Former Professor of Conducting, Berlin Music Academy; former music director, Schwerin Philharmonic, Loh Orchester Sondershausen; founder and conductor, Leipzig Academic Orchestra; many successful tours with well-known orchestras in Eastern Europe, Russia, Canada, Scandinavia, and Asia; active as musicologist and music historian; prizes include National Prize for the Promotion of Music, Leipzig Municipal Arts Prize.
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 and the Basque National Orchestra from 1994 to 1996.
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, National, Detroit, Dallas, Baltimore, Indianapolis, New Jersey, Milwaukee, Colorado and Utah symphonies, as well as 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 two performances at the Barbican in London with additional performances in Birmingham, Edinburgh, Leeds and Manchester. 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 programs, which included conducting a new work by Austrian composer Gerhard Wimberger with the Mozarteum Orchestra and an unusual, multi-media TV production of Mozart’s The Abduction From the Seraglio with the Camerata Salzburg. He has also appeared at other prestigious European festivals such as the Maggio Musicale, Bregenz and Aix en Provence. His US festival appearances include Tanglewood and the Aspen Music Festival, where he returned in the summer of 2017, as well as the Blossom 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 a rarely produced opera by Strauss, Die Feuersnot, at the famed Volksoper Vienna, for which he received the 2014 Austrian Music Theatre Prize.
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 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 was released by Naxos in the spring of 2017 and was awarded the 2017 ECHO Klassik prize for best opera recording in the category of 20th and 21st century opera.
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. He is also Professor Emeritus for Orchestral Conducting at the Universitat Mozarteum in Salzburg.
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.Photo Credit: Jeff Grass.
Born in Stockholm in 1963, Carlos Spierer was raised in Berlin. Subsequent to his Violin Studies with Fredell Lack at the University of Houston he studied conducting from 1984 to 1990 with Klauspeter Seibel at the Conservatory for Music in Hamburg. He attended several Master Classes including the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival with Leonard Bernstein in 1987, where he came first in the Conducting Competition.
His first engagement as conductor and Assistant of the Music Director took him to the Kiel Opera for five years until 1995. Further positions as Artistic and Music Director included the Gävle Symphony Orchestra in Sweden from 1997 to 2000, the Orquesta Sinfónica de Minería in Mexico City from 2003 to 2005 as well as the Young Symphony Orchestra of Hessen in 2007. From 2003 to 2011 Carlos Spierer has been Music Director of the Giessen Theatre.
In 1999 Spierer's recording of Paddington's First Concert and Poulenc's Babar the Elephant together with the Hamburg Symphony was awarded the Echo Prize.
Another recording with works of the Swedish Composer Oscar Byström together with the Gävle Symphony Orchestra was the "CD of the Year 1998" at the BBC Music Magazine.
Carlos Spierer held Guest Engagements with many renowned Orchestras and Opera Houses, including San Francisco Opera, Komische Oper Berlin, Frankfurt Opera, Estonian National Opera Tallinn, Karlsruhe Opera, German Chamber Philharmony Bremen, Brussels Radio Orchestra, Radio Symphony Orchestra Frankfurt, the Philharmonic Orchestra of Buenos Aires, the Costa Rica National Symphony Orchestra, the Saaremaa Festival in Estonia, Symphony Orchestra Odense, Orquesta Sinfonica de Paraíba, Philharmonic Ensemble and NHK Tokyo, NRK Radio Orchestra Oslo, Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Stockholm as well as the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra.