Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos was born in 1933 in Burgos, Spain, and studied violin, piano and composition at the conservatories in Bilbao and Madrid. He continued his education at the Musikhochschule in Munich, studying conducting with Professor Eichhorn and Professor Lessing, and composition with Paul Hindemith and Harald Genzmer.
After beginning his career as chief conductor of the Bilbao Orkestra Sinfonikoa, he was appointed chief conductor of the Spanish National Orchestra, Orquesta Nacional de España, a position he held between 1962 and 1978. He was also music director of the Düsseldorf Stadtorchester, as well as chief conductor for the Düsseldorfer Symphoniker and Orchestre symphonique de Montréal. He has been principal guest conductor for the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo and the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington. Lastly, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos has been chief conductor and artistic director of the Dresdner Philharmonie. From 2012 until his death on 11 June 2014, he was chief conductor of the Danish National Symphony Orchestra.
Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos has worked with over a hundred orchestras in Europe, America, Canada, Japan and Israel. In the United States, he has led the country’s most renowned orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, to name just a few. In addition, he has conducted opera performances in Europe, the US and South America. He has been chief conductor of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, and conductor for the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Berlin, and the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI in Turin, Italy.
For his work, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos has received many awards and honours, including an honorary doctorate from Universidad de Navarra (1994) and Universidad de Burgos (1998), a Silver Badge for his services to Austria (1996), the Gold Medal of the International Gustav Mahler Society (1996), Premio Jacinto Guerrero (1997), Medalla de Oro al Mérito en el Trabajo (2004), and since 1998 the title of Conductor Emeritus of the Orquesta Nacional de España. In 2009, he was awarded the Medalla de Oro de las Bellas Artes by the Spanish king, and in 2010 received the Medalla del Palau de la Música de Valencia, in addition to many more. In 2010, he was named “Conductor of the Year” by the prestigious magazine Musical America.
More than 100 recordings testify to his reputation as one of the most renowned orchestra conductors in recent times. Some of his albums are considered to be reference recordings: Mendelssohn’s oratorios Elijah and St. Paul, Mozart’s Requiem, Orff’s Carmina Burana, Bizet’s Carmen and the complete works of Manuel de Falla.