Rhinegold Photo credit: Impressum
Schiff in 2008

Katy Wright

Deputy Editor, Classical Music

Heinrich Schiff (18 November 1951 – 23 December 2016)

11:29, 3rd January 2017

Cellist and conductor Heinrich Schiff has died aged 65.

The Austrian musician was best known for his recordings of Bach’s cello music, with his recordings of the cello suites in the early 1980s among the first to combine historically informed and modern techniques.

He was also closely associated with concertos by Lutoslawski and Shostakovich, and championed contemporary repertoire, giving premieres by composers including Luciano Berio, Krzysztof Penderecki and John Casken.

Schiff built a parallel career as a conductor, making his podium debut in 1986. He held the position of artistic director with the Northern Sinfonia from 1990 to 1996 and was chief conductor of the Vienna Chamber Orchestra between 2005 and 2008.

He suffered a stroke in 2008 which virtually concluded his career as a cellist, but allowed him to continue conducting.

Born in 1951 in Austria, Schiff began to learn piano before switching to cello, studying with André Navarra and Tobias Kühne.

He made his London debut in London aged 21, and soon after stepped in for Rostropovich for a performance of the Lutoslawski concerto in Vienna.

Schiff played the ‘Mara’ Stradivarius (1711) and Montagnana’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’ (1739). His pupils included Gautier Capuçon, Truls Mørk and Natalie Clein.

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