An innovative and passionate force both on and off the conductor’s podium, Mei-Ann Chen is one of America’s most dynamic young conductors. Music Director of the Memphis Symphony since 2010 and of the Chicago Sinfonietta since 2011, she has infused both orchestras with energy, enthusiasm and high-level music-making, galvanizing their audiences and communities alike. A sought-after guest conductor, Ms. Chen’s reputation as a compelling communicator has resulted in growing popularity with orchestras both nationally and internationally.
Following debut performances with Sweden’s Gothenburg Symphony, Canada’s Calgary Philharmonic, and Brazil’s Orquestra Sinfônica de Minas Gerais, closing the season for the Wintergreen Festival in Virginia and the Texas Music Festival in Houston, and concerts with Grant Park Music Festival in Chicago, Maestra Chen’s 2014-15 season includes concerts throughout the United States and in Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, and Taiwan. Performances of note include Maestra Chen leading Germany’s Badische Staatskapelle Karlsruhe and Taiwan’s National Symphony Orchestra in November 2014, and San Francisco Symphony’s renowned Chinese New Year celebration and the Netherlands Philharmonic at the Concertgebouw in February 2015.
Recent performance highlights include an impressive debut with the Indianapolis Symphony as a last-minute step-in engagement, debuts with the Chicago Symphony on its subscription series, the San Francisco Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Houston Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony (where she stepped in on short notice and was immediately re-engaged), and San Diego Symphony nationally, and engagements abroad with Austria’s Gross Orchester Graz, Brazil’s São Paulo Symphony, Finland’s Tampere Philharmonic, the Netherlands Philharmonic, NorrlandsOperan (Norrland's Opera), the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra, and Sweden’s Göteborgs Symfoniker. Among her many North American guesting credits are appearances with the symphony orchestras of Atlanta, Baltimore, Colorado, Columbus, Florida, Fort Worth, Grand Rapids, Nashville, North Carolina, Oregon, Pacific, Phoenix, Seattle, Toronto, Vancouver, and the National Symphony in Washington, D.C. Overseas guesting credits include the principal Danish orchestras, the BBC Scottish Symphony, Bournemouth Symphony, Orquestra Sinfonica Nacional de Mexico, Norwegian Radio Orchestra, and the Trondheim Symphony. U.S. summer music festivals credits include the Aspen Music Festival, Britt, Grand Teton, Wintergreen, and the Chautauqua Institute.
In addition to the 2012 Helen M. Thompson Award from the League of American Orchestras, Mei-Ann Chen’s skill on the podium, and as a music educator, has been recognized with several honors, awards and posts. In 2005 Ms. Chen became the first woman to win Copenhagen’s esteemed Malko Competition. She served as Assistant Conductor of the Atlanta Symphony and Baltimore Symphony, under the aegis of the League of American Orchestras, with the Oregon symphony as well. Recipient of the 2007 Taki Concordia Fellowship, she has appeared jointly with Marin Alsop and Stefan Sanderling in highly acclaimed subscription concerts with the Baltimore Symphony, Colorado Symphony and Florida Orchestra. In 2002, Ms. Chen was unanimously selected as Music Director of the Portland Youth Philharmonic in Oregon, the oldest of its kind and a model for many youth orchestras in the United States. During her five-year tenure with the orchestra, she led its sold-out debut in Carnegie Hall, received an ASCAP award for innovative programming, and developed new and unique musicianship programs for the orchestra’s members. She was also the recipient of a Sunburst Award from Young Audiences for her contribution to music education.
Born in Taiwan, Mei-Ann Chen has lived in the United States since 1989. She was the first student in New England Conservatory’s history to receive master’s degrees, simultaneously, in both violin and conducting, later studying with Kenneth Kiesler at the University of Michigan, where she earned a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in conducting. Ms. Chen also participated in the National Conducting Institute in Washington, D.C. and at the American Academy of Conducting in Aspen.
Known for his wide range of repertoire and creative programming, the distinguished Austrian conductor Hans Graf is one of today's most highly respected musicians.
Appointed Music Director of the Houston Symphony in 2001, Mr. Graf concluded his tenure in May 2013 and is the longest serving Music Director in the orchestra’s history. Prior to his appointment in Houston, he was the Music Director of the Calgary Philharmonic for eight seasons and held the same post with the Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine for six years. He also led the Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra from 1984 to 1994.
