During his 17 years as chief conductor, the orchestra rarely performed outside the Soviet Union bloc.
"Who, you have a right to ask, is Kurt Sanderling?" Times music critic Martin Bernheimer wrote in a 1984 review of Sanderling conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic. "As far as the United States is concerned, he has been a painfully well-kept secret for nearly half a century."
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday, September 23, 2011 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 Science Desk 1 inches; 41 words Type of Material: Correction
Kurt Sanderling: The obituary of conductor Kurt Sanderling in the Sept. 19 LATExtra section said his son Stefan is music director of the Florida Orchestra in Tampa Bay. Tampa Bay is not a city. The orchestra is based in St. Petersburg.
Sanderling "is an authoritative, intelligent, gentlemanly conductor of the old school," Bernheimer wrote. "He doesn't do much obvious emoting.... Nevertheless he musters tremendous energy when it is warranted and enforces ethereal calm when it isn't."
In 1991 Sanderling led the Los Angeles Philharmonic on a two-week tour through Europe.
"Sanderling wasn't interested in putting on any kind of show as a conductor," said Ronald Leonard, who was principal cellist of the orchestra at the time. "He knew what he wanted. He was insistent and he got great results," Leonard told The Times in 2005.
The conductor could be intimidating. "He'd put his hand in front of my face, warning me not to play too loud," Leonard recalled. "To him, that was a soloist's job."
Sanderling was married twice. His survivors include his second wife, the former Barbara Wagner, a double bassist with the Berlin Symphony Orchestra for 25 years; a son, Thomas, from his first marriage; and two sons with Wagner, Stefan and Michael.
All of Sanderling's sons became professional musicians. Stefan is music director of the Florida Orchestra in Tampa Bay. Thomas leads the Russian National Orchestra, and Michael is a conductor in Germany.
After leaving his position with the Berlin Symphony, Sanderling was a guest conductor, often performing with the London Philharmonia. He retired in 2002 when he was 90.
Rourke is a former Times staff writer.