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Henrik Schaefer is a regular fixture on the podium at opera houses and symphony orchestras across the world, proving himself an engaged partner with strong musical ideas. The Bochum-born musician started his conducting career as an assistant to Claudio Abbado and served as Music Director of the Gothenburg Opera from 2014 until the end of the 2019/20 season.
Following his debut at the house in 2007 he led the company in lauded productions of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro and The Magic Flute, Strauss’ Daphne, Thomas’ Hamlet and most recently with Madame Butterfly. His commitment to unknown romantic repertoire is demonstrated in concerts, opera productions and first recordings of re-discovered works by composers such as Elfrida Andrée, Wilhelm Stenhammar, Joachim Raff and August Klughardt.
From 2004 to 2011 Henrik Schaefer was Principal Guest Conductor of the Hiroshima Symphony Orchestra, and from 2007 to 2013 he was Chief Conductor of the Wermland Opera Karlstad, where he found international recognition through his performances of the complete Ring cycle using historical instruments. For his performance of Parsifal, which marked his debut at the house, he already conducted extensive research into the performance practice of string instruments in the 19th century.
As Music Director designate of the Stockholm Folkopera, he initiated the founding of a period instrument orchestra for his first production, taking his passion for the romantic performance practice another step further.
International guest appearances include the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Netherlands Philharmonic, Mozarteumorchester Salzburg, Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, New Japan Philharmonic, Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Antwerp Symphony. In addition, he led productions at the Leipzig Opera (The Marriage of Figaro), the Hong Kong Opera (The Flying Dutchman) as well as at the Vienna Volksoper (The Magic Flute), the Stockholm Folkoperan (Massenet’s Don Quichotte), and in 2020 at the Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre (La Traviata with the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra.
Henrik Schaefer studied viola at the Folkwang University of Arts in Essen as well as with Ulrich Koch and Kim Kashkashian in Freiburg. In 1991 he was made the youngest member of the Berlin Philharmonic at 22 years of age, performing with the great conductors of the day including Carlos Kleiber, Sergiu Celibidache, Ricardo Muti, Seiji Ozawa, Lorin Maazel and Bernard Haitink. During this time he studied conducting from 1994 to 1998 at the University of Music and Theatre Leipzig with Volker Rohde. In 2000 Claudio Abbado named him as his assistant at the Berlin Philharmonic, and he increasingly supported the Maestro in performances of repertoire including Tristan and Isolde, Parsifal, Falstaff as well as the symphonies of Mahler and Bruckner. Following Abbado’s departure from Berlin in 2003, Henrik Schaefer decided to dedicate himself totally to conducting – a decision that was quickly followed by the success of his performance of The Rite of Spring with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and the Leipzig Ballet (documented on DVD for the Arthaus label).
The conductor has an ongoing commitment to supporting young musicians and singers, including work at the Dutch National Opera Academy and the Hanyang University in Seoul as well as his current position as Artistic Director of the study programme Master of Orchestra Performance at Gothenburg University.
This biography is to be reproduced without any changes, omissions or additions, unless expressly authorised by the artist management.
Henrik Schaefer conducted with a light touch, bringing out the bounce and rhythm of Rossini’s music and marshalling the set pieces with ease.
Seen and Heard International, Niklas Smith, 09/04/2018
Schaefer manages to balance these complex developments and the art of balancing continues in his Brahms interpretation. Here you can hear how close this music is to his heart. He seems to have an album of ideas and and an archive of sounds and the details are always taken care of. But what convinces especially is the big form, the long lines and the energies that ewoke when different passages mirror one another.
Göteborgsposten, Magnus Haglund, 16/09/2016
Conductor Henrik Schaefer gives us a Mozart interpretation, which is full of swing and lightness and sometimes has breathtaking tempochanges and accelerations.
