Franz Leopold Maria Möst was born in Linz, Austria, and later studied under the composer Balduin Sulzer (de). As a youth in Linz, he studied the violin and had developed an interest in conducting. After suffering injuries in a car crash that led to nerve damage, he stopped his violin studies and shifted full-time to conducting studies.
In 1985, Möst assumed the stage name Welser-Möst on suggestion of his mentor, Baron Andreas von Bennigsen of Liechtenstein, thus paying homage to the city of Wels where he grew up. In 1986, he was adopted by von Bennigsen. In 1992, Welser-Möst married von Bennigsen's former wife, Angelika. His first major debuts were at the Salzburg Festival in 1985, followed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra in 1986 and the Orchester Musikkollegium Winterthur in 1988. Other guest conductor appearances comprised the first five years of his career: his American debut with the St. Louis Symphony in 1989, performances with the orchestras of Atlanta, Boston, New York, Chicago, plus frequent returns to the London Philharmonic. In 1990, Welser-Möst became principal conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO). His LPO tenure was controversial, with London critics giving him the nickname "Frankly Worse than Most". He concluded his LPO tenure in 1996.
From 1995 to 2000, he was music director with the Zurich Opera House. While there, he led 27 new performances as well as numerous revivals. His most noteworthy performances there included the complete Ring Cycle. He became general music director of the Zurich Opera in September 2005, with an original commitment to the Opera through 2011. But Welser-Möst stood down from the Zurich post in July 2008 after having agreed to serve in the same capacity at Vienna's Staatsoper.
Welser-Möst became music director of the Cleveland Orchestra with the 2002/2003 season, for an initial contract of five years. At the end of his first season, his contract was extended for another five years. In June 2008, the orchestra announced a further extension of his contract with the Cleveland Orchestra through the 2017/2018 season.
On June 6, 2007, the Austrian government announced the appointment of Welser-Möst as Musical Director (Generalmusikdirektor) of the Vienna State Opera beginning in September 2010, alongside Dominique Meyer (de) as director (Staatsoperndirektor).
Vienna State Opera
Welser-Möst had debuted at the Staatsoper in 1987, taking over from Claudio Abbado Gioachino Rossini's L'italiana in Algeri. It took more than 10 years for Welser-Möst to return to the State Opera where he conducted Richard Wagner's Tristan und Isolde. In December 2006 he led his first new production in Vienna, Richard Strauss' Arabella (directed by Sven-Eric Bechtolf), and later new stagings of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen (directed by Bechtolf) and Tannhäuser (directed by Claus Guth).
Welser-Möst began his Viennese tenure by conducting revivals of Tannhäuser and the Franco Zeffirelli directed La bohème. In October 2010, he led a new production of Cardillac, followed by new productions of Don Giovanni (staged by Jean-Louis Martinoty), Le nozze di Figaro (directed by Martinoty), and finally Káťa Kabanová (directed by André Engel), later in the season 2010/2011. Additionally, he is set to conduct other productions in that season.
From the start of his career Welser-Möst has heavily emphasized the importance of recording his work. While conducting the LPO he established an exclusive recording contract with EMI. This move produced several great successes and awards. His 1996 recording of Franz Schmidt's Symphony No. 4 received the Gramophone Award for Best Orchestral Conducting. The CDs of Anton Bruckner's Mass No. 3 and Te Deum and works of Erich Wolfgang Korngold both received Grammy Award nominations for "Best Classical Album." EMI struck a similar deal with Welser-Möst to record performances at the Zurich Opera and has released a number of DVD's of his Zurich opera productions. In 2008 EMI reissued many of Welser-Möst's earlier recordings in an eight CD set. In October 2007, Deutsche Grammophon released the first commercial recording featuring Welser-Möst with The Cleveland Orchestra: Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 including German bass René Pape among the soloists. This recording was soon followed by a disc of Richard Wagner Lieder performed by the orchestra and soloist Measha Brueggergosman. Several DVDs have been issued as well, including Bruckner's 7th and 8th symphonies, at Severance Hall, and the 5th and 4th at the St. Florian Monastery near Linz where Anton Bruckner is buried.
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