Berlin Philharmonic viola gets conducting career

Wolfram Christ, principal viola in Berlin for 20 years, has been gathering conducting dates for the past decade.

Now, he’s got an agent.

Conducting’s becoming a bit like brain surgery. After you’ve seen a few good ones, you think anyone can do it.


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  • Why such malice, Mr Lebrecht? Have you seen him conduct? Was it terrible?

    Mr Christ is a fine musician: both an exceptionally gifted soloist and a superb team player (something one certainly can’t say about all musicians). Watch the Lucerne Festival DVDs!

  • Playing the viola for decades should give him a unique knowledge and understanding of the inner workings of a score and how to balance its individual strands.
    I certainly have learned a lot more about orchestration, blend and balance from playing 3rd and 4rth trumpet than from all those years on 1st, since it is in the middle register where all the instruments can come together and create unique blends of sounds. It is also here where a lot of the sound character of an orchestra’s or conductor’s typical sound (Giulini anyone) can take its foundation. I certainly wish Mr Christ the best.
    PS: Mr Lebrecht, how about an interview series/documentary/… about how a conductor’s own instrument informs his conducting?

  • He’s probably much better than your typical young American conductor, who failed at their instrument, got a Master’s in conducting, and happens to have the right look.

    • You are so spot on! Having the “right look” seems to be the biggest qualification nowadays. Musicianship and knowing the repertoire don’t count for much.

    • Archaeopteryx, I just want to say that you have chosen an excellent moniker!!! I love this fossil, and just recently saw the Berlin specimen at the Naturkundemuseum!

  • Wolfram Christ was a superb soloist in Maazel’s BPO recording of Harold in Italie and, more recently, made a fine disc of symphonies by CPE Bach. If anyone can encourage fine music-making from the podium, after a long professional career in arguably the finest orchestra in the world, I’m sure Mr Christ can.
    Incidentally, I bumped into Mr Christ and family in the street last summer, and far from acting like a ‘call-me-God’ brain surgeon, he seemed quite astonished that he should be recognised – in Nottingham!….. NL often (rightly) castigates arrogance on this website; let’s hope musical excellence and personal modesty does not become a target too.

  • Mr. Christ left the Berlin Philharmonic about 15 years ago, if I’m not mistaken. Pretty early “reitrement” given that he’s now only about 60. But he’s very experienced at making music at very high levels, and I’d expect he would make a terrific conductor.

  • I would expect a seasoned orchestral musician to know far more about the inner workings of an orchestra than the typical whiz kid who went to conservatoire to learn conducting. The latter may be able to conduct The Rite of Spring brilliantly in front of the hi-fi, but the former will have the music in his/her body and soul.

  • One uses to say that a bad violinist will become a violist and a bad violist will be a conductor.
    Would it be logical to presume that a good violist will be a great conductor ??

  • An orchestra player turned conductor should in most cases at least have a profound understanding how an orchestra functions. It never ceases to amaze me how many pure bred conductors are unable or unwilling to grasp this, sometimes even after lifelong and commercially successful careers.

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