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Georg Tintner (1917-99)

Georg Tintner (May 22, 1917 – October 2, 1999) was a Viennese-born conductor.

Vegan from 1954

As a child he was a singer in the Vienna Boys' Choir, directed by Franz Schalk. At Vienna State Academy he studied composition with Joseph Marx and conducting with Felix Weingartner. Soon he was assistant conductor of the Vienna Volksoper People's Opera.

Due to the persecution of Jews, Tintner moved out of Vienna in 1938, arriving in Auckland, New Zealand in 1940. He conducted a church choir until after the war, when he took over the Auckland Choral Society (in 1947) and the Auckland String Players (in 1948). He was naturalised in 1946. In 1954, he went to Australia and became resident conductor of its National Opera before joining the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust Opera in 1957. Tintner is credited with pioneering televised opera in Australia.

He spent a year with the Cape Town Municipal Orchestra (1966-67) and three years with Sadler's Wells Opera (1967-70) before returning to Australia as Music Director of the West Australian Opera. He rejoined the Australian Opera (formerly the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust Opera) in 1974, and became Music Director of the Queensland Theatre Orchestra in 1976.

In 1987 he moved to Canada, where he became director of Symphony Nova Scotia. In 1998, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada. On 2 October 1999, after a six-year struggle with cancer, he jumped to his death from the balcony of his 11th-storey Halifax apartment.

Tintner was described as "one of the greatest living Bruckner conductors." He recorded a much-praised complete cycle of Bruckner symphonies for the Naxos CD label shortly before the end of his life (recording sessions: 1995-98). Naxos is in addition releasing a "Tintner Memorial Edition" comprising re-releases of some of his earlier recordings of composers other than Bruckner. A disc of Tintner's piano music has also been released by the same label, valuably revealing a side of the man long-forgotten since his student days.


On a personal level, too, Tintner stood outside the mainstream of vain, high-living, soul-searching artists – he was an ardent pacifist, vegetarian and socialist who refused the usual material perks that came with his position – he travelled on the same bus as his orchestra rather than in a limo and once insisted upon downgrading his airline ticket from first class to economy.


In 1938 he fled the Nazis, spending a year in England before emigrating to New Zealand. For several years he ran a poultry farm - as a result of which he became a total vegetarian - before becoming Music Director of the Auckland String Players and Auckland Choral Society in 1947. He was also an avowed socialist and pacifist, and as such he rode a bicycle as "a symbol of the ultimate in harmlessness".


He became Music Director of the Auckland Choral Society and Auckland String Players in 1947 and remained with them until he moved to Australia in 1954 as resident conductor of the National Opera. New Zealand and Australia were both conformist, Anglocentric cultural wastelands which had little time for 'bloody foreigners', especially one who became a total vegetarian and rode a bicycle. Georg was never really accepted in either place, though Australia much less so than New Zealand. (University of Houston):

I had the pleasure of a long and wide-ranging conversation by telephone with Georg Tintner shortly before his eightieth birthday last May. . . . When asked what he would like Fanfare's readers to know about him, he quickly responded that he is and has long been a socialist, a pacifist, and a vegan--the strictest kind of vegetarian. He has been a vegan for forty-three years, and will not so much as eat honey or wear wool or leather. He did not say, but the press notices supplied by Naxos suggest that he is a robustly healthy man, lean and trim, who still rides a bicycle. His conversation was lively, courteous, wide-ranging, and imaginative.

His daughter, Hephzibah Tintner, was also vegetarian, she died in June 2001.


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