Karl Muck, (his first name is sometimes spelt Carl, his surname rhymes with “book”) (born Darmstadt, 22 October 1859; died Stuttgart, 4 March 1940) was a German conductor. He was one of the greatest conductors of his day, especially famous for his conducting of operas by Richard Wagner.
Karl Muck’s father was a Bavarian politician and amateur musician. After his school years he studied music at the Conservatory in Würzburg. He also studied classical philology at the University of Heidelberg. In 1877 he continued his music studies in Leipzig, learning the piano with Carl Reinecke. His first public performance was in 1880, the year in which he graduated with a doctorate, playing the piano in the Piano Concerto by Xaver Scharwenka at the Leipzig Gewandhaus.
Soon he spent all his time conducting operas. He conducted in Zürich, Salzburg, Brno and Graz, and got a conductor’s job in Prague and later in Berlin. He conducted the operas of Wagner’s Ring Cycle with great success as well as many performances of Parsifal. In 1912 he became the conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and from 1922 until he retired in 1933 he conducted the Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra.
Muck was one of the first conductors to be internationally famous for travelling about conducting orchestras in many parts of the world. He was a strict conductor who thought it was very important that the players should do exactly what the composer asks for in the score.
He was imprisoned in the United States during World War I, because of his support for Germany and because he refused to conduct the Star Spangled Banner. After the war he was sent away and not allowed to return to America. After his death a square in Hamburg was named after him, although in 1997 it was renamed “Johannes Brahms Square” because Muck had praised Adolf Hitler.