Hans Graf is a frequent guest with all of the major North American orchestras. His recent and upcoming guest engagements include appearances with the Cleveland and Philadelphia Orchestras, the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics, the Boston, San Francisco, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Detroit, Dallas, Baltimore, indianapolis, Milwaukee, Colorado, Utah and National symphonies and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra among others. Mr. Graf made his Carnegie Hall debut with the Houston Symphony in January 2006 and returned to Carnegie leading the Orchestra of St. Luke's in March 2007. He and the Houston Symphony were re-invited to appear at Carnegie Hall in January 2010, at which time they presented the New York premiere of The Planets – An HD Odyssey, featuring the orchestra playing Holst’s famous work, The Planets, accompanied by exclusive high definition images from NASA’s exploration of the solar system. Mr. Graf and the Houston Symphony returned to Carnegie Hall again in May 2012 to participate in Carnegie’s Spring for Music festival with an all-Shostakovich program.
In Europe, Mr. Graf has conducted the Vienna and London Philharmonics, Vienna Symphony, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra as well as the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Deutsches Symphony Orchestra Berlin, Bavarian Radio Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Dresden Philharmonic, Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic among others. He is also a regular guest with the Sydney Symphony and the Hong Kong, Malaysia and Seoul Philharmonics.
In October 2010, Mr. Graf led the Houston Symphony on a tour of the UK which included performances in Birmingham, Edinburgh, Leeds, Manchester and two performances at the Barbican in London. And in June 2012, the Houston Symphony, led by Mr. Graf, was the first major American orchestra to appear at the Festival of World Symphony Orchestras in Moscow, presenting two programs which included Bruckner 9, the Russian premiere of John Adams’ Doctor Atomic Symphony, and the first performance in Russia by an American orchestra of Shostakovich Symphony No. 11.
During the summer of 2013, Mr. Graf returned to the Salzburg Festival for three different performances, including conducting a new work by Austrian composer Gerhard Wimberger with the Mozarteum Orchestra and leading an unusual, multi-media TV production of Mozart’s The Abduction From the Seraglio with the Camerata Salzburg. He has also participated in other such prestigious European festivals as the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Bregenz and Aix en Provence. His US festival appearances include Tanglewood, Blossom Music Festival, Aspen Music Festival, Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival and the Grant Park Music Festival in downtown Chicago.
An experienced opera conductor, Mr. Graf first conducted the Vienna State Opera in 1981 and has since led productions in the opera houses of Berlin, Munich, Paris and Rome among others. His extensive opera repertoire includes several world premieres. Recent opera engagements include Parsifal at the Zurich Opera, Boris Godunov at the Opera National du Rhin in Strasbourg, and two rarely produced operas by Strauss and Korngold at the famed Volksoper Vienna.
Hans Graf has recorded for the EMI, Orfeo, CBC, Erato, Capriccio and JVC labels and his extensive discography includes the complete symphonies of Mozart and Schubert, the premiere recording of Zemlinsky's opera Es war einmal and the complete orchestral works of Dutilleux, which he recorded under the supervision of the composer with the Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine for BMG Arte Nova. His recordings with the Houston Symphony include Bartok’s Wooden Prince for Koch International; Zemlinsky’s Lyric Symphony, Berg’s Three Pieces from the Lyric Suite and Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde for Naxos; and a DVD of The Planets – An HD Odyssey, available through the Houston Symphony. His most recent recordings are the complete works by Paul Hindemith for viola and orchestra with Tabea Zimmermann and the Deutsches Symphony Orchestra Berlin and a live recording of Carmina Burana with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. In addition, a recording of a live performance of Wozzeck with the Houston Symphony is due to be released by Naxos in the fall of 2015.
Born near Linz, Hans Graf first studied violin and piano. After receiving diplomas in piano and conducting from the Musikhochschule in Graz, he continued his studies in Italy with Franco Ferrara and Sergui Celibadache and in Russia with Arvid Jansons. Mr. Graf has been awarded the Chevalier de l'Ordre de la Legion d'Honneur by the French government for championing French music around the world as well as the Grand Decoration of Honour in Gold for Services to the Republic of Austria.
