Christoph von Dohnányi

Honorary Conductor for Life

Christoph von Dohnányi conducting

Christoph von Dohnányi has a long-standing relationship with the Philharmonia Orchestra, starting with his appointment as the Orchestra’s Principal Guest Conductor in 1994. He served as Principal Conductor for 11 years from 1997, before being appointed Honorary Conductor for Life in 2008.

As Music Director Laureate of The Cleveland Orchestra, 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 Salzburg Festival, BBC Proms and Edinburgh International Festival; and was a frequent guest 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 Dvorák, 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 Advisor of the Orchestre de Paris from 1998 to 2000 and Chief Conductor of the NDR Sinfonieorchester Hamburg from 2004 to 2010.

In past seasons Christoph von Dohnányi has been regularly invited to perform with Boston Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic Orchestra, The Cleveland Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, Tonhalle Orchester Zürich, Filarmonica della Scala and The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. He was a guest conductor for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in Sydney and led an open-air concert “Fest der Freude” with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra in Vienna in celebration of the end of the Second World War.

Dohnányi’s distinguished career as an opera conductor includes productions at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, New York’s 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. Among the many opera productions he led at Wiener Staatsoper, a new production of Der Ring des Nibelungen and the first staged performance of Moses und Aron are most noteworthy. 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 Salzburg Festival, Dohnányi conducted 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 premieres of Henze’s Die Bassariden and Cerha’s Baal. He also conducted a number of concerts with Wiener Philharmoniker, with whom he recorded Der fliegende Holländer, Salome, Erwartung, Lulu, Fidelio and the complete symphonies of Mendelssohn.


Tom Service interviews Christoph von Dohnányi

In conversation, 2015