, a position he held until 1960. He resigned after being criticized for his conducting method.

``At the Stockholm opera, they wanted me to apologize for the way I led the orchestra, which I refused. I moved to America instead,'' he said in an interview with Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet in 1998.

He joined the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in 1963, replacing its French conductor Paul Paray.

As musical director there, he conducted 722 concerts and 24 world premieres. He also conducted Wagner's ``Ring'' cycle at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. He left Detroit in 1973 and began teaching at the Juilliard School in New York.

In Sweden, Ehrling was viewed with awe and famous for his encyclopedic knowledge of music, and for his temperament. He would become furious if instrumentalists failed to heed his leadership and had a short temper with audiences.

While conducting Bizet's ``Carmen'' in Goteborg in 1988, he had the orchestra play while concertgoers were still making their way to their seats.

``I'll teach that damned audience that they should be in their seats on time when I conduct,'' he was quoted by newspapers as saying.

He conducted his last concert in Sweden in August 2004.

Survivors include his wife and two daughters.