Michael Gielen Conductor

Born in Dresden in 1927 son of the distinguished opera producer Josef Gielen, Michael Gielen began his career as a coach at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, where his family had emigrated and where in 1949 he gave a piano recital of the complete piano works of Schoenberg. On returning to Europe, in 1951 he became a coach and conductor at the Vienna State Opera and began a successful career on the concert platform.  As well as developing an early interest in conducting contemporary music, he became known for his outstanding performances of the Viennese Classics and the music of Bruckner and Mahler.

From 196065 he was Music Director of the Royal Opera, Stockholm, and in 1969 was appointed Music Director of the Belgian State National Orchestra in Brussels.  He has conducted throughout Europe and had a particularly close association with the Radio Orchestras in Stuttgart, Cologne, Frankfurt and Vienna.  In England Michael Gielen appeared regularly with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and after a Royal Festival Hall performance of Schoenberg’s Die Glückliche Hand in February 1977 he was invited to become the Orchestra’s Principal Guest Conductor.

Michael Gielen’s major appointments have included: Music Director of Netherlands Opera (197376), Intendant and Music Director of Frankfurt Opera (197686), Principal Guest Conductor of BBC Symphony Orchestra (197881), Music Director of Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (198086) and Chief Conductor of Sudwestfunk Symphony Orchestra (1986 to 1999). Michael Gielen also enjoys a regular commitment to the Staatsoper Unter den Linden in Berlin.

Michael Gielen’s directorship of the Frankfurt Opera was notable for the many challenging and sometimes controversial productions he introduced culminating in an internationally acclaimed production by Ruth Berghaus of Wagner’s Ring.

In 1989 Michael Gielen appeared with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and returned to Berlin in 1994 for performances of Pelleas et Melisande at the Staatsoper.  In 1995 he conducted a new production of Berg’s Lulu at the Salzburg Festival and later conducted the same work at the Staatsoper in Berlin. He returned to the Salzburg Festival the following year in a much-praised production of Fidelio. In 2000 he conducted a new production of Idomeneo which he also conducted at the Geneva Opera.

In August 1993 Michael Gielen and the Sudwestfunk Symphony Orchestra gave much acclaimed concerts at the Edinburgh and Salzburg Festivals and in April 1996 appeared at the Royal Festival Hall as part of the South Bank International Orchestral Season.

Following his first visit to the United States in 1971 with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra he has made appearances with the Detroit, Houston, Seattle and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestras and the American Composers Orchestra.  In recent years visits have included performances with the Cleveland Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to which he has returned as a regular guest.

Other highlights have included concerts with the London Symphony Orchestra at the Baden-Baden Festival and the Orchestre de Paris.

Recent engagements have included Janacek’s From the House of the Dead at Opéra National de Paris and concerts with the Radio Sinfonie Orchester Frankfurt.

As with Gustav Mahler, Bruno Maderna and Pierre Boulez, Michael Gielen possesses the double gifts of conducting and composing which give him a keen insight into the music of contemporary composers. He has to his credit a number of important first performances including Zimmerman’s opera Die Soldaten and Ligeti’s Requiem.

His large number of recordings includes a highly-acclaimed recording of Schönberg’s Moses and Aaron as well as the much praised Gielen Edition begun by EMI with the nine Beethoven symphonies and now continued on the Hänssler label.

Michael Gielen’s contribution to the music world in his 50 years of conducting was recognised by the award of the Cannes Classical Lifetime Achievement Award 2002 at MIDEM in Cannes.

His autobiography Unbedingt Musik was published in 2005.

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Worldwide management

David Sigall

Nicki Wenham