Honorary Conductor Christoph Eschenbach
»I have a bond with the Bamberg Symphony based on decades of friendship. Every one of our concerts fills me with fresh gratitude. So I feel it's a very special distinction to have the position of Honorary Conductor conferred on me by the Orchestra – a position which I gratefully accept, with the greatest pleasure and deep admiration for this wonderful ensemble.«
The Bamberg Symphony and Christoph Eschenbach – a history that began 50 years ago. He made his concert debut as soloist with the Bamberg Symphony in October 1965, followed in 1977 by his first appearance as its conductor. Since then, he has conducted the Orchestra not only at home but has also led the Bamberg Symphony on tours to the USA, South America, Japan, France, Austria and the Baltic states. In April 2014, Christoph Eschenbach conducted the Orchestra for the 150th time.
Great conductors don’t stoop to their audiences; they bring them up to their level. It’s generally true of great artists: they pay their fans the compliment of making no concessions to them. It’s yet another reason why Christoph Eschenbach must be ranked among the very greatest conductors of our time. Asked whether today’s music is too afraid of aesthetic confrontation, whether it has become too ritualised and no longer provocative, he responded: »Yes, we need composers to write less music which is merely pleasant and talks down to audiences. The public needs to be helped up, helped over the barrier beyond which unfettered expression is everything, where a musical statement’s refusal to compromise will echoes down future centuries, as in the music of Bach, Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms, all the way to Schoenberg.«
This is what one constantly feels, hearing Christoph Eschenbach: a strong musical will, and purposeful music-making. And ever true to the spirit of the composers, whose works in Eschenbach’s hands always sound as if written for us, here and now. One senses very strongly that his interpretations of music from the Baroque era to our own are actually, in a striking way, premieres. He makes us aware of composers’ emotions and so, perhaps, of our own. One cannot ask more of a conductor.
Born in 1940 in Breslau (now Wrocław), Christoph Eschenbach has enjoyed a long, successful partnership with the Bamberg Symphony: it began in October 1965, when Eschenbach was still touring the world’s concert halls as a pianist, and it continued through his equally extraordinary career as conductor, from 1977 onwards. With the support of Herbert von Karajan and George Szell, he sensibly launched himself in provincial Germany, and reached full maturity in the musical world’s centres – Houston, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington across the Atlantic, London, Zurich, Paris or Hamburg in the Old World. And of course in Bamberg, too: Christoph Eschenbach has headed our Orchestra more than one hundred and fifty times. During that time audiences, experienced a true musical universe – from Mozart to Gustav Mahler and from Beethoven to Lutosławski and Shostakovich. Eschenbach has recorded all of Robert Schumann’s Symphonies, which are especially dear to him, with the Bamberg Symphony for Virgin Classics. He has also led the Orchestra on many successful tours, to North and South America, Japan, France, Austria, the Baltic, and even to Oman.
During this time our relationship with Christoph Eschenbach has grown into a harmonious musical friendship, of a kind now rare in our age of instant communications and rapidly shifting relationships. It was a mark of their mutual esteem when the Orchestra decided to appoint Christoph Eschenbach its Honorary Conductor, in recognition of a collaboration which has now lasted over fifty years – a distinction previously bestowed only on Eugen Jochum, Horst Stein and Herbert Blomstedt. In the current season, Christoph Eschenbach will perform works including Mahler’s 5th and Beethoven’s 3rd Symphonies. And in February, the Bamberg Symphony and Christoph Eschenbach will set off with this repertoire for an extended tour of North America.