Yakov Kreizberg (Russian: Яков Крейцберг; 24 October 1959 – 15 March 2011) was a Russian-born American conductor.
Early studies 
In the Soviet Union 
Yakov Kreizberg (born Yakov Bychkov) was born in Leningrad. He began studying piano at age 5. He attended the Glinka Choir School, where he began composing at age 13 and studied conducting with Ilya Musin. "Musin had an incredible system" Kreizberg recalled. The student would conduct and Musin would play at the piano, criticizing; then the roles were reversed, and Musin would comment again. Musin would use Beethoven sonatas, which contain "a world of feeling and expression," to teach conducting various articulations such as staccato, legato, phrasing, breathing. "Only after a while he gave me the first orchestral work, Beethoven's first symphony, saying: 'Remember everything you've done, but now do it with strings, oboes and horns.'" Kreizberg described himself as "essentially self-taught. What Musin taught was a foundation; everything else I learned from master classes of very good and bad conductors. From the bad, I learned what not to do."
By the time he was allowed to emigrate, he had composed numerous works, all unpublished, in manuscript. The Soviet authorities, however, would not allow any handwritten paper to be taken out of the country so he had to leave his compositions behind. The experience was so frustrating that he gave up composition and decided to become a conductor.
In the United States 
He emigrated to the United States in 1976, and attended the Mannes College The New School for Music, where he continued his conducting studies under his brother, Semyon Bychkov (also a student of Musin's), and graduated in 1981. One of his first public appearances as conductor was on 30 March 1980, when he led an orchestra at the Marble Collegiate Church in a performance of Haydn's Symphony no. 88. (He was still listed under the surname of his birth, Bychkov, which he would change within the year to his mother's maiden name, Kreizberg, to avoid comparisons with his older brother.) For his graduation concert he led the Mannes Orchestra in a concert on 6 March 1981. Kreizberg did his graduate studies in conducting with Gustav Meier at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. "It was Seiji Ozawa who sent Yakov to study at Michigan" according to Meier. Kreizberg became the first student to earn a doctorate in both orchestral and operatic conducting, and winning the school's Eugene Ormandy Prize. He spent summers at Tanglewood continuing his conducting studies with Erich Leinsdorf, Seiji Ozawa, and Leonard Bernstein, the most influential of the three. He received a scholarship at the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute, where he continued work with Bernstein and was invited back to be assistant to Michael Tilson Thomas. From 1985 to 1988 he was director of the orchestra at Mannes, and also taught conducting to only a few students such as Miriam Burns, currently head of the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra. During this period he also conducted concerts of the New York City Symphony.
In 1986 Kreizberg won first prize in the American Symphony Orchestra's Stokowski Conducting Competition. This resulted in a 2 March 1986 concert at Carnegie Hall with the orchestra which included Mozart's Clarinet Concerto, Hindemith's Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber, and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5. Of the performance of the Tchaikovsky, Will Crutchfield said "It was a lucid look at the symphony more than an experience of it; still, lucidity is a considerable virtue, and Mr. Kreizberg seems to possess it, along with those of poise and good judgement for balance. It will be interesting to hear more of him." The concert was repeated the following week (March 9) at Newark Symphony Hall.
An accomplished pianist, Kreizberg earned a living accompanying vocal students and accompanied productions such as Theatre Opera Music Institute's 1981 production of Rimsky-Korsakov's Mozart and Salieri. Gustav Meier recalled: “When I asked him to play a difficult part of Mozart's Magic Flute, he said that he did not feel comfortable to play from the piano reduction and could I please let him read from the full orchestral score. His incredible sight reading skill made him one of the most sought after accompanists, sight reading the most complex new pieces or transposing a difficult aria or concerto.” Kreizberg accompanied and toured with Roberta Peters in the late 1980s. In a 2005 interview, Julia Fischer recalled playing Schubert's Fantasia in F minor for four hands at the piano with Kreizberg. He accompanied her on the piano for their recording of Tchaikovsky's Sérénade mélancolique released in 2007.
Professional career 
Kreizberg was appointed General Music Director (GMD) of the United Municipal Theaters of Krefeld and Mönchengladbach from 1988 to 1994, where he conducted operas such as Der Fliegende Hollander, Eugene Onegin, Káťa Kabanová and an important revival of Aribert Reimann's opera-oratorio Troades (which the composer received enthusiastically). He was 27 years old, the youngest GMD ever appointed in Germany. In a contemporary profile, a critic, noting that others had referred to Kreizberg's "giant talent" ("Riesentalent"), complimented Kreizberg's career path in starting with provincial opera houses in order to give the conductor time and space to develop. During this time he also had engagements at Theater Aachen and Opéra National de Lyon.
