Heinrich Schiff

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Heinrich Schiff (born November 18, 1951 in Gmunden ; † December 23, 2016 in Vienna ) was an Austrian cellist and conductor .


Heinrich Schiff came from a musical family. Both parents, Helmut Schiff and Helga Riemann (granddaughter of Hugo Riemann ), were composers. At the age of six he received his first piano lessons and at the age of ten he began to study the cello with Roland Rois at the Linz Music School . He then studied with Tobias Kühne in Vienna and André Navarra at the Detmold University of Music . In 1971 he made his debut in Vienna and London .

From then on, Schiff was guest of many orchestras and conductors in Europe, the USA and Japan. Among others he worked with the conductors Claudio Abbado , Sergiu Celibidache , Colin Davis , Christoph von Dohnányi , Nikolaus Harnoncourt , Zubin Mehta , Giuseppe Sinopoli and Franz Welser-Möst . Many composers, including Witold Lutosławski , Hans Werner Henze , Ernst Krenek , Wolfgang Rihm , Franz Hummel , Friedrich Gulda , Hans Zender , Dietmar Polaczek and Otto M. Zykan , wrote works for Schiff, which he premiered.

He recorded almost all works in the cello repertoire on record, including both solo works and the great cello concertos. For his recording of the solo suites by JS Bach and the two cello concertos by Dmitri Shostakovich , he received the Grand Prix du Disque of the Charles Cros Academy . He received the German Record Prize for his recording of Brahms' Double Concerto with Frank Peter Zimmermann .

Since around 1990 Schiff has also devoted himself to conducting and has often performed in large orchestras such as the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra , the Winterthur Music College , the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Dresden State Orchestra . "He always filled the music with his rousing, sometimes almost bursting vitality, which received ovations in all concert halls around the world."

He also worked as a university lecturer , first at the Cologne University of Music and Dance , then at the University of Basel , later at the Mozarteum in Salzburg and at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna . His students include Julian Steckel , Valentin Radutiu and Christian Poltéra . From 1990 he was the first guest conductor of the Bruckner Orchestra Linz . From 2006 to 2009 he headed the Mondsee Music Days . As of August 6, 2010, Schiff's commitment to outstanding young musical artists was in the direction of the festival orchestra Young Euro Classic Southeast Europe , which is composed of selected music students of Southeastern European origin, including the former Yugoslav states.

Schiff played the two cellos Mara by Stradivari (1711) and The Sleeping Beauty by Montagnana (1739). The Montagnana cello was sold to a collector in Taiwan , and the Stradivari cello was also supposed to be sold to Asia, but in 2012 the owner family made the Mara Christian Poltéra available.

In the spring of 2012, Schiff announced the end of his career as an instrumental soloist. Schiff died on December 23, 2016 after a serious illness in a Viennese hospital. He was buried next to his mother in the same grave in the cemetery in his hometown of Gmunden.


Schiff had pain in his right shoulder and arm (the arm that guides the bow ) for years , probably due to chronic overexertion. Wolfram Goertz described Schiff's style of play a. a. with the words: "In one evening he was able to saw off a whole forest [...] he liked to dig deep with a bow and a saw, he made music out of passion, he loved the confessional and juicy." Heinrich Schiff gave his last concert in the Mozart Hall of the Vienna Konzerthaus. Arm and shoulder pain prevented him from fully playing the pieces on the program. On April 20, 2012, he finally announced his retirement from the solo stage as a cellist.

The writer and poet Wolf Wondratschek published the novel Mara in 2003 . In it, the Stradivari cello Mara tells of itself and of the musicians who played on it. Wondratschek got to know the instrument and its history while doing research for a book at a violin maker, and later also Heinrich Schiff. Wondratschek added five pages to the sixth edition of the novel Mara (published in 2015) and addressed Schiff's last public appearance. In his novel Self-Image with a Russian Piano , Wondratschek pays tribute to the cellist again. In the last chapters he lets him appear as a "man of sorrows".

Recordings (selection)

As a cellist:

As a conductor:

Web links


  1. Harald Eggebrecht : Heat flow from tones. The great Austrian cellist Heinrich Schiff has died. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung . December 24, 2016, p. 19.
  2. a b Heinrich Schiff ends his cello career . In: Klassik.com , April 20, 2012, accessed December 23, 2016.
  3. Sponsors wanted: Young Euro Classic creates new festival orchestra , in: Neue Musikzeitung from June 8, 2010 [1]
  4. a b c Carolin Pirich: Oh, Mara! In: Zeit Online . May 7, 2015
  5. Carolin Pirich: The struggle for Stardivari's "Mara". Deutschlandfunk, December 17, 2014, accessed on November 3, 2018 .
  6. ^ Heinrich Schiff died: On the death of the cellist and conductor. In: BR-Klassik . December 23, 2016, accessed December 23, 2016 .
  7. Music as a confession: cellist Heinrich Schiff is dead. In: RP Online . December 27, 2016, p. D5
  8. ^ Carl Hanser Verlag , ISBN 978-3-446-20361-7 .
  9. pages 203 to 207.
  10. "[...] I played as long as I could, then stopped, started again [...] The audience remained motionless in their seats, trying to understand what was going on. [...] "
  11. Wolf Wondratschek: Self-image with a Russian piano. Ullstein, Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-550-05070-1
  12. ^ Friedrich Gulda: Concerto for violoncello and wind orchestra - Eclectic declaration of love to the Salzkammergut. In: Capriccio Kulturforum. March 9, 2012.