Christoph von Dohnányi
Music Director Laureate
The Cleveland Orchestra
Christoph von Dohnányi served as the sixth music director of The Cleveland Orchestra from 1984 to 2002 and was named the Orchestra's music director laureate in 2002. He first conducted The Cleveland Orchestra in December 1981 and was named music director designate the following year.
Throughout his tenure as music director in Cleveland, Mr. Dohnányi regularly led The Cleveland Orchestra on concert tours of the United States, Europe (including performances at the Salzburg Festival and Edinburgh Festival) and in Asia (including the first concert appearance by The Cleveland Orchestra in mainland China). Mr. Dohnányi was instrumental in the decision to restore Severance Hall’s Norton Memorial Organ, which was rededicated in January 2001, following the celebratory reopening of Severance Hall in January 2000.
With The Cleveland Orchestra, Mr. Dohnányi recorded the complete symphonies of Beethoven, Brahms and Schumann; selected symphonies by Bruckner, Dvořák, Mahler, Mozart, Schubert and Tchaikovsky; works by Adams, Bartók, Berlioz, Birtwistle, Busoni, Ives, Ravel, Richard Strauss, Varèse and Webern; and Wagner’s operas Das Rheingold and Die Walküre. In December 2001, The Cleveland Orchestra released the Christoph von Dohnányi Compact Disc Edition, a 10-CD retrospective featuring live performances with The Cleveland Orchestra from 1984 through 2001.
Mr. Dohnányi most recently served as chief conductor of the NDR Symphony Orchestra in Hamburg (2004-2010) and now devotes his time as a guest conductor appearing around the world. With London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, he served as principal conductor (1997-2008) and as principal guest conductor (1994-97). Mr. Dohnányi currently holds the position of honorary conductor for life with the Philharmonia. During his tenure, he led the Philharmonia in a number of opera productions at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, including Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel; Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron; Richard Strauss’s Arabella, Die Frau ohne Schatten, and Die schweigsame Frau; and Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex.
Christoph von Dohnányi has accepted invitations as a guest conductor at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Metropolitan Opera in New York, La Scala Milan, Vienna State Opera, and Zurich Opera. During the 1992-93 season, Mr. Dohnányi conducted a new production of Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung at the Vienna State Opera. As a regular guest at the Salzburg Festival, Mr. Dohnányi has led the Vienna Philharmonic in several new productions, including Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle, Mozart’s Così fan tutte and The Magic Flute, Schoenberg’s Erwartung, and Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos, Der Rosenkavalier, and Salome. Also in Salzburg, he conducted the Vienna Philharmonic in the world premieres of Henze’s Die Bassariden and Cerha’s Baal.
With the Vienna Philharmonic, Mr. Dohnányi has recorded symphonic works by Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky, and a number of operas, including Beethoven’s Fidelio, Berg’s Wozzeck and Lulu, Schoenberg’s Erwartung, Strauss’s Salome and Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman. He has also recorded the violin concertos of Glass and Schnittke with Gidon Kremer, the Dvorák Piano Concerto with András Schiff, and chamber music transcriptions for orchestra of Beethoven’s String Quartet Opus 95 by Mahler and Brahms’s Piano Quartet in G minor by Schoenberg.
Mr. Dohnányi has appeared as guest conductor with the Berlin Philharmonic, Israel Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and the orchestras of Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. Recent enagements include guest appearances at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Zurich Opera, Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Israel Philharmonic.
Born in Berlin, Christoph von Dohnányi was a law student at the University of Munich, but soon chose to pursue his music studies full time. After winning the Richard Strauss Prize of Munich for conducting, he spent a period of time studying with his grandfather, Ernö (Ernst von) Dohnányi, at Florida State University. In 1952, Mr. Dohnányi accepted a position as assistant to Georg Solti coaching and conducting at the Frankfurt Opera. He also served as chief conductor of the Cologne's West German Radio Symphony Orchestra (1964-69), was the artistic and music director of the Frankfurt Opera (1968-77), and held the position of intendant and chief conductor of the Hamburg State Opera (1977-84).