Arthur Claassen was a choral and orchestral conductor. He studied at the Music School in Weimar, and as early as 1878 his youthful compositions aroused the attention of Franz Liszt, who gave him encouragement. From 1880 to 1884, Claassen was opera conductor in Göttingen and Magdeburg. Upon the recommendation of Leopold Damrosch, a disciple of Wagner, Claassen was chosen conductor of the New York Eichenkranz and, in 1890, of the Brooklyn Arion—both male singing societies.
In nearly a quarter century under Claassen's baton, the Arion became one of the most celebrated choruses in the United States, earning him an audience with Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1900. Claassen conducted important American performances of Richard Wagner's Liebesmahl der Apostel, Felix Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream and Max Bruch's Frithjof, as well as a number of German operas. With the New York Liederkranz, he made recordings for Columbia Records after about 1910, and these were marketed in Texas.