He was GMD of the Komische Oper Berlin from 1994 to 2001, where he worked closely with Harry Kupfer. His repertoire included (year indicates first performed in that year): La Traviata (1994); Der gewaltige Hanrei, Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Die Zauberflöte, Le Nozze di Figaro, Die Fledermaus (1995); Falstaff, Don Giovanni, Così Fan Tutte, Lucia di Lammermoor (1996); Pique Dame, Fidelio (1997); König Hirsch (1998); Carmen (1999); La Clemenza di Tito, La bohème, The Tale of Tsar Saltan (2000). During his tenure, he led 10 new opera productions, numerous revivals, 2 ballets, and 38 concerts with the orchestra. In 1994, he led Berthold Goldschmidt's Der gewaltige Hanrei in its first staging since 1932. In his Opera News review of the Goldschmidt, James Helme Sutcliffe wrote: "...new music director Yakov Kreizberg conducted a scintillating performance of the obsessively contrapuntal score..." For his work at the Komische Oper, he was awarded the Kritikerpreis für Musik in 1997 by the Verband der deutschen Kritiker e. V., the German music critics association. After much political wrangling, he stepped down from his post as GMD of the Komische Oper in 2001 due to job cuts, inability to fill vacancies, and "disastrous inflexibility and incompetence."
Kreizberg conducted three productions for Glyndebourne: Nikolaus Lehnhoff’s production of Leos Janacek's Jenůfa (1992), Deborah Warner’s production of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Don Giovanni (1995, available on DVD), and Lehnhoff’s production of Janacek's Káťa Kabanová (1998). Of the 1992 Jenůfa, one critic wrote: "Above all, it was the electrifying conducting of Yakov Kreizberg, making his British operatic debut, which made this production so outstanding." Of his Glyndebourne experience conducting Janacek, Kreizberg said: "[I've ] had marvelous experiences performing some of his operas under the best conditions in the world, namely at the Glyndebourne Festival in England. Working with marvelous directors and first-rate orchestras and the very best singers that there are for this repertoire and having lots and lots and lots of rehearsal time, I've been a bit spoiled. But it's been a great experience doing this sort of thing."
He also conducted opera with the Canadian Opera Company (Cosi Fan Tutte in 1991, Don Giovanni in 1992), English National Opera (Der Rosenkavalier in 1994), Chicago Lyric Opera (Don Giovanni, 1995-96 season), Bregenz Festival (Kurt Weill's Der Protagonist and Royal Palace with the Vienna Symphony in 2004), De Nederlandse Opera (Tchaikovsky's Iolanta in 2004), and the Royal Opera House (Giuseppe Verdi's Macbeth in 2006).
In speaking of his operatic work, Kreizberg said "Working in opera is the single best experience a conductor can get. Without it, he will never develop into what he could be. Singers, good and bad, teach you to be more flexible and to learn things a symphony orchestra will never teach you."
Symphonic work 
Concurrently with his appointment as GMD in Krefeld-Mönchengladbach, he was conductor of the Niederrheinsche Sinfoniker. During his tenure, the orchestra's reputation grew so that these concerts easily sold out. Kreizberg instituted special annual concerts devoted to an individual composer - a series that was so successful that the Niederrheinische Sinfoniker continued the practice after he left.
He made his debut at the The Proms conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra on 3 August 1993, and returned each year from 1994 to 2000. His final performance at the Proms was on 5 August 2008.
In parallel with his Berlin post at the Komische Oper, he was principal conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra from 1995 to 2000. "His five-year tenure with the Bournemouth SO lifted it to a higher plane. Under his rigorous training, the sound quality and ensemble were impressive." He led the orchestra to a Carnegie Hall debut (on 17 April 1997) as well as performing at Vienna's Musikverein and Amsterdam's Concertgebouw. With Bournemouth he gave the premiere of Peteris Vasks's Symphony No. 2 on 30 July 1999 at the Royal Albert Hall as part of The Proms. He also performed the United Kingdom premiere of Berthold Goldschmidt's Passacaglia op.4 on 25 July 1996 in the presence of the composer (just months before he died).
Also in the United Kingdom he conducted the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (1992), the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (1993), the BBC Symphony Orchestra (1993, 1995), the Philharmonia Orchestra (1994), and the Australian Youth Orchestra (their 1994 appearance at the Royal Albert Hall).
