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Dohnányi, Christoph Von

Dohnányi, Christoph Von

Dohnányi, Christoph von, eminent German conductor of Hungarian descent, grandson of Ernst (Ernő) von Dohnányi; b. Berlin, Sept. 8,1929. He began to study the piano as a child; his musical training was interrupted by World War II. His father, Hans von Dohnányi, a jurist, and his uncle, Dietrich Bonhoeffer,

the Protestant theologian and author, were executed by the Nazis for their involvement in the July 20, 1944, attempt on Hitler’s life. After the war, he studied jurisprudence at the Univ. of Munich; in 1948 he enrolled at the Hochschule für Musik in Munich, and won the Richard Strauss Prize for composition and conducting. Making his way to the U.S., he continued his studies with his grandfather at Fla. State Univ. at Tallahassee; also attended sessions at the Berkshire Music Center at Tangle wood. Returning to Germany, he received a job as a coach and conductor at the Frankfurt am Main opéra (1952–57). Progressing rapidly, he served as Generalmusikdirektor in Liibeck (1957–63) and Kassel (1963–66), chief conductor of the Cologne Radio Sym. Orch. (1964–70), and director of the Frankfurt am Main opéra (1968–77). From 1977 to 1984 he was Staatsopernintendant of the Hamburg State opéra. In 1984 he assumed the position of music director of the Cleveland Orch., having been appointed music director designate in 1982, succeeding Lorin Maazel. In the meantime, he had engagements as a guest conductor of the Vienna State opéra, Covent Garden in London, La Scala in Milan, the Metropolitan opéra in N.Y., the Berlin Phil., the Vienna Phil., and the Concertgebouw Orch. in Amsterdam. In 1992 the Cleveland Orch., under Dohnanyi’s direction, became the resident orch. of the Salzburg Festival, the first time this honor was bestowed upon an American orch. On Dec. 12,1993, he conducted Beethoven’s 9th Sym. in a gala concert at Cleveland’s Public Auditorium marking the 75thth anniversary of the founding of the Cleveland Orch. He also was principal guest conductor (1994–97) and principal conductor (from 1997) of the Philharmonia Orch. in London. From 1998 to 2000 he also was principal guest conductor and artistic director of the Orchestre de Paris. On Jan. 8,2000, he conducted the Cleveland Orch. in the Gala Celebration Concert opening the refurbished Severance Hall, the ensemble’s home. He concluded his tenure with the Cleveland Orch. in 2002. As both a sym. and opéra conductor, Dohnanyi has proved himself a master technician and a versatile musician capable of notably distinguished interpretations of all types of music, from Baroque to the avant-garde. He married Anja Silja.

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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