Biography

Thomas Hengelbrock is the principal conductor of the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, the founder and director of the Balthasar-Neumann-Ensembles and the associate conductor of the Orchestre de Paris. He is widely regarded as one of the outstanding conductors of our age and has left a lasting mark on the world of music with the intelligence of his interpretations. His repertory extends from the 17th century to contemporary works and includes every musical genre.

Even while he was still artistic director of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie of Bremen from 1995 to 1998, director of the Feldkirch Festival from 2000 to 2006 and music director of the Vienna Volksoper from 2000 to 2003, Thomas Hengelbrock was already implementing programmes that went beyond existing boundaries and questioned established interpretative norms. His Balthasar Neumann Ensemble has proved being an international sensation, not least in 2013, when he conducted a series of concert performances of Wagner’s Parsifal and recreated the sound world of the composer’s own day. As principal conductor of the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra he has, in the words of the Hamburger Abendblatt, “inspired Hamburg” and “coaxed more and more new miracles from the orchestra”. Together with actors of the calibre of Johanna Wokalek, Klaus Maria Brandauer and Graham Valentine, he has repeatedly devised musical, theatrical and literary programmes that have been enthusiastically acclaimed by their audiences.

The highlight of the 2016/17 season was undoubtedly the opening concerts of the Hamburg Elbphilharmonie with the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra in January 2017. Thomas Hengelbrock will also be conducting the orchestra in numerous concerts, including a concert performance of Wagner’s Das Rheingold. In September 2016 Hengelbrock took up his new appointment as associate conductor of the Orchestre de Paris and will be appearing with the orchestra not only at the Paris Philharmonie but also in Vienna, Prague and Dresden. This season, too, Thomas Hengelbrock will twice be taking both of his Balthasar Neumann ensembles on tour and will also conduct the Cuban-European Youth Academy in Havana. Other guest appearances will take him to the Leipzig Gewandhaus, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw and the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra.

Thomas Hengelbrock’s artistic development was influenced in no small way by the period that he spent as musical assistant to Antal Dorati, Witold Lutosławski and Mauricio Kagel, all three of whom brought him into contact with contemporary music from an early date in his career. In addition to his comprehensive commitment to the music of the 19th and 20th centuries, he also takes a keen interest in historically informed performance practice, in which regard important stimuli came from his work with Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s Concentus musicus in Vienna. He has played a significant role in ensuring that the use of period instruments is now an established part of concert life in Germany. It was in this context that he formed the Balthasar Neumann Choir in 1991 and the Balthasar Neumann Ensemble in 1995. Both ensembles are now among the most successful in their field.

As a guest conductor Thomas Hengelbrock enjoys an outstanding reputation both nationally and internationally: among the famous orchestras that he has conducted in this capacity are the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Vienna Philharmonic and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. Among the venues where he appears on a regular basis are the Opéra de Paris, the Baden-Baden Festspielhaus, the Dortmund Konzerthaus and the Teatro Real in Madrid, while the eminent singers with whom he has worked include Plácido Domingo, Cecilia Bartoli, Anna Netrebko and Christian Gerhaher. He made his Bayreuth Festival debut in 2011, when he conducted Tannhäuser.

Thomas Hengelbrock’s work with the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra is documented on four acclaimed CD recordings. Numerous tours have taken the conductor and his orchestra not only the length and breadth of Europe but also as far afield as Asia.

In 2016 Thomas Hengelbrock received the Herbert von Karajan Music Award in recognition of his commitment to music communication.