His first appearance with the London Symphony Orchestra was on 15 March 2003, when he conducted Gustav Mahler's Symphony no. 2. His last appearance with the orchestra was at the Barbican on 15 June 2006, when he performed Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Concerto no. 5 with Stephen Hough, and Dmitri Shostakovich's Symphony no. 11. Beginning in the late 1990s and continuing for several years, he was Music Director and Chief Conductor of Jeunesses Musicales World Orchestra.
In Europe at various times he led the Royal Concertgebouw, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic, WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne, Norddeutscher Rundfunk, Bamberg Symphony, Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Oslo Philharmonic, Tonhalle Orchester Zürich, Orchestre de Paris, Russian National Orchestra (engagements in 2004 and 2006), and the Czech Philharmonic.
From 2003, Kreizberg was Chief Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra and the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra. At the time of his death, he was also Principal Guest Conductor of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. He recorded regularly for Pentatone Classics, working with the Netherlands Philharmonic and Chamber Orchestras, Vienna Symphony and the Russian National Orchestra. His first disc with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra (Bruckner Symphony No.7) was nominated in two categories at this year’s Grammy Awards. He made several concerto recordings with Julia Fischer. Kreizberg was scheduled to step down from both the Netherlands Philharmonic and Netherlands Chamber Orchestras in 2011. During the 2008/09 season, Kreizberg was Artist-in-Residence at the Alte Oper Frankfurt (the first time a conductor has been presented with this honour). In October 2007, Kreizberg was appointed Music Director and Artistic Director of the Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra, effective with the 2009-2010 season, for an initial contract of 5 years. Also in 2007, he was awarded the ‘Ehrenkreuz’ by the Austrian President in recognition of his achievement in the Arts.
In the United States, he made his New York Philharmonic debut on 19 May 1999. On various occasions he led the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra (first engagement in 1992), Los Angeles Philharmonic (which he first conducted in 2000), National Symphony Orchestra (engagements in 2001 and 2008), San Francisco Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (last time in 2007), Oregon Symphony (2003 and 3 engagements in 2005), and the Minnesota Orchestra. He conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra in over 30 concerts between 1999 and 2007, and took over a 2003 tour of North and South American with the orchestra when Wolfgang Sawallisch, then its music director, was too ill to travel. On two occasions he came close to being appointed music director of a US orchestra, first in Philadelphia, then in Minnesota.
In Asia he has worked with the NHK Symphony Orchestra, the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra as well as the Pacific Festival in Sapporo. Japan. He also conducted the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra on a few occasions.
Of contemporary music, Kreizberg conducted works by Judith Bingham, Jonathan Harvey, Hans Werner Henze, Siegfried Matthus, Aribert Reimann, Peteris Vasks and others. He also led lesser-known works by Ernst Krenek, Franz Schmidt, Kurt Weill, Karol Szymanowski, and Igor Markevitch.
His final recording was a Decca release with Fischer of tone poems for violin and orchestra.
His final concert took place on 14 February 2011, conducting the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. The program consisted of Glinka’s Overture to Russlan and Ludmilla, Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No.2 with soloist Alexander Sitkovetsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade.
He has since  been consistently praised for an impeccable stick technique that is taut, precise, well-articulated, and high disciplined. There is never any question that he has prepared each performance thoroughly and meticulously, with every phrase and nuance considered. The resulting interpretations exhibit clear and imaginative ideas and a firm grasp of structure. His podium manner, the opposite of flamboyant, is not without charisma, and his deferential manner to soloists goes hand-in-hand with his reputation as an expert accompanist of both instrumentalist and singers. Reviewers have remarked on the sensitivity, passion, intensity, and immediacy of his performances. But the emotion is always held tautly in check, and it is this sense of control that has led other critics to find his readings cold and lacking atmosphere and spontaneity at times. This criticism aside, his achievements cannot be overrated."
"Conducting" said Kreizberg, "is not just about conducting, but is about one person. You have to somehow get a hundred people over to your side. Most importantly [you must ask yourself]: What kind of person are you? How to do you present that? What is your standard? You can fool a lot of people, but not an orchestra."
Kreizberg died on 15 March 2011 in Monaco, after a long illness, aged 51. He was cremated and buried in the Zentralfriedhof in Vienna as an honorary citizen on October 8, 2011 (Yom Kippur).
His father, May Bychkov, was a doctor in the Soviet Union who published prolifically on numerous medical subjects. His parents were Jewish.
His maternal great-grandfather, also named Yakov Kreizberg, was a conductor of opera at Odessa Opera.
