Refugee conductor gives "demonstration concert" in San Antonio
On this day in 1939, refugee Max Reiter conducted a "demonstration concert" at the Sunken Garden Theater in San Antonio. Reiter was born in Italy in 1905, but moved with his family to Munich in 1915. In 1933, with the rise of Nazism, he left Germany and settled in Milan. In Italy he befriended Richard Strauss, and later premiered many of Strauss's works with the San Antonio Symphony and in radio broadcasts. Reiter fled Italian fascism in 1938 and came to the United States. He found New York overcrowded with conductors, many of whom were European refugees, and was advised by the Steinway family to go to Texas. His first "demonstration concert" was in Waco, using an orchestra composed of Baylor music faculty and students, local amateurs, and a few key players from the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Some of his supporters from San Antonio attended the Waco concert and reasoned that he would do even better in San Antonio, which had a greater supply of talent and a long-standing tradition of supporting the arts. The concert was a resounding success, and led to the formation of the Symphony Society of San Antonio, with Reiter as founding conductor and music director. He died in 1950 and was succeeded by Victor Alessandro.