Franz Anton Krager*
American born and trained conductor, Franz Anton Krager, has made his artistic presence felt both at home and abroad with performance engagements in some of the world's most celebrated concert halls and musical centers. Since making his prize-winning European conducting debut in Copenhagen's Tivoli Koncertsalen in 1978, Krager has led orchestras in the Leipzig Gewandhaus, Moscow's State Kremlin Palace, Manchester England's Bridgewater Hall, Birmingham England's Adrian Boult Hall, Guangzhou China's Xinghai Music Center, the Sydney Opera House, Amsterdam Congresgebouw, Kazan's State Philharmonic Hall in Russia, Guadalajara's Degollado Theater, and Sarasota's Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. His affiliations with leading music festivals include the Lancaster International Concert Series and the Lichfield and Aberystwyth International Arts Festivals in the U.K., the "Puccini e la sua Lucca," "Lago di Como," "Lunatica," "Pianomaster," "Sinfonico," "Giovedì a Teatro," "Scarlino Castello," and "All Around Jazz" festivals in Italy, and the Texas Music Festival and Interlochen National Music Camp in the U.S.
Maestro Krager's roster of conducting engagements is a full collection of international and domestic appearances in both the professional and academic arenas. He has led the Houston Symphony; Russian State Symphony; Romanian and Kazan State Philharmonics; Honolulu and Florida West Coast Symphonies; Chetham's Symphony Orchestra and Musicfest International Orchestra (U.K.); Symphony Orchestra of Berlin; Akademisches Orchester Leipzig; Koriyama Symphony Orchestra (Japan); Riverside Philharmonic (CA); Traverse Symphony Orchestra (MI); East and Mid-Texas Symphony Orchestras; Texas and Oakland (CA) Ballet Companies, Houston Ballet Ben Stevenson Academy, Sandra Organ Dance Company (TX); the chamber orchestras of Stratford ("Orchestra of the Swan," where he was principal guest conductor from 2000-2004), Birmingham and Leamington (U.K.); Deutsche Kammerakademie Neuss am Rhein (Germany); Orchestra Sinfonica Citta' di Grosseto, Guido d'Arezzo, and Orchestra Sinfonica del Conservatorio Jacopo Tomadini (Italy); the Missouri Chamber Orchestra; and the Round Top Festival-Institute.
In 2000, Krager served as General & Artistic Director for "Shostakovich 2000," a five-day international music festival marking the 25th anniversary of Shostakovich's death. "Shostakovich 2000" drew people to Houston from across the U.S., Europe, and Russia, and was recognized by the DSCH Journal as a major world event for ballet, opera, chamber, and orchestral music by Shostakovich. Krager again conducted Shostakovich, in 2003, with the Russian State Symphony Orchestra & Symphonic Cappella and Alexander Kisselev of the Bolshoi Theatre, inside the State Kremlin Palace in Moscow. This command performance, initiated by the Kremlin authorities, was given in honor of the great Russian poet, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, on the occasion of his 70th birthday. Krager conducted to a packed house of 6500 people. Maestro Krager made his European opera-conducting debut, in 2004, with the Stagione Lirica in the Tuscany region of Italy. This production of Puccini's "Tosca" was met with great enthusiasm by the Italian public and received rave reviews from the Italian press. In 2005 and again in 2008, Krager was invited to be a jury member for the prestigious Concurso Internacional de Piano Compositores de Espana in Madrid. In 2006, he was appointed as Artistic Consultant for the World Holocaust Forum Foundation's "Let My People Live," the International Forum in commemoration of the 65th anniversary of the tragedy in Babi Yar, Kiev, Ukraine. This event garnered global media attention and included state delegations from several countries including the Presidents of Israel and Ukraine. Krager also directed a three-day international music festival in Houston celebrating the great Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius. The "Jean Sibelius Festival 2006," like "Shostakovich 2000," drew people to Houston from across the U.S. and abroad.
Choral engagements include the Houston Symphony Chorus; the Chorus of the Gruppo Polifonico "Francesco Coradini," Corale Giacomo Puccini di Grosseto (Italy); and the Asaka Women's Chorus (Japan). Krager has worked with some of the pre-eminent artists of our time. In conjunction with the Moores School of Music, he has collaborated with Robert Shaw, William Warfield, Maxim Shostakovich, Marilyn Horne, John Corigliano, Joan Tower, Horacio Gutiérrez, and Sergei Leiferkus.
Krager is Professor of Conducting, Director of Orchestras, and Chair of the Conducting Department at the University of Houston Moores School of Music, where he has brought the orchestra and orchestral conducting program into the realm of national prominence. The Moores School Orchestra is heard frequently on National Public Radio and has commercially recorded the music of Michael Horvit, Peter Lieuwen, Robert Nelson, and Stephen Shewan on compact disc for Albany Records.
Maestro Krager is also Music Director & Chief Conductor of the Texas Music Festival, Founding Artistic Director of the Virtuosi of Houston, Artist-in-Residence at The Kinkaid School, Evaluator/Clinician for the Orchestra America National Festival, and has been a summer lecturer-in-residence at the Italart Santa Chiara Study Center, near Florence, Italy, since 1987.