He was the brother of the conductor Semyon Bychkov.
He met his future wife, conductor Amy Andersson, while they were both students at the University of Michigan. They married in New York City on 24 April 1988 and spent their honeymoon at that year's Bayreuth Festival. At summer festivals in Weikersheim in 2001, 2003, and 2005, they were able to conduct operas on opposite nights, watching each other's conducting of La Traviata, Carmen, and La Boheme. They had two sons.
In an interview with Stewart Collins in BBC Music Magazine, Kreizberg recalled that his musical upbringing in the Soviet Union limited his ability to hear music other than that officially sanctioned. Once he emigrated to the United States he began to learn many new composers and conductors.
He selected the following recordings for the "Music That Changed Me" column:Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto in E minor - Eugene Fodor, violin, New Philharmonia, Peter Maag, conductorA Midsummer Night's Dream - Boston Symphony Orchestra, Erich Leinsdorf, conductorTchaikovsky: Piano Concerto no. 1 - Emil Gilels, Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra, Evgeny Mravinsky, conductorMozart: Symphony no. 40 - NBC Symphony Orchestra, Arturo Toscanini, conductorSchubert: Symphony no. 8 - Royal Concertbegouw Orchestra, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, conductorRachmaninov: Piano Concerto no. 2 - Van Cliburn, piano, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Fritz Reiner, conductor
The body of the article mentions several different favored soloists and conductors, such as David Oistrakh playing the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, Franz Konwitschny conducting Wagner, and Paul Kletzki conducting Schubert.
In 2006 Gramophone asked him who was the conductor he most admired:
The conductor I most admire and respect is Leonard Bernstein. He had a phenomenal musical talent. Not only was he a great conductor but also a wonderful composer, fabulous pianist, and a powerful educator of young audiences. One could agree or disagree with his approach to a particular score but ultimately he was so unbelievably passionate about music, and so convincing in his reading of the piece, that one couldn't help but feel that his way of interpreting it was the only right way. He even made works that, generally speaking, were not considered the most important seem like masterpieces.
Critical reception 
Dramatic power 
Many reviews of Kreizberg's performances and recordings often attribute his unique qualities to his ability imbue music with dramatic power. Already in one of his earliest recordings, Goldschmidt's Chronica, it was noted "Kreizberg's Chronica has a zip that's missing elsewhere in the program..." At a performance of Hans Werner Henze's opera König Hirsch at the Komische Oper, a critic noted: "The evening's most exciting aspect was the orchestra's brilliant playing under music director Yakov Kreizberg." A Gramophone review of the Don Giovanni video referred to him as "the fiery Yakov Kreizberg". And for Verdi's Macbeth, performed in 2006 at the Royal Opera House: "...there was plenty of drama in the music, thanks to the efforts of conductor Yakov Kreizberg and a vocally meaty cast on stage," and: "Thanks to Yakov Kreizberg the Orchestra and Chorus obviously relished the score which sparkled and never lost the blood-and-thunder drama." In reviewing his recording of Dvorak's 8th symphony, one critic tried for a deeper understanding of Kreizberg's ability at producing a dramatic performance: "His slow presentation of the opening melody followed by a fiery allegro sets up a nice dynamic contrast. He plays the crucial dramatic pauses in the second movement effectively, and he builds the climaxes slowly and grandly without making it sound like Götterdämmerung. The fourth movement is excellent. Kreizberg generates plenty of excitement without becoming hysterical (though the French horns could have benefited from a tighter leash)....Kreizberg 's approach to the tone poems is similar, and The Wild Dove is special. He again presents some tremendous dramatic contrasts, but the lighter, dance-like sections don't go as well in The Noon Witch. This is probably the best recording of The Wild Dove in terms of performance and sound...These are fine performances with excellent sound..."
Even in Mozart reviewers found plentiful drama: "Yakov Kreizberg launches the Sinfonia concertante in emphatic style: a no-nonsense tempo, lashing sforzando accents, a powerful forward impetus. Mozart's thrilling take on the slow-burn "Mannheim crescendo" has an almost ferocious intensity, enhanced by the recording's wide dynamic range."
Kreizberg apparently had a special affinity for Shostakovich's music. For his debut with the New York Philharmonic, he conducted Shostakovich's 11th Symphony: "The performance was riveting. Kreizberg, Russian-born and now living in Germany, has a remarkable baton technique using mostly very small, clear motions; conducting from memory, he seemed to become one with the music and the musicians, who played magnificently."
