Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, eminent Spanish conductor, was born to a Spanish mother and a German father. He was educated at the Music Academy of Bilbao and the Munich Conservatory, and completed his studies at the University of Madrid. His first post as conductor was with the Municipal Orchestra of Bilbao. In 1962, Frühbeck de Burgos began a lifelong association with the National Orchestra of Spain, and was its chief conductor from that time until 1978. His international reputation began with the success of his first appearance with the Philadelphia Orchestra. He served as music director for the Montreal Symphony (1974-1976), the Dusseldorf Symphoniker (1966-1971), and the Deutsche Oper in Berlin (1992-1997). Frühbeck de Burgos was also named chief conductor of the Vienna Symphony and held guest conductorships with the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington, D.C., and the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony in Japan.
Frühbeck de Burgos recorded extensively with English Decca, EMI/Angel, IMP Classics, Chandos and Collins Classics. First and foremost, he was regarded for his interpretations of Spanish music, and recorded the major works of Falla in addition to Rodrigo, Montsalvatge, Ravel, and Granados. His recording of Falla's Nights in the Gardens of Spain with pianist Alicia de Larrocha is judged the best on disc by many critics. Frühbeck de Burgos made several recordings backing vocalist Victoria de Los Angeles in Spanish songs and zarzuela arias for EMI. He made his own arrangement for orchestra of Albeniz's Suite española, and it became a concert staple. Outside of Spanish music, Frühbeck de Burgos also contributed fine recordings of Bizet's Carmen with Grace Bumbry and Jon Vickers in the cast, and justly celebrated discs of Orff's Carmina Burana, Mozart's Requiem, and Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. He was regarded as a sensitive and sympathetic accompanist in concerto literature, and partnered with such luminaries as violinists Yehudi Menhuin and Nathan Milstein, pianists Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, Louis Lortie, and clarinetist Karl Leister. Frühbeck de Burgos was also a renowned interpreter of the music of Mendelssohn and made recordings of Elijah and the complete incidental music to A Midsummer Night's Dream, which have been critically praised.
Frühbeck de Burgos never recorded in the work of Mahler, but his broadcasts of Mahler's symphonies were highly respected, and in 1996 he was awarded the Gold Medal of the International Gustav Mahler Society in Vienna. From the late 1990s, he toured the world with the National Orchestra of Spain as its conductor emeritus, and had also been principal conductor of the Danish National Symphony Orchestra until he announced his full retirement due to health reasons in June 2014, passing away shortly thereafter.