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Franz Welser-Möst

Franz Welser-Möst Photograph by Don Snyder

Music Director
Kelvin Smith Family Endowed Chair
The Cleveland Orchestra

Franz Welser-Möst is among today’s most distinguished conductors.  The upcoming 2016-17 season marks Franz Welser-Möst’s fifteenth year as music director of The Cleveland Orchestra, with the future of this acclaimed partnership now extending into the next decade.  Under his direction, the New York Times has declared Cleveland to be the “best American orchestra“ due to its virtuosity, elegance of sound, variety of color, and chamber-like musical cohesion.  The Cleveland Orchestra has been repeatedly praised for its innovative programming, support for new musical works, and for its recent success in semi-staged and staged opera productions. Under his direction, the Orchestra is hailed for its continuing artistic excellence, is broadening and enhancing its community programming at home in Northeast Ohio, is presented in a series of ongoing residencies in the United States and Europe, and has re-established itself as an important operatic ensemble.

With a commitment to music education and the Northeast Ohio community, Franz Welser-Möst has taken The Cleveland Orchestra back into public schools with performances in collaboration with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.  He has championed new programs, such as a community-focused Make Music! initiative and a series of “At Home” neighborhood residencies designed to bring the Orchestra and citizens together in new ways.

Under Mr. Welser-Möst’s leadership, The Cleveland Orchestra has established a recurring biennial residency in Vienna at the famed Musikverein concert hall and appears regularly at Switzerland’s Lucerne Festival.  Together, they have also appeared in residence at Suntory Hall in Tokyo, Japan, and at the Salzburg Festival.  In the United States, an annual multi-week Cleveland Orch­estra residency in Florida was inaugurated in 2007 and an ongoing relationship with New York’s Lincoln Center Festival began in 2011.

Through this past season, The Cleveland Orchestra has performed fourteen world and sixteen United States premieres under Franz Welser-Möst’s direction.  In partnership with the Lucerne Festival, he and the Orchestra have premiered works by Harrison Birtwistle, Chen Yi, Hanspeter Kyburz, George Benjamin, Toshio Hosokawa, and Matthias Pintscher.  In addition, the Daniel R. Lewis Young Composer Fellow program has brought new voices to the repertoire, including Pintscher, Marc-André Dalbavie, Susan Botti, Julian Anderson, Johannes Maria Staud, Jörg Widmann, Sean Shepherd, and Ryan Wigglesworth.

Franz Welser-Möst has led annual opera performances during his tenure in Cleveland.  Following six seasons of opera-in-concert presentations, he brought fully staged opera back to Severance Hall with a three-season cycle of Zurich Opera productions of the Mozart-Da Ponte operas.  He led concert performances of Strauss’s Salome at Severance Hall and at Carnegie Hall in 2012 and in May 2014 led an innovative made-for-Cleveland production of Leoš Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen at Severance Hall.  This was followed by performances of Richard Strauss’s Daphne in May 2015 and a Bartók doublebill in April 2016.  Future opera projects include Debussy's Pelleas and Melisande in spring 2017 and Wagner's Tristan and Isolde in 2018.

AsAs a guest conductor, Mr. Welser-Möst enjoys a close and productive relationship with the Vienna Philharmonic.  Recent performances with the Philharmonic include critically-acclaimed opera productions at the Salzburg Festival (Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier in 2014 and Beethoven’s Fidelio in 2015) and a tour of Scandinavia, as well as appearances at New York’s Carnegie Hall, at the Lucerne Festival, and in concert at La Scala Milan.  He has conducted the Philharmonic’s celebrated annual New Year’s Day concert twice, viewed by millions worldwide.  This past season, he led the Vienna Philharmonic in two weeks of subscription concerts, and will conduct a new production of Strauss’s Die Lieber der Danae with them this summer at the 2016 Salzburg Festival.

Mr. Welser-Möst also maintains relationships with a number of other European orchestras, and the 2015-16 season included return engagements to Munich’s Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Zurich’s Tonhalle Orchestra.  In December, he led the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic in the Nobel Prize concert in Stockholm and conducted the Filarmonica of La Scala Milan in a televised Christmas concert.  This past season, he also made his long-anticipated debut with Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra for two weeks of concerts.

From 2010 to 2014, Franz Welser-Möst served as general music director of the Vienna State Opera.  His partnership with the company included an acclaimed new production of Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung cycle and a series of critically-praised new productions, as well as performances of a wide range of other operas, particularly of works by Wagner and Richard Strauss.  Prior to his years with the Vienna State Opera, Mr. Welser-Möst led the Zurich Opera across a decade-long tenure, leading more than forty new productions and culminating in three seasons as general music director (2005-08). 

Franz Welser-Möst’s recordings and videos have won major awards, including a Gramophone Award, Diapason d’Or, Japanese Record Academy Award, and two Grammy nominations.  With The Cleveland Orchestra, he has created DVD recordings of live performances of five of Bruckner’s symphonies, and is in the midst of a new project recording major works by Brahms.  With Cleveland, he has also released a recording of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and an all-Wagner album.  DVD releases on the EMI label have included Mr. Welser-Möst leading Zurich Opera productions of The Marriage of Figaro, Così fan tutte, Don Giovanni, Der Rosenkavalier, Fierrabras, and Peter Grimes.

For his talents and dedication, Mr. Welser-Möst has received honors that include the Vienna Philharmonic’s “Ring of Honor” for his longstanding personal and artistic relationship with the ensemble, as well as recognition from the Western Law Center for Disability Rights, honorary membership in the Vienna Singverein, appointment as an Academician of the European Academy of Yuste, a Gold Medal from the Upper Austrian government for his work as a cultural ambassador, a Decoration of Honor from the Republic of Austria for his artistic achievements, and the Kilenyi Medal from the Bruckner Society of America.  He is the co-author of Cadences: Observations and Conversations, published in a German edition in 2007.   

    
Updated: June 2016