Thomas Hengelbrock

Violin and Conductor

Thomas Hengelbrock has made a name for himself as a discoverer of works that have fallen into oblivion, and with new interpretations of well-known repertoire. At the center of his artistic work stands an intensive intellectual occupation with the work in its historical context. Like Balthasar Neumann and his architectural synthesis of building, painting, sculpture, and garden, Thomas Hengelbrock strives for an integration of music and the other arts. For this reason he not only devotes himself intensively to opera, but also to a combination of unexpected and novel concert programs, as well as to semi-staged projects. His repertoire encompasses the sixteenth through twentieth centuries. In addition, he performs contemporary works and gives the premieres of commissioned pieces.

Thomas Hengelbrock began his career as a violinist. He received important artistic inspiration from Witold Lutoslawski, Maurizio Kagel, and Antal Dorati, as well as through his work in Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s Concentus musicus. The Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, of which he was co-founder, played under his direction until 1997. He worked with the Amsterdam Bach Soloists from 1988 to 1991, and the German Chamber Philharmonic of Bremen chose him as their first regular artistic director in 1995. As a conductor, Thomas Hengelbrock has accepted invitations from numerous renowned orchestras and opera houses. He founded the Balthasar Neumann Choir in 1991 and the ensemble of the same name in 1995, and with them he has set out to realize his artistic ideas. He was music director of Vienna’s Volksoper from 2000 to 2003. Moreover, he is the artistic director of the Feldkirch Festival since 2001.

Since his opera debut at the Vienna Festival in 1993 with Gluck’s Alceste, Thomas Hengelbrock has conducted numerous opera performances. He presented the first modern performances of Galuppi’s The Philosopher in the Country and the opera La Divisione del Mondo by Giovanni Legrenzi, which since its extravagant premiere in 1675 had never again been staged. Numerous opera productions have come about in collaboration with the internationally renowned directors Philippe Arlaud and Achim Freyer. With the latter, Hengelbrock achieved great successes at the Schwetzingen Festival with Joseph Haydn’s L’Anima del Filosofo in 2001, and with Mozart’s Magic Flute in 2002. His interpretation of Luigi Dallapiccola’s Il Prigioniero had its premiere at the Vienna Volksoper in 2003.

Hengelbrock has realized semi-staged performances with literature and music in collaboration with the actor Klaus Maria Brandauer – Manfred (Byron/Schumann), Peer Gynt (Ibsen/Grieg), and a new version of Egmont (Goethe/Beethoven). At EXPO 2000 in Hannover, they staged an “Ecclesiastical Action” with works by B. A. Zimmermann, Ligeti, and Bach. For their outstanding accomplishments, Hengelbrock and Brandauer were awarded the Bremen Music Festival Prize in 2000. Within the framework of the Feldkirch Festival 2003, Hengelbrock and Brandauer, together with the Balthasar Neumann Ensemble, gave the premiere performance of the melodrama King of the Night by Jan Müller-Wieland. In Feldkirch, Thomas Hengelbrock and his ensembles were also heard in Beethoven’s Missa solemnis and Handel’s Messiah.

The performance and recording of Antonio Lotti’s Requiem in F Major, which was rediscovered by Hengelbrock, attracted great attention. The most recent recording, Joseph Haydn’s Creation with the Balthasar Neumann Choir and Ensemble, has been released in autumn 2002.

“Abenteuer Musik” (The Adventure of Music) is the title of a concert series that the Southwest German Radio (SWR) inaugurated in 1998 together with Hengelbrock and the two ensembles. During the 2000/2001 season, they presented the project “From the Music Library of J. S. Bach”, which afforded a fascinating glance at the works Bach considered the “classics” of his time. With a historically informed performance of Monteverdi’s Vespers, Thomas Hengelbrock and the two ensembles will undertake a tour through Germany in 2003. At the Baden-Baden Festspielhaus, Thomas Hengelbrock can be heard in 2003 with Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and in 2004 with Verdi’s Rigoletto.