Wolfgang Sawallisch is the last of the German opera-house tradition that produced most of the conducting giants of the 20th century - Böhm, Furtwängler, Klemperer, Kleiber. He held his first conducting post at Augsburg in 1947, was a rising star at Bayreuth until he fell out with the dictatorial Wieland Wagner, and ran the Bavarian State Opera in Munich in the 70s and 80s. When he retired from the opera house at the age of 70, he was looking forward to a quieter life - until, that was, the Philadelphia Orchestra offered him the post of music director. ..
Sawallisch was born in Munich, and studied there privately for composition and pianoforte: at the conclusion of the war, in 1946 he continued his studies at the Munich High School for Music and passed his final examination for conducting. He began his career at the opera house in Augsburg in 1947. There he became first coach and later principal conductor: in 1952-53 he was personal assistant to Igor Markevitch at the International Summer Academy Mozarteum, Salzburg. When he debuted at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus conducting Tristan und Isolde in 1957, he was the youngest conductor ever to appear there as well. From 1960 to 1970 he was Principal Conductor of the Vienna Symphony. From 1971 to 1992, Sawallisch was Music Director of the Bavarian State Opera, and for several years from 1983, concurrently was the general manager of the company.From 1993 to 2003 he was Music Director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and is currently its Conductor Laureate. He is also Honorary Conductor Laureate of the NHK Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo.