HANS ZENDER (1936 - 2019)
Hans Zender was a student at the Music High Schools of Frankfurt and Freiburg: his teachers included Fortner and Hessenberg for composition, Ueter for conducting, and Leopolder and Picht-Axenfeld for piano. Between 1959 and 1963 he was a conductor at the Freiburg City Theatre, before spending a year in Rome at the German Academy on a composition scholarship. He returned to Germany in 1964 to take up the post of first conductor at the Bonn Opera, where he stayed until 1968, when he returned to Rome for another spell at the German Academy. Having been appointed chief conductor at the Kiel Opera with effect from 1969, he was at this time the youngest musician in Germany to hold such a post. Zender stayed at Kiel for three years before taking up in 1971 what is possibly his most significant post, that of chief conductor of the Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra, which he held for thirