Eschenbach (real name, Ringmann), Christoph

views updated

Eschenbach (real name, Ringmann), Christoph

Eschenbach (real name, Ringmann), Christoph , remarkably talented German pianist and conductor; b. Breslau, Feb. 20, 1940. His mother died in childbirth; his father, the musicologist Heribert Ringmann, lost his life in battle soon thereafter; his grand-mother died while attempting to remove him from the advancing Allied armies. Placed in a refugee camp, Eschenbach was rescued by his mother’s cousin, who adopted him in 1946. He began studying piano at age 8 with his foster mother. His formal piano training commenced at the same age with Eliza Hansen in Hamburg, and continued with her at the Hochschule für Musik there; he also studied piano with Hans-Otto Schmidt in Cologne, and received instruction in conducting from Brückner- Ruggeberg at the Hamburg Hochschule fur Musik. In 1952 he won first prize in the Steinway Piano Competition; after winning second prize in the Munich International Competition in 1962, he gained wide recognition by capturing first prize in the first Clara Haskil Competition in Montreux (1965). In 1966 he made his London debut; following studies with Szell (1967–69), the latter invited him to make his debut as soloist in Mozart’s Piano Concerto in F major, K. 459, with the Cleveland Orch. on Jan. 16, 1969. In subsequent years, he made numerous tours as a pianist, appearing in all of the major music centers of the world. He also gave duo concerts with the pianist Justus Frantz. In 1972 he began to make appearances as a conductor; made his debut as an opera conductor in Darmstadt with La Traviata in 1978. He pursued a successful career as both a pianist and a conductor, sometimes conducting from the keyboard. After serving as Generalmusikdirektor of the Rheinland-Pfalz State Phil. (1979–81), he was first permanent guest conductor of the Zurich Tonhalle Orch. (1981–82); then was its chief conductor (1982–85). In 1988 he became music director of the Houston Sym. Orch. He also served as music director of the Ravinia Festival in Chicago from 1995. Eschenbach maintains a varied repertoire, as both a pianist and a conductor; his sympathies range from the standard literature to the cosmopolitan avant-garde.


W. Erk, ed., Für C. E. zum 20. Februar 1990:Eine Festgabe (Stuttgart, 1990).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire