One of the world’s foremost cellists and a highly-regarded conductor, Schiff passed away in a Vienna hospital early Friday morning (23.12.2016).
Born on November 18, 1951 in the Austrian city of Gmunden, Heinrich Schiff achieved his career breakthrough with contemporary music. Debuting in London and Vienna in 1971, he regularly performed as a soloist with a number of major orchestras in the most important music capitals and festivals in Europe, the US and Japan.
His first record release in 1978 earned him the distinction of “Artist of the Year” from the Deutsche Schallplattenpreis, Germany’s equivalent of the Grammy Awards. Ten years later he performed at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival in northern Germany with Prince Charles of Great Britain in attendance.
Schiff studied at the Vienna Music Academy, perfecting his performance technique under teachers including the French cellist André Navarra. In the course of his career he recorded nearly all important works of the cello repertory – from Vivaldi and Haydn to Lutoslawski and Bernd Alois Zimmermann – and worked with a number of important musicians of his day. In the late 1980s he began a second music career: conducting. He was also an instructor at the Academy of Music and Dance in Cologne, the University of Basel, the Mozarteum in Salzburg and the University of Music and the Pictorial Arts in Vienna.
Schiff’s recordings of Bach’s cello suites and Shostakovich’s cello concertos earned him distinctions including the “Grand Prix du Disque,” the highest-profile French award for performances on recordings. More recent releases include a recording of duos by Bach and Ravel in collaboration with the violinist Frank Peter Zimmermann.
Health reasons forced Heinrich Schiff to give up his activities as an instrumentalist in 2012, but he remained active as a conductor.