Michael Gielen

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Michael Gielen
BornMichael Andreas Gielen
(1927-07-20) 20 July 1927 (age 91)
Dresden, Germany
  • Conductor
  • Composer

Michael Andreas Gielen (born 20 July 1927) is an Austrian conductor and composer. He promoted contemporary music in opera and concert, conducting premieres such as György Ligeti's Requièm, Karlheinz Stockhausen's Carré and Bernd Alois Zimmermann's opera Die Soldaten. He directed the Frankfurt Opera from 1977 to 1987, later called the Gielen Era, winning stage directors such as Hans Neuenfels and Ruth Berghaus, and reviving operas such as Schreker's Die Gezeichneten which had premiered in Frankfurt in 1918.

Early years[edit]

Gielen was born in Dresden, Germany, to Rose (née Steuermann) and Josef Gielen; his father, an opera director. Through his mother, Rose, he is the nephew of Eduard Steuermann and Salka Viertel. His father was Christian and his mother was Jewish.[1][2]


He began his career as a pianist in Buenos Aires, where he studied with Erwin Leuchter and gave an early performance of Arnold Schoenberg's complete piano works in 1949 (the South-American première). While serving as conductor and répétiteur at the Wiener Staatsoper (1950–60), he conducted productions of contemporary music outside the opera house.[3]

His next operatic appointment was as conductor of Royal Swedish Opera from 1960-65, followed by posts at the Netherlands Opera and at the Frankfurt Opera from 1977. He was principal conductor of the Belgian National Orchestra (1969–73), the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (1980–86) and of the Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra (1986–99), which he has been closely associated with since.[3]

He has demonstrated a mastery of the most complex contemporary scores, and he has given many premieres, including Helmut Lachenmann's Fassade and Klangschatten – mein Saitenspiel, György Ligeti's Requièm, Karlheinz Stockhausen's Carré and Bernd Alois Zimmermann's Die Soldaten. In 1973 he recorded Schoenberg's opera Moses und Aron, used as a soundtrack for the film Moses und Aron.[3]

In 1979 he revived Schreker's opera Die Gezeichneten at the Oper Frankfurt, where it had been premiered in 1918.[4] During his time in Frankfurt, later called the Gielen Era,[3] he collaborated with stage directors such as Hans Neuenfels for Verdi's Aida and Ruth Berghaus for Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen.[5]

As a composer, Gielen has elaborated on the tradition of the Second Viennese School, and his small oeuvre includes settings of poems by Hans Arp, Paul Claudel, Stefan George, and Pablo Neruda.[citation needed] In October 2014, Gielen announced his retirement from conducting for health reasons, particularly seriously deteriorated eyesight.[6]


Selected works[edit]


  1. ^ Profile, musicincincinnati.com; accessed 13 August 2015.
  2. ^ Profile, dw.de; accessed 13 August 2015.(in German)
  3. ^ a b c d Roth, Wilhelm (20 July 2017). "Dirigent, der in Frankfurt einst eine Ära begründete, wird 90 Jahre alt: Unermüdlich trieb Michael Gielen die Moderne voran". Frankfurter Neue Presse (in German). Retrieved 20 July 2017.
  4. ^ Peters, Rainer (2010). "The Ernst von Siemens Music Prize-Winner Michael Gielen". Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 12 August 2010.
  5. ^ Rockwell, John (28 April 1987). "Opera: Wagner's 'Ring des Nibelungen' in Nigeria". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 August 2010.
  6. ^ "Michael Gielen beendet Dirigenten-Karriere". WDR (Kulturnachrichten). 30 October 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2015.



  • Michael Gielen: Unbedingt Musik. Erinnerungen. Insel, Frankfurt am Main 2005; ISBN 3-458-17272-6.
  • Michael Gielen, Paul Fiebig: Mahler im Gespräch. Die zehn Sinfonien. Metzler, Stuttgart 2002; ISBN 3-476-01933-0.

External links[edit]

Cultural offices
Preceded by
André Cluytens
Music Director, Belgian National Orchestra
Succeeded by
André Vandernoot
Preceded by
Kazimierz Kord
Chief Conductor, Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Succeeded by
Sylvain Cambreling