Heinrich Schiff

Heinrich Schiff (18 November 1951 – 23 December 2016) was an Austrian cellist and conductor.

Early lifeEdit

Heinrich Schiff was born on 18 November 1951 in Gmunden, Austria.[1] His parents, Helga (née Riemann) and Helmut Schiff, were composers.[1] He studied cello with Tobias Kühne and André Navarra and made his solo debut in Vienna and London in 1971. He studied conducting with Hans Swarowsky.


Schiff made his conducting debut in 1986.[1] He was Artistic Director of the Northern Sinfonia from 1990 to 1996,[1] and recorded with them for the Collins Classics label.[2] He also held chief conductorships with the Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra in Copenhagen, Denmark (1996–2000), and the Orchester Musikkollegium Winterthur (1996-2001[3]).

In 2004, he was appointed Chief Conductor of the Vienna Chamber Orchestra and served in the post from 2005 to 2008.[1] He stood down from the post in 2008 for health reasons.[4]

Schiff played the "Mara" Stradivarius (1711) and "Sleeping Beauty" made by Montagnana in Venice in 1739.[5] His recording of the Bach Cello Suites won prizes, and his recording of the Shostakovich concertos won the Grand Prix du Disque in 1985.[1] His recording of the Brahms Double Concerto with Frank Peter Zimmermann and Wolfgang Sawallisch won the Deutscher Schallplattenpreis. Composers who have written cello concertos for Schiff include John Casken[2][5] and Friedrich Gulda.[6]

Among his students were Rudi Spring, Gautier Capuçon, Richard Harwood and Natalie Clein.


Schiff frequently experienced pain in his right shoulder and arm, the one that holds the bow, presumably caused by overexertion, but tried to ignore it. While playing in a chamber concert in Vienna on 25 April 2010 he had to take breaks during pieces due to the pain. After this evening, he never played cello in public again.[7]

Since 2012, the 'Mara' Cello has been played by Christian Poltéra, one of Schiff's former students.[8][9]


Schiff died in Vienna on 23 December 2016 at the age of 65.[1][10]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Millington, Barry (December 30, 2016). "Heinrich Schiff obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved January 1, 2017.
  2. ^ a b Andrew Clements (2003-07-04). "Casken: Darting the Skiff; Maharal Dreaming, etc: Schiff/ Northern Sinfonia/ Casken". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-02-07.
  3. ^ ""Sechs Jahre, die wir nicht missen möchten" | NZZ". Neue Zürcher Zeitung.
  4. ^ "Stefan Vladar neuer Chefdirigent des Wiener Kammerorchesters". Vienna Online. 2008-05-16. Retrieved 2009-02-07.
  5. ^ a b Griffiths, Bill, Northern Sinfonia. Northumbria University Press, p. 21 (ISBN 1904794076).
  6. ^ Andrew Clements (1999-08-10). "Colour and spice: Gulda's Cello Concerto (Royal Albert Hall / Radio 3)". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-02-07.
  7. ^ Amling, Ulrich (23 December 2016). "Zum Tod des Cellisten Heinrich Schiff". Der Tagesspiegel. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  8. ^ "Christian Poltéra". www.christianpoltera.com.
  9. ^ zeit.de 7 May 2015 / Carolin Pirich: Oh, Mara!
  10. ^ Jahn, Johann (23 December 2016). "ZUM TOD DES CELLISTEN UND DIRIGENTEN". br-klassik.de.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

Cultural offices
Preceded by Artistic Director, Northern Sinfonia
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chief Conductor, Orchester Musikkollegium Winterthur
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Okko Kamu (first guest conductor)
Chief Conductor, Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Christoph Eberle
Chief Conductor, Vienna Chamber Orchestra
Succeeded by
Stefan Vladar