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Sixten Ehrling, 86; Swedish Royal Opera Conductor

February 16, 2005|From Associated Press

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 lived since the early 1970s.

Born in 1918 in Malmo, Sweden, Ehrling graduated from 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 "The Rite of Spring" at the Stockholm concert hall, a showpiece he often returned to through the years.

Ehrling 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 conductor Paul Paray. As musical director there, Ehrling 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 1978, he became music advisor and principal guest conductor of the Denver Symphony. He was also artistic advisor to the San Antonio Symphony Orchestra from 1985 to 1988.

In Sweden, Ehrling was famous for his encyclopedic knowledge of music, and for his temperament.

He would become furious if instrumentalists failed to heed his leadership, and he had a short temper with audiences.

Ehrling conducted his last concert in Sweden in August 2004.

Survivors include his wife and two daughters.

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