- Christoph von Dohnányi
Youth and World War II
Dohnányi was born in Berlin, Germany to jurist Hans von Dohnányi and Christine Bonhoeffer. His uncle on his mother's side was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor and theologian/ethicist. His grandfather was the pianist and composer Ernő Dohnányi, also known as Ernst von Dohnányi. His father, uncle and other family members participated in the German Resistance movement against Nazism, and were arrested and detained in several concentration camps before being executed in 1945, when Christoph was 15 years old. Dohnányi's older brother is Klaus von Dohnányi, a German politician and former mayor of Hamburg.
Education and early engagements
After the war, Dohnányi studied law in Munich, but in 1948 he transferred to the Hochschule für Musik und Theater München to study composition, piano and conducting. At the opera in Munich, he was a stage extra, coached singers, and was a house pianist. He received the Richard Strauss Prize from the city of Munich, and then went to Florida State University to study with his grandfather.
His first position as assistant was at the Frankfurt Opera, appointed by Georg Solti, where he also served as a ballet and opera coach. He was general musical director of the Lübeck Opera from 1957–1963, then Germany's youngest GMD. He also served as chief conductor of the Staatsorchester Kassel. He also served as chief conductor of the Westdeutsche Rundfunk Sinfonie Orchester. In 1968, he succeeded Solti as general music director and later 'director' at the Frankfurt opera and served in both capacities until 1977. He took the positions of intendant and chief conductor with the Hamburg Staatsoper in 1977, and relinquished those posts in 1984.
As director of the Frankfurt Opera and with his team including Gerard Mortier (Director of Théâtre de la Monnaie, Brussels, Salzburg Festival, Opéra de Paris), Peter Mario Katona (Director of Casting at ROH Covent Garden) and Klaus Schultz, Dramaturg in Munich (Bayerische Staatsoper) and Berlin (Philharmonic Orchestra), then General Manager of the Stadttheater Aachen, Nationaltheater Mannheim, and Gärtnerplatztheater in Munich, the balance in programming of traditional opera performance and innovative Musiktheater, promoting the idea of Regietheater, established Frankfurt opera as a leading house at that time. He continued this concept in Hamburg.
Dohnányi's enduring fame owes largely to a relationship with the Cleveland Orchestra that spanned two decades. He made his conducting debut with the orchestra in December 1981, and his appointment to serve as music director (commencing with the start of the 1984-85 season) was announced the following year. At the time of Dohnányi's appointment, he was a relatively young unknown in the shadow of the famously autocratic George Szell, who had forged the orchestra into a world-class ensemble by the time of his death in 1970. Dohnányi's kinship with Szell, both in terms of musical training and micro-managerial conducting style, portended that his relationship with the orchestra would be a successful one. In Dohnányi's 18 year tenure at its helm, the Cleveland Orchestra was sometimes touted as the finest orchestra in the United States and among the finest in the world, pursuing an active touring and recording agenda. In spite of it all, Dohnányi was keenly aware of and bemused by the fact that their achievements were frequently overlooked: "We give a great concert...and George Szell gets a great review."  Dohnányi was named the first ever "Music Director Laureate of the Cleveland Orchestra" upon his retirement in 2002.
From 1998-2000 Dohnányi was also Artistic Advisor of the Orchestre de Paris.
In 1994, Dohnányi became the principal guest conductor of the Philharmonia orchestra in London, UK, and in 1997 their Principal Conductor. In April 2007, Dohnányi was one of eight conductors of British orchestras to endorse the 10-year classical music outreach manifesto, "Building on Excellence: Orchestras for the 21st Century", to increase the presence of classical music in the UK, including giving free entry to all British schoolchildren to a classical music concert. In 2008, he stepped down from the Philharmonia principal conductorship and now holds the title with the orchestra of 'Honorary Conductor for Life'.
In 2004, Dohnányi returned to Hamburg, Germany where he maintained a residence for many years, to become chief conductor of the NDR Symphony Orchestra. He concluded his NDR tenure after the 2009-2010 season.
Christoph von Dohnányi is said to have recognized and promoted young conductors. Alan Gilbert, current music director of the New York Philharmonic, was assistant conductor to Dohnányi from 1995-97 at the Cleveland Orchestra. Jens Georg Bachmann, music director of the Crested Butte Music Festival in Colorado, had been in the same position at the NDR Symphony Orchestra from 2007-2009.
Dohnányi has been married three times. His first wife was the German actress Renate Zillessen, and they had two children, Katja and Justus. His second wife was the German soprano Anja Silja, with whom he had three children: Julia, Benedikt and Olga. His third wife is Barbara Koller.
- ^ a b John von Rhein (2005-02-08). "Distinguished Heir to a Great Tradition - Conductor Christoph von Dohnányi". Chicago Tribune. http://www.andante.com/article/article.cfm?id=25158. Retrieved 2007-07-15.
- ^ Martin Kettle (12 June 2002). "The secret of my success". The Guardian. http://arts.guardian.co.uk/features/story/0,,766066,00.html. Retrieved 2007-07-15.
- ^ "The Glorious Instrument". Time. 22 February 1963. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,828034,00.html. Retrieved 2007-07-15.
- ^ Michael Walsh (1994-01-01). "The Finest Orchestra? (Surprise!) Cleveland". Time. http://www.time.com/time/archive/preview/0,10987,979946,00.html. Retrieved 2007-07-15.
- ^ James R. Oestreich (26 January 1997). "Out From Under the Shadow". The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C00E2D8113BF935A15752C0A961958260. Retrieved 2008-02-06.
- ^ "Pupils get free concert tickets". BBC News. 26 April 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/6593341.stm. Retrieved 2007-07-15.
- ^ Charlotte Higgins (26 April 2007). "Orchestras urge free concerts for children". The Guardian. http://education.guardian.co.uk/artinschools/story/0,,2066195,00.html. Retrieved 2007-07-15.
- ^ "Thomas Hengelbrock wird neuer Chefdirigent" (Press release). NDR Symphony Orchestra. 27 March 2009. http://www4.ndr.de/sinfonieorchester/orchester/chefdirigent100.html. Retrieved 2009-09-30.
- Rosenberg, Donald (2000). The Cleveland Orchestra Story. Cleveland, Ohio: Gray & Company. ISBN 1886228248.
- Klaus Schultz (Ed.), "Offen sein zu - hören. Der Dirigent Christoph von Dohnányi". Hamburg: Murmann 2010, 281 p. ISBN 978-3-86774-074-6
(The book contains a discography.)
- Christoph von Dohnányi at Allmusic
- Christoph von Dohnányi biography at the Philharmonia
- Christoph von Dohnányi biography at the Cleveland Orchestra
Principal Conductor, WDR Symphony Orchestra, Cologne
Lovro von Matačić
General Music Director and Chief Intendant, Frankfurt Opera
Chief Conductor, NDR Symphony Orchestra
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