Cornelius Meister, conductor

Who or what inspired you to take up conducting and pursue a career in music?

Somehow I always knew that I wanted to conduct. As a small child I used to conduct to our record player and loved doing it.

Who or what are the most significant influences on your musical life?

Well, I had the great fortune that my father, who was a piano professor at the Hannover University for Music and Theatre, could accompany me until his death when I was 22 years old. I wasn’t only his piano pupil and later his student, but I was greatly inspired by him (though he never actually taught me) to become a conductor: he helped me develop a fine hearing and to distinguish excellent scores, and enabled me to read music at a glance. All important skills for a travelling concert musician.

What, for you, is the most challenging part of being a conductor? And the most fulfilling aspect?

Before the first sound is played, it usually takes years of excercise. In my field not only does one need an exact knowledge of the piece but also an awareness of which bars are particularly difficult and need to be rehearsed more than others. Sometimes it’s hard to have a conversation with partners who have not dealt with the material profoundly enough. But once we are allowed to play music, I’m always the happiest of men.

As a conductor, how do you communicate your ideas about a work to the orchestra?

Ideally, hardly with words but more with my poise and movements: First, I need to feel in my whole body how the next movement should sound. Once I can feel it precicely then it automatically flows to my fellow musicians. The external composure can never be achieved without an inner one.

How exactly do you see your role? Inspiring the players/singers? Conveying the vision of the composer?

We are, hopefully, all servants to the music. The composers, especially, who can no longer stand up for themselves because they are already dead, deserve our respect. I hope also to be able to serve as a role model and inspiration for others whether they are musicians or music lovers or haven’t discovered for themselves music, art or theatre.

Other than this, both social and evironmental issues are very important to me.

Is there one work which you would love to conduct?

This is the most wonderful thing at this stage of my career: I can choose which composers I want to conduct. I only conduct pieces I love.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in?

To be honest, I’m a great fan of the historical opera houses and concert halls. It’s a wonderful feeling that we can today enjoy standard repertoire in places where the pieces were once premiered in the presence of composers who were possibly still unknown then.

Who are your favourite musicians/composers?

Check out corneliusmeister.net – there you will find them all!

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

I never wish musicians to have a “successful” concert but rather a happy and moving performance.

Independently from the whole circus around the music world and the constant aim to trying and measure success in objective criterias of “good” and “bad” – none of this will guide us to the core of this art, thank good!

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Don’t think of your technical skills, don’t only think of music but also learn about history, literature and foreign cultures. Discover nature, listen to each other and take care of the world so that it truly becomes a liveable place for everyone!


Cornelius Meister was appointed Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra (RSO) in 2010. Having been appointed by the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo, as Principle Guest Conductor starting this season, he will also begin his tenure as General Music Director at the Stuttgart State Opera and Stuttgart State Orchestra, effective 2018. In 2016, he received an International Opera Award for the best production of the season with the Vienna production of ‘Peter Grimes’.

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(Photo: Marco Borggreve)

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