Franz Welser-Möst’s new book, From Silence: Finding Calm in a Dissonant World, to be published in the U.S. in May
"It is a book with the potential to become a canon of values."
Cleveland Orchestra Music Director Franz Welser-Möst’s 2020 book, From Silence: Finding Calm in a Dissonant World, will be published for the first time in the English language by Clearview Books this May. From Silence is a powerful and thought-provoking book from one of the world’s most thoughtful orchestral conductors. From Silence is issued by Macmillan Distribution, and will be available to purchase for $30/£25; preorders are available now at The Cleveland Orchestra Store online. To hear Welser-Möst speak about From Silence watch this video.
In From Silence, Welser-Möst takes readers on a journey from his years as a promising young violinist in Austria, through the devastating car crash that would ultimately set him firmly on the path towards conducting, and on to a decades-long career that has seen him achieve international success. More than a straightforward memoir, From Silence zeroes in on the silence Welser-Möst experienced during his accident—a life-changing moment when everything he had achieved seemed to hang in suspense—and the profound ways in which recurring periods of silence and stillness have helped him to stay true to himself in times of difficulty over the ensuing decades.
“Silence, for me, is really an opportunity to reflect,” says Welser-Möst. “I started with my accident when I was 18, which changed my life dramatically in many ways, and the silence I experienced there. You can only reflect when you sort of shut off everything around you, and you think about what has been going on, and what does go on, within yourself. So you have to listen to the voices within yourself. And for that you need silence. Silence is a word which has so many different meanings, a lot of it subjective and individual: if you go out into nature, you experience silence; you have dead silence, like what I experienced in my accident, you have stunned silence—there are all sorts of different silences. But the moments of silence offer moments of clarity, moments in which you can confront yourself with yourself and reflect on life.”
Welser-Möst’s philosophical musings are matched by stories pulled from decades of hands-on experience in the classical music industry. Readers will be given a rare glimpse into the complex relationships between an opera house, its orchestra, the conductor and singers, and the creative struggle by all these parts to achieve greatness in every performance. Beyond the day-to-day mechanisms and power struggles that keep the industry running, readers can also expect musings on the nature of some of the most enduring pieces of music, all through the eyes of a conductor whose artistry has made him a defining voice in his generation.
Above all, Welser-Möst tells of the continuous process of self-reinvention, and of music as an impulse for social questions and as a means of finding order in a chaotic world. His life as a conductor is an inspiration: let us listen better to our world, and take note of what endures in its moments of silence, in order to understand it and enliven it with passion.
“In the process of writing From Silence I realized I wanted the book to be a message, especially for young artists: keep searching, keep looking. Don’t stop, and don’t give up,” says Welser-Möst. “Life has many ups and downs, but it’s up to you what you do with it, what you learn from your missteps, your failures, to make it a really enriching experience. Try to be true to yourself, to your talent...I have been fortunate that I can have my deepest passion as my profession, but I’ve been declared dead in our business quite a few times, been unsuccessful here and there. You can overcome that, and it has a lot to do with the surroundings you pick for yourself. Success is great, but it doesn’t define you; it can corrupt you, but it doesn’t have to.”
From Silence was first published in Austria in July 2020, under the title Als ich die Stille fand, and quickly became a best-seller; it remains a bestseller in the German language in 2021. Reviewers highlighted the book’s eclectic combination of autobiography, philosophical musings, and behind-the-scenes musical industry insight. “The book is more than biography,” writes Schweiz am Wochenende, “but a hymn to silence with philosophical digressions on Beethoven's Ninth, concerns about the classical music business, the youth craze in the world of opera and marketing strategies.” Oberösterreichische Nachrichten also took note of the book’s philosophical value, remarking that “It is a book with the potential to become a canon of values.”
For 19 years, Franz Welser-Möst has shaped an unmistakable sound as Music Director of The Cleveland Orchestra, with the future of their acclaimed partnership extended to 2027, making him the longest-serving musical leader in the ensemble’s history. The New York Times has declared Cleveland under Welser-Möst’s direction to be “America’s most brilliant orchestra,” praising its virtuosity, elegance of sound, variety of color, and chamber-like musical cohesion. As a guest conductor, Franz Welser-Möst enjoys a particularly close artistic partnership with the Vienna Philharmonic. He has twice appeared on the podium for their celebrated New Year's Concert. Franz Welser-Möst is also a regular guest at the Salzburg Festival where he has set new standards in the interpretation of the operas of Richard Strauss. In 2021 he will return to conduct Strauss’s Elektra. He is an Honorary Member of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna, winner of the Vienna Philharmonic’s Honorary Ring, and has been awarded the Kilenyi Medal of the Bruckner Society of America as well as the Kennedy Center Gold Medal in the Arts.