In the last year of his Bournemouth tenure: "After the interval Kreizberg conducted, from memory, the greatest live performance of Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony I have ever heard. Utterly faithful to the letter of the score, which is so rarely the case, he and the Bournemouth Orchestra were fully at one with the spirit of this original masterpiece. This was great conducting and exceptionally fine orchestral playing which almost literally took my breath away: a magnificent achievement." In a 2007 review with the Philadelphia Orchestra: "Several years ago Yakov Kreizberg conducted Shostakovich's 11th Symphony with the Philadelphia Orchestra in one of the most dramatic and incendiary live performances I have ever heard."
The manager of the Bournemouth orchestra recalled: "He had made a huge reputation for himself with this work because of his clear passion for it and his ability to mold an ensemble of intense musical and dramatic presence."
Attention to detail 
Another aspect that many critics noted was Kreizberg's attention to detail, often in a way that they found unique. In one of his earliest reviews in the German press, a critic described his approach to Reimann's opera Toades as reflecting "superiority, concentration, conceptual analysis, breathing together of music and scene, of instrumental and vocal groups, and precision in detail." One critic commenting on Julia Fischer's recording of Russian violin concertos: "She was ably partnered throughout by Yakov Kreizberg, who led the Russian National Orchestra with splendid energy and an attention to detail." Concerning Kurt Weill's operas Der Protagonist and Royal Palace: "Yakov Kreizberg drew highly-detailed performances from the superb Vienna Symphony, catching all the bite, drive and lyricism of these neglected masterpieces." Concerning a 2003 performance of Mahler's First Symphony with the Oregon Symphony: "Kreizberg is an interpreter of big ideas, communicated in detailed exactness. He has two of the most expressive hands in the business, and he radiated rhythm from the podium. It added up to a kind of poetry of precision, with highly expressive results."
In the section on Kreizberg in his book Maestros in America: conductors in the 21st century, Roderick L. Sharpe summarized:
He has since been consistently praised for an impeccable stick technique that is taut, precise, well-articulated, and highly disciplined. There is never any question that he has prepared each performance thoroughly and meticulously, with every phrase and nuance considered. The resulting interpretations exhibit clear and imaginative ideas and a firm grasp of structure. His podium manner, the opposite of flamboyant, is not without charisma, and his deferential manner to soloists goes hand-in-hand with his reputation as an expert accompanist of both instrumentalists and singers. Reviewers have remarked on the sensitivity, passion, intensity, and immediacy of his performances. But the emotion is always held tautly in check, and it is this sense of control that has led other critics to find his readings cold and lacking atmosphere and spontaneity at times. This criticism aside, his achievements cannot be overrated.
As a collaborator 
Kreizberg frequently received near-superlative reviews as a collaborator, probably because of his extensive experience accompanying singers from his time in college and continuing during his professional career as an opera conductor. In Julia Fischer's recording of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto: "It's a beautiful performance, reinforced by Kreizberg 's sensitive accompaniment and a more beautiful-sounding wind section than I thought I'd ever hear in a Russian orchestra." In a review of the recording of Shostakovich cello concertos: "Yakov Kreizberg recently notched up a notable success as a sympathetic concerto partner for Julia Fischer and Daniel Müller-Schott in Brahms's 'Double'. A similar level of preparation with regard [to] the orchestral accompaniment is evident in his finely balanced recording. In the First Concerto one feels the cello, pounding away at the ferocious double-stops, buoyantly pitched against the orchestra, the woodwind responding with incisive rhythmic precision..."
Daniel Müller-Schott: "The first time we met was in 2005 in the States to perform the Dvorák Concerto. From that moment I felt we had a wonderful connection, one that would continue for years. After that we recorded the Brahms Double Concerto with Julia Fischer, which was fantastic, so when the possibility arose to record the Shostakovich, I felt he would be perfect."
In an interview in Gramophone, Julia Fischer was asked whether her collaboration with Kreizberg was beneficial: "It helps amazingly in my life. Young artists today stop seeing their teachers regularly very early, and go to tour the world. I now see my teacher every four or six months. And Yakov kind of fills that role for me. He sees me every month and goes through all the repertoire with me. When I play with him I play my best, and we both know so well from each other what we want."
Even regarding the relationship of conductor to orchestra, Kreizberg said: "It’s like a...relationship—it’s give-and-take, it’s being open minded and being flexible because nothing in life is ever quite the way you imagine it to be."
Florian Zwiauer (concertmaster of the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra) summed up Kreizberg: “He is a musician’s conductor.”