RECENT: Find out about composers from unusual places, including Gerard Schurmann, Giya Kancheli, Nazib Zhiganov and Nodar Gabunia, about singing in cars, and meet Jim Hutton from the RLPO and some of our regular contributors in this eighty-minute February 2021 video.
Austrian conductor and composer Michael Gielen was born in Dresden on 20 July 1927. His father Josef Gielen was a theatre and opera director at Staatstheater Dresden and his mother Rose Steuermann was an Austro-Hungarian Jewish actress. He was brought up as a Catholic to avoid Nazi indoctrination. The family emigrated to Buenos Aires in 1940, where Michael Gielen studied with Erwin Leuchter and began his career as a pianist and then as a repetiteur at Teatro Colon.
Gielen moved to Vienna in 1950 and worked as conductor and repetiteur at the Burgtheater, where his father had become director. From 1954 until 1960 he assisted conductors such as Karl Böhm, Herbert von Karajan and Clemens Krauss at the Vienna State Opera, and began conducting contemporary music elsewhere.
He was Generalmusikdirektor at the Royal Swedish Opera (1960-65) and at Frankfurt Opera (1967-87), and was principal conductor of the Belgian National Orchestra (1969-73) and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (1980-86). From 1986 until 1999 he was conductor of the Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra, which became known as the leading orchestra for giving first performances of new works.
Michael Gielen retired from conducting in 2014 for health reasons - particularly failing vision - and he died in Mondsee, Austria on 8 March 2019, aged ninety-one.
CD Spotlight. Startlingly Original - Michael Gielen conducts Beethoven's 'Missa Solemnis', heard by Gerald Fenech. 'The orchestra is magnificent and the choir rises to the occasion with some impassioned singing. Top of the list are the four soloists, whose renditions are nothing short of impressive and iridescent.'
CD Spotlight. Finely Displayed - Alfred Brendel plays Liszt, recommended by Robert Anderson. 'Michael Gielen backs Brendel's eloquence with unobtrusive skill.'
CD Spotlight. Invigoratingly Natural - Van Beinum conducts Mahler, recommended by Howard Smith. '... a tad less frenetic ...'