Biography

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Christoph Eschenbach was born on February 20th, 1940, in Breslau (Wroclaw, Poland). His mother died in childbirth, and his father was killed only a few years later in a penal battalion on the front. Just beforehand the musicologist, Heribert Ringmann, had been dismissed from the University of Breslau and banned to the provinces. After the war Eschenbach fell ill with typhus in an orphanage in Mecklenburg. He regards his adoption by Wallydore Eschenbach, a cousin of his biological mother, as a „lifesaver“.  A singer and pianist, she restored far more than just the child's voice, which had been rendered mute by suffering and illness, when she asked him whether he too would like to make music, and he replied, after a year of silence, with „yes“. She bestowed upon Eschenbach's life „a deep sense of meaning and spiritual peace.“

In the spring of 1951, Christoph Eschenbach begins studying piano with Eliza Hansen in Hamburg before joining the piano studio of Hans-Otto Schmidt-Neuhaus at the conservatory in Cologne. After completing secondary school he starts a course in conducting with Wilhelm Brückner-Rüggeberg in Hamburg. In 1962 he wins the ARD music competition and soon thereafter secures his first record deal as a pianist with the Deutsche Grammophon label. Other prizes and numerous recordings follow. In 1967, George Szell becomes Eschenbach's teacher.

Supported by George Szell and Herbert von Karajan, Christoph Eschenbach becomes the Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Tonhalle Orchestra in Zurich (1982-1986), Music Director of the Houston Symphony (1988-1999), Music Director of the Ravinia Festival (1994-2003), and Artistic Director of the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival (1999-2002). Christoph Eschenbach is a Knight of the Légion d'Honneur, an Officer of the French National Service Order, Commandeur des Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, a holder of the German Federal Cross of Merit and recipient of the Leonard Bernstein Prize.

Christoph Eschenbach continues to be a highly prized conductor at the orchestras and opera houses of the world. Since September, 2010, he holds the double role of Director of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as well as the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington D.C. Since his appointment in 2008, he has played a key role in planning the performance calendar, the international festivals, and special projects for both of these renowned institutions.

Highlights of the 2014-2015 season include invitations from American orchestras such as the Chicago Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In his capacity as a Music Director of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, Eschenbach conducted numerous concert programs at the Kennedy Center, including Rosenkavalier with Renée Fleming in Spring, 2014. Together with the Houston Symphony Orchestra he's presenting Mahler's Symphony no. 8., the Symphony of a Thousand. In Europe Eschenbach will take the podium of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, the Munich Philharmonic, the Staatskapelle Dresden (on the occasion of the Salzburg Easter Festival), as well as the German Symphony Orchestra Berlin. Along with the Bamberg Symphony, the Orchestre National de France, the National Spanish Orchestra and the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nationale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, Eschenbach will once again conduct two orchestras whom he extensively served as a musical director (from 1998 to 2004 and 2000 to 2010, respectively): the Northwest German Symphony Orchestra in Hamburg and the Orchestre de Paris. In December 2014 he had the pleasure of returning to China in order to direct the NCPA Orchestra in Beijing.
Turning to the opera repertoire, Eschenbach conducts The Magic Flute, and Idomeneo at the Vienna State Opera, and rounds out the da Ponte cycle – which was begun last season at the Salzburg Festival – with Don Giovanni.

With the Vienna Philharmonic, the London Philharmonic, and the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra he was or will be on a European tour during this season, and will once again, like every year since 1999, be a guest of the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival. Lastly, it should be mentioned that Eschenbach led the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra in a New Year's Eve Concert in Shanghai as well as the Vienna Philharmonic at their famous Summer's Eve Concert in Schönbrunn.
A priority close to Christoph Eschenbach's heart is passing on his artistic experience to younger generations; he regularly presents master classes and leads orchestral academies, such as those of the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, the Kronberg Academy, the Manhattan School of Music, etc.

At the piano, Christoph Eschenbach will continue a fruitful collaboration with the baritone Matthias Goerne. The duo has been recording the song cycles of Franz Schubert – Die Schöne Müllerin, Die Winterreise und Schwanengesang – for Harmonia Mundi since 2009, earning great acclaim from critics. At the Salzburger Festspiele in Summer, 2010, the cycles were performed on three separate evenings. The same program included Eschenbach's performance of Schubert's monumental Sonata in B-flat major and two appearances with the Vienna Philharmonic. The Schubert song cycles were then performed in the 2011/12 season in Salle Pleyel, Paris, as well as at the Wiener Musikverein in the following year. In 2014 and 2015 the duo continues its collaboration with recitals at Symphony Center, Chicago, the Kennedy Center, and  Carnegie Hall, as well as in Baden Baden and Hamburg.

For over a half century Christoph Eschenbach has recorded an impressive number of musical works, both as conductor and as pianist. His discography reaches from the works of J.S. Bach to contemporary music, and it reflects a dedication not only to the works of the canon, but also the music of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Eschenbach's recordings with the Orchestre de Paris appeared on Ondine and Deutsche Grammophon labels, as well as additional recordings with the London Symphony (Sony/BMG), the Vienna Philharmonic (Decca), the North German Radio Symphony Orchestra (BMG/Sony & Warner) and the Houston Symphony (Koch), to name a few. In the last five years Ondine has released sixteen highly acclaimed CD's with the Orchestre de Paris and the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eschenbach's direction, several of which have received special honors: Disc of the Month from BBC Magazine, Gramophone‘s Editors Choice, the Prize of German Record Critics, or the MIDEM Classical Award 2009 in the category Contemporary Music (for a CD with works by Kaija Saariaho, performed by the Orchestre de Paris and the soprano Karita Mattila). His recent Hindemith recording with  Midori and the North German Radio Symphony Orchestra won the 2014 Grammy Award in the category Best Classical Compendium.