DAGENS NYHETER., Martin Nyström, 30/11/2009
So one came up with the idea to move the entire orchestra with conductor to the 2nd balcony, basically the gallery right under the roof. And what happens? We can enjoy a very unusual Wagner-sound! The instruments appear much clearer and it is almost a quadrophonic experience. It feels like one is sitting within the orchestra, but it almost never gets too loud. And in the tutti, despite the rather small number of musicians, everything sounds very compact. (…) Henrik Schaefer instructed them as all other strings to play with portamento and they play on gut-strings to come closer to the original sound from Wagner's times. A very interesting experiment that the excellent and very energetic conductor Henrik Schaefer, who always choses the right tempi, wants to continue. Another ”plus” of this orchestra setting were the much clearer audible voices that were much better imbedded into this soundspace.
Der neue Merker, Klaus Billand, 20/04/2011
The orchestra of the Wermland Opera is hidden on the upper balcony and spreads a sort of surround-sound that is in perfect balance with the singers on stage. Just as Wagner desired: the orchestra is invisible and does not disturb the contact between singers and audiences in any kind. They also play with seductive portamenti that weld together all ”Leitmotive” to pure gold. Conductor Henrik Schaefer does not only know why he has to do this, but also how and that makes his interpretation so unbelievably convincing!
A self-glowing and brave interpretation. There is a lightness in the voices which leads to a sort of trampolineffect, thanks to the congenial interpretation of the score by conductor Henrik Schaefer. The Orchestra played an immensely fine performance, with an emphasis on fast and volatile passion.
Göteborgsposten, Magnus Haglund, 30/11/2009
Henrik Schaefer conducted as sensitively as Mr Benke Rydman choreographed, bringing a beautiful shimmering sound from the orchestra but also rhythmic precision. The drama was heightened by an impressive dynamic range. The audience was spellbound during the performance, erupting into a standing ovation at the end.
Seen and Heard International, Niklas Smith, 07/06/2015
Karlstad Opera’s Parsifal in Karlstad Cathedral is breathtaking. An affecting encounter that effectively uses the sacred space (…) Musically, it’s ravishing. The conductor Henrik Schaefer does not only have a firm hold on the form, he also manages to give the reinforced orchestra the sombre and yet shimmering tone that is unique to this work, the reed-section precise in their legato and tastefully executed portamenti in the strings – along with an excellent first trumpet.
DAGNES NYHETER., Thomas Anderberg, 27/02/2007
|J. Haydn||Lo speziale|
|P. Hindemith||The long Christmas Dinner|
|E. Humperdinck||Hänsel und Gretel|
|J. Massenet||Don Quichotte|
|W. A. Mozart||Le nozze di Figaro|
|Così fan tutte|
|The Magic Flute|
|G. Puccini||La Bohème|
|F. Poulenc||Dialogues des Carmélites|
|H. Purcell||Dido and Aeneas|
|G. Rossini||Il barbiere di Siviglia|
|A. Salieri||Prima la musica e poi le parole|
|W. Stenhammer||Gildet på Solhaug|
|R. Strauss||Ariadne auf Naxos|
|P. Tchaikovsky||Eugene Onegin|
|G. Verdi||La Traviata|
|R. Wagner||Das Rheingold|
|The Flying Dutchman|
|Concert repertoire available upon request|
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Henrik Schaefer, Symphony Orchestra of Norrköping
Sterling, 2015, CDO 1108/1110-2
Henrik Schaefer, Michael Müller (violoncello), Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra
Etcetera, 2014, KTC 1371
Henrik Schaefer, Suanna Andersson (soprano), Stockholm Singers, Karlstads Chamber Choir, Göteborg Opera Orchestra
Sterling, 2013, CDS 1088-2
Henrik Schaefer, Göteborgs Operaorkester
Sterlin, 2012, CDS 1099/1100-2
Henrik Schaefer, New Japan Philharmonic
Exton, 2010, OVCL-00422
Henrik Schaefer i.a.
Quattro Live, 2010
Henrik Schaefer, Nederlandas Dans Theater,
Arthaus Musik, 2007, 7522091
Henrik Schaefer, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Medici Arts, 2008