Born in Breslau in Germany (now Wrocl/aw in Poland), Christoph Eschenbach studied the piano in Hamburg with Eliza Hansen and won a number of prizes in Germany at a very young age. In 1965, his first prize in the Clara Haskil competition in Lucerne marked the beginning of his career as a soloist. Invited to perform in many of the great concert venues, he also took part in a number of tours, including with the Cleveland Orchestra and George Szell, as well as working with Herbert von Karajan. After studying conducting at the Hamburg Conservatoire, he embarked on his career as a conductor, making his American debut in 1975 with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. He went on to work with most of the greatest American and European orchestras. He is a regular guest at international festivals at venues including Tanglewood, the Hollywood Bowl, Ravinia and Schleswig-Holstein.
His involvement in opera has included conducting Così fan tutte at Covent Garden in 1984 and at the Houston Opera, as well as Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, Der Rosenkavalier, Lohengrin, Parsifal (directed by Robert Wilson), Salome and Elektra (directed by Andrei Serban) and Parsifal at the Bayreuth Festival and at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg. In November 2001, he conducted Arabella at the New York Metropolitan and in 2004 for the 50th anniversary of the Chicago Lyric Opera, Don Giovanni (directed by Peter Stein). During the 2005–6 season he conducted the Orchestre de Paris in a production of Wagner’s Ring cycle, directed by Robert Wilson, at the Théâtre du Châtelet. He has just conducted a very successful production of Paul Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler at the Opéra Bastille in Paris.
Christoph Eschenbach was the chief conductor of the Tonhalle Orchestra in Zurich from 1982 until 1986, the music director of the Houston Symphony Orchestra from 1988 until 1999 and chief conductor of the NDR Symphony Orchestra in Hamburg from 1988 until 2004. After ten years as the music director of the Orchestre de Paris between September 2000 and August 2010, and four years as the music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, between September 2003 and 2008, he has been the music director of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington since 1 September 2010.
His impressive discography as a pianist has been added to by many recordings as conductor of the Houston Symphony Orchestra, the NDR Symphony Orchestra in Hamburg, the Philadelphia Orchestra (Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Saint-Saëns, Bartók), the Orchestre de Paris (Berlioz, Bruckner, Dusapin, Berio, Ravel, Dalbavie, Zemlinsky, Roussel: complete symphonies, Beethoven’s First and Fourth Piano Concertos nominated at the 2008 Grammy Awards), and the London Philharmonic Orchestra (Bruckner, Symphony No.6). His website offers visitors the chance to stream Mahler’s complete symphonies, which he conducted and recorded with the Orchestre de Paris. His latest recording with the Washington NSO has just been released to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy Center. After the recent release of Die schöne Müllerin, he has continued to record Schubert’s song cycles accompanying baritone Matthias Goerne on the piano, as well as chamber music with the Quatuor Thymos.
Christoph Eschenbach is a regular guest conductor at major festivals including Tanglewood, Ravinia, Schleswig-Holstein, Granada, Salzburg and Saint Petersburg, and with prestigious orchestras such as the Vienna Philharmonic, the London Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra, the Gewandhaus in Leipzig, the Orchestre de Paris, Santa Cecilia, La Scala, Bayerischer Rundfunk, the NDR and the WDR. Christoph Eschenbach is also regularly invited to Asia and the East, including Japan, China and Korea. He has just conducted the last concerts in Vienna of a triumphant tour of the Vienna Philharmonic around Australia and Asia.
Christoph Eschenbach was appointed a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur in January 2003, an Officer of the National Order of Merit in May 2006, and was decorated with the Officer’s Cross of the Federal Republic of Germany. In June 2006 he was made a Commander in the Order of Arts and Letters. He has won the Leonard Bernstein prize at the Pacific Music Festival.