William Steinberg was a German-American conductor.
Steinberg was born Hans Wilhelm Steinberg in Cologne, Germany. He was an early protégé of Otto Klemperer. Steinberg left Germany in 1936 for the British Mandate of Palestine, which is now Israel, because the Nazis had removed him from the Frankfurt Opera in 1933 and had limited him to conducting all-Jewish orchestras. Eventually, with founder Bronislaw Huberman, Steinberg became the first conductor of the Palestine Symphony orchestra, which would later be known as the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Steinberg was conducting the orchestra when Arturo Toscanini visited there in 1936. So delighted was Toscanini with Steinberg’s preliminary groundwork for his concerts that he chose him as his assistant in preparing for the NBC broadcasts. In 1930, in Frankfurt, he conducted the world premiere of Schönberg’s Von heute auf morgen.
Steinberg left for the United States in 1938. He conducted a number of concerts with the NBC Symphony from 1938 to 1940. He became music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra from 1945 to 1952. He is best known for his tenure as music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra from 1952 to 1976. From 1958 to 1960 he conducted the London Philharmonic Orchestra. From 1969 to 1972 he was music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, with whom he had achieved earlier success as guest conductor. He was also principal guest conductor of the New York Philharmonic from 1966 to 1968. Steinberg guest-conducted most of the major US orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, and Philadelphia Orchestra. Abroad he conducted the Bavarian Radio Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic, Montreal Symphony, and WDR Symphony of Cologne. In addition, Steinberg recorded Don Juan and his own suite from Der Rosenkavalier with Walter Legge’s Philharmonia Orchestra in the summer of 1957. The following year he conducted them in concerts at Lucerne before assuming the conductorship of the London Philharmonic. He recorded for Capitol Records, Command Classics, Deutsche Grammophon, Everest Records, Musicraft with the Buffalo Philharmonic – the premiere recording of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7, and RCA Victor. Steinberg was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960. He was also a member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, the national fraternity for men in music. He died in New York City.
William Steinberg was noted throughout his career for his straightforward yet expressive musical style, leading familiar works with integrity and authority such that they sounded fresh and vital. Despite the dynamic drive of his interpretations, his podium manner was a model of restraint. Referring to some of his more acrobatic colleagues, Steinberg remarked, “The more they move around, the quieter I get.”