Michael Gielen

(b. 20 July 1927, Dresden – d. 8 March 2019, Innerschwand am Mondsee).

Austrian composer, born in Germany, of mostly chamber and vocal works that have been performed in Europe; he was also active as a conductor.

Prof. Gielen was the son of the theatre director Josef Gielen (b. 1890 – d. 1968). He initially studied philosophy at the Universidad de Buenos Aires for three semesters, but then studied music theory privately with Erwin Leuchter and piano privately with Rita Kurzmann-Leuchter in Buenos Aires from 1942–47 and later studied analysis privately with Josef Polnauer in Vienna from 1950–53. He received an honorary doctorate from the Universität der Künste Berlin in 2000.

Among his honours were the Hessischer Kulturpreis (1985), the Theodor-W.-Adorno-Preis from the city of Frankfurt am Main (1986), the Preis der Stadt Wien für Musik (1996), the Frankfurter Musikpreis (1999), and the Ernst von Siemens Musikpreis (2010).

As a conductor, he served as répétiteur of the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires from 1947–50 and of the Wiener Staatsoper from 1950–58, as well as its Kapellmeister from 1954–60. He served as chief conductor of the Kungliga Operan in Stockholm from 1960–65, of the Orchestre National de Belgique from 1969–73 and of De Nationale Opera in Amsterdam from 1973–75, then served as artistic director of Oper Frankfurt in Frankfurt am Main from 1977–87 and as music director of the concert series of the Frankfurter Museumsgesellschaft in Frankfurt am Main from 1977–87. He served as principal guest-conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra in London from 1978–80, as music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra from 1980–86 and as chief conductor of the SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg from 1986–99, of which he remained a guest conductor from 1999–2014. He served as principal guest-conductor of the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and the Staatsoper Unter den Linden in Berlin from 1999–2014.

He was also active in other positions. As a pianist, he played the complete music for piano by Arnold Schoenberg in Buenos Aires in 1949. As a writer, he co-wrote with Paul Fiebig the books Beethoven im Gespräch: die neun Sinfonien (1995, J. B. Metzler'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung) and Mahler im Gespräch: die zehn Sinfonien (2002, J. B. Metzler'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung). He was also the subject of the book Michael Gielen: Dirigent, Komponist, Zeitgenosse by Paul Fiebig (1997, J. B. Metzler'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung).

He taught conducting at the Universität Mozarteum Salzburg from 1987–95.


E-mail address (c/o Music Information Center Austria):



Variationen für 40 Instrumente, 1959

Pflicht und Neigung, small orchestra (24 players), fixed media, 1988


Sonate, violin, piano, 1946

Trio, clarinet, bassoon, viola, 1948

Variationen, string quartet, 1949

Streichquartett, 'Un vieux souvenir', string quartet, 1983

Serenade, 'Rückblick', 3 cellos, 1990

Sonate für Violoncello Solo, 'Weitblick', cello, 1991


Vier Gedichte von Stefan George (text by Stefan George), mixed chorus, 6 clarinets (any 3 + bass clarinet), 4 trombones, 4 cellos, piano, timpani, 2 glockenspiels, tubular bells, 1955–58


Musica 1954 (text by Paul Claudel), baritone, trombone, piano, timpani, string orchestra, 1954

Ein Tag tritt hervor (cantata, text by Pablo Neruda), soprano, alto, tenor, bass, speaker, piano obbligato, ensemble (electric guitar, harmonium, Ondes Martenot, vibraphone, marimba), 4 ensembles (E-flat clarinet, clarinet, A-clarinet, bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet; harp, electric mandolin, violin, viola, cello; celesta, 4 percussion; 5 percussion), 1960–63

die glocken sind auf falscher spur (melodramas and interludes, text by Jean Arp), soprano (+ percussion), speaker (+ harmonium, percussion), electric guitar (+ percussion), cello (+ percussion), piano (+ percussion), percussion, fixed media, 1969–70


Klavierstück in sieben Sätzen, 'Recycling der Glocken', piano, fixed media, 2001