Heinrich Schiff was born on 18 November 1951 in Gmunden, Austria. His parents, Helga (nee Riemann) and Helmut Schiff, were composers. He studied cello with Tobias Kühne and André Navarra and made his solo debut in Vienna and London in 1971. He studied conducting with Hans Swarowsky.
Schiff made his conducting debut in 1986. He was Artistic Director of the Northern Sinfonia from 1990 to 1996, and recorded with them for the Collins Classics label. He also held chief conductorships with the Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra in Copenhagen, Denmark (1996–2000), and the Orchester Musikkollegium Winterthur (1996-2001).
Schiff played the "Mara" Stradivarius (1711) and "Sleeping Beauty" made by Montagnana in Venice in 1739. His recording of the Bach Cello Suites won prizes, and his recording of the Shostakovich concertos won the Grand Prix du Disque in 1985. His recording of the Brahms Double Concerto with Frank Peter Zimmermann and Wolfgang Sawallisch won the Deutscher Schallplattenpreis. Composers who have written cello concertos for Schiff include John Casken and Friedrich Cerha.
Schiff often had pain in his right shoulder and his right arm (the one that leads the bow), obviously by overexertion. On 25 April 2010, during a chamber concert in Vienna, he had to pause during pieces forced by the pain. After this evening, he never played cello again.
Since 2012, the 'Mara' Cello is played by Christian Poltéra, one of Schiff's former students.
- Millington, Barry (December 30, 2016). "Heinrich Schiff obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved January 1, 2017.
- Andrew Clements (2003-07-04). "Casken: Darting the Skiff; Maharal Dreaming, etc: Schiff/ Northern Sinfonia/ Casken". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-02-07.
- "Stefan Vladar neuer Chefdirigent des Wiener Kammerorchesters". Vienna Online. 2008-05-16. Retrieved 2009-02-07.
- Griffiths, Bill, Northern Sinfonia. Northumbria University Press, p. 21 (ISBN 1904794076).
- Andrew Clements (1999-08-10). "Colour and spice: Cerha's Cello Concerto (Royal Albert Hall / Radio 3)". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-02-07.
- zeit.de 7 May 2015 / Carolin Pirich: Oh, Mara!
- "ZUM TOD DES CELLISTEN UND DIRIGENTEN". 23 December 2016.
| Artistic Director, Northern Sinfonia
| Chief Conductor, Orchester Musikkollegium Winterthur
Jac van Steen
Okko Kamu (first guest conductor)
| Chief Conductor, Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra
| Chief Conductor, Vienna Chamber Orchestra
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