Music Director Laureate
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. He currently holds the title of Conductor Laureate. 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, Vancouver, Milwaukee 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, Hong Kong Philharmonic and Seoul Philharmonic.
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 returns 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 and Boris Godunov at the Opera National du Rhin in Strasbourg.
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 recording is the complete works by Paul Hindemith for viola and orchestra with Tabea Zimmermann and the Deutsches Symphony Orchestra Berlin for Myrios.
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. From October 2013 he will be a Professor of Orchestral Conducting at the University Mozarteum Salzburg.
Mario Bernardi, former Principal Conductor of the CBC Vancouver Symphony and Conductor Laureate of the Calgary Philharmonic, was born in Canada of Italian heritage. He received his early musical training in Italy at the Venice Conservatory, returned to his native Canada to complete studies at the Royal Conservatory in Toronto, and went on to establish a considerable reputation as a pianist.
He made his operatic conducting debut in 1957 with the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel. Subsequent appearances in Canada led to an invitation in 1963 to conduct the Sadlers Wells Opera, where he was appointed Music Director in 1966. During this time, he made numerous guest appearances including debuts with the London Symphony and the Royal Philharmonic.
In 1969, Maestro Bernardi became the Music Director of the new National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa, a position he held for thirteen seasons. In addition he was the Artistic Director of the National Arts Centre’s highly successful Summer Opera Festival which produced over twenty operas from 1971 to 1982.
In 1984, Maestro Bernardi became the Music Director of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, a position he held until 1992. During his tenure, the Calgary Philharmonic recorded a number of critically-acclaimed compact discs and rose to become one of the top orchestras in Canada. Maestro’s Bernardi’s guest conducting appearances take him throughout the world, and he continues to record with all major Canadian orchestras.
Maestro Bernardi passed away on June 2, 2013 at the age of 82.