Originally from Detroit, Krager's musical training included the study of percussion, piano, theory, composition, and conducting with Elizabeth A. H. Green at the University of Michigan. As a young conductor, Krager was one of a select group invited to participate in the famed Herbert von Karajan International Conducting Competition, winning acclaim in the Berlin press. "His appearance, his poise clearly reveal his experience," proclaimed the Berliner Morgenpost. In Amsterdam, the Haagsche Courant hailed him as a "great musical talent." England's Liverpool Daily Post stated that "American conductor Franz Anton Krager produced a performance full of life, vivacity and enthusiasm." The Leipziger Volkszeitung in Germany praised "Krager's unusual Schwung and Esprit brought to the Gewandhaus." In the American press, the Houston Chronicle has cited his "well-prepared earnestness; assured, committed performances; effectiveness; and heartfelt sincerity." The Tampa Tribune declared that the Florida West Coast Symphony organization "would be smart to grab Franz Anton Krager, who won over the sellout crowd..."
Maestro Krager has been active for over 25 years as a champion of new music, conducting and recording many premieres of works commissioned and/or produced from the Moores School of Music and Brazos Valley Symphony resident composer programs.
In 1984, after a six-year Assistant Professorship at the University of Missouri-Columbia, Krager relocated to Texas with appointments to the Brazos Valley Symphony Orchestra and Texas A&M University. His ensuing twelve-year tenure as Music Director of the Brazos Valley Symphony Orchestra and Brazos Sinfonietta was lauded by visiting artists of international stature as a model for regional orchestras in the United States.
Carl St. Clair
Music Director of the Pacific Symphony for more than two decades, Carl St. Clair has become widely recognized for his musically distinguished performances, innovative approaches to programming, and commitment to outstanding educational programs. The largest ensemble formed in the United States during the last forty years, the Pacific Symphony’s rapid artistic development is due largely to Mr. St. Clair’s leadership. During the orchestra’s first European tour several years ago, they consistently played to packed houses and received rave reviews.
Most recently, Mr. St. Clair has been named Music Director of the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Costa Rica. Now in its 73rd season, the orchestra is a well-established regional and national orchestra serving the entire country.
Also an active guest conductor, Carl St. Clair has led the Boston Symphony (where he served as assistant conductor for several years), Los Angeles Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, The Philadelphia Orchestra, and the symphonies of Atlanta, Detroit, Fort Worth, Houston, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Montreal, Nashville, San Francisco, Sarasota, Seattle, Toronto, and Vancouver, to name a few. Worldwide, he has guest conducted numerous orchestras in Europe, South America, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and Japan. Summer festival appearances include Schleswig-Holstein, Pacific (Japan), Round Top, Breckenridge, Wintergreen (Virginia), Texas Music Festival/ Houston, and Tanglewood.
Largely influenced by his close association with Leonard Bernstein, Mr. St. Clair’s commitment to the development and performance of new works by American composers is evident in the wealth of commissions and recordings by the Pacific Symphony. Under his guidance, the orchestra has commissioned works such as Philip Glass’s The Passion of Ramakrishna; William Bolcom’s song cycle, Canciones de Lorca (premiered by Placido Domingo); and Chen Yi’s cello concerto Ballad, Dance and Fantasy composed for cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Many have been subsequently recorded, including Richard Danielpour’s An American Requiem on Reference Recordings and Elliot Goldenthal’s Fire Water Paper: A Vietnam Oratorio on Sony Classical with cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Other recordings include the highly acclaimed CD of later works by Toru Takemitsu for Sony Classical, and works by John Corigliano and Frank Ticheli for Koch Classics. Additional commissioned composers include Zhou Long, Tobias Picker, and Christopher Theofanidis.
Mr. St. Clair has also been general music director and chief conductor of the German National Theater and Staatskapelle (GNTS) in Weimar, Germany (the first non-European to hold this position); general music director of the Komische Oper in Berlin; and principal guest conductor of the SDR/Stuttgart, where he successfully completed a three-year recording project of the complete Villa-Lobos symphonies.
Carl St.Clair has had a continuing relationship with the USC Thornton School of Music for over 20 years. Since the 2005-06 season, he has been principal conductor of the USC Thornton orchestras and a faculty lecturer in conducting. In 2012, he took on an expanded role as artistic leader and principal conductor of the USC Thornton orchestras.