Christoph von Dohnányi

Celebrating his 85th birthday in September 2014, Christoph von Dohnányi opens this season with a series of European concerts with the Philharmonia Orchestra, with whom he has a long-standing relationship.

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Beginning in 1994 as the Orchestra’s Principal Guest Conductor, Dohnányi served as Principal Conductor for ten years from 1997, before being appointed Honorary Conductor for Life in 2008.

During the current season he has also been invited to conduct the Orchestre de Paris, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Filarmonica della Scala, Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich and Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. Dohnányi also returns regularly to the major orchestras in the US - Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Chicago - as well as to Tanglewood, the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer festival in Massachusetts.

As Music Director Laureate of The Cleveland Orchestra Christoph von Dohnányi is the first conductor to hold the post. He served as the orchestra’s sixth Music Director from 1984 to 2002, having been Music Director Designate for the previous two years. The partnership toured extensively around the US, Europe and Asia, performing at the Salzburger Festspiele, BBC Proms and Edinburgh International Festival and was in residence at New York’s Carnegie Hall for many years. Recordings with the orchestra include the complete symphonies of Beethoven, Brahms and Schumann, Wagner’s Die Walküre and Das Rheingold, selected symphonies by Bruckner, Mahler, Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Dvořák, and works by Ives, Ruggles, Shostakovich, Richard Strauss, Schubert and Webern.

In 1953 Sir Georg Solti appointed Dohnányi as Repetiteur and Assistant Conductor at Oper Frankfurt. At 27 he became Germany’s youngest General Music Director, at Theater Lübeck. He later moved to Staatstheater Kassel, becoming Chief Conductor of the WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln at the same time. He served as GMD with Oper Frankfurt from 1968, and as Director of the company from 1972, and was Intendant and Chief Conductor of Hamburgische Staatsoper from 1977 to 1984. He held the positions of Artistic Adviser of the Orchestre de Paris from 1998 to 2000 and Chief Conductor of the NDR Sinfonieorchester Hamburg from 2004 to 2010.

Dohnányi’s distinguished career as an opera conductor includes productions at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, The Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and Opéra national de Paris. He also led a variety of new productions at Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris with the Philharmonia Orchestra, including Die Frau ohne Schatten, Arabella, Die schweigsame Frau, Hänsel und Gretel and Moses und Aron. In the 1992/93 season he conducted a new production of Der Ring des Nibelungen at the Wiener Staatsoper. Since the 1990s he has regularly conducted at Opernhaus Zürich, leading new productions of Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos, Salome, Elektra, Die schweigsame Frau and Die Frau ohne Schatten, Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer, Mozart’s Idomeneo, a double-bill of Bartók’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle/Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex and Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron.

During Herbert von Karajan and Gerard Mortier’s years at the Salzburger Festspiele, Dohnányi conducted the Wiener Philharmoniker in new opera productions including Der Rosenkavalier, Salome, Così fan tutte, Die Zauberflöte, Erwartung, Duke Bluebeard’s Castle and Ariadne auf Naxos, as well as world premières of Henze’s Die Bassariden and Cerha’s Baal. He also conducted a number of concerts with the Wiener Philharmoniker with whom he recorded Der Fliegende Holländer, Salome, Erwartung, Lulu, Fidelio, and the complete symphonies of Mendelssohn.

Born in Berlin, Christoph von Dohnányi studied law in Munich from the age of 16. After two years he changed to music, studying composition, piano and conducting at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater. On graduation he was awarded the Richard Strauss Prize for conducting by the City of Munich. He continued his studies in the US with his grandfather, Ernst von Dohnányi, at Florida State University and at the Tanglewood Music School. In 2013 the University of London presented him with the degree of Doctor of Music from the Royal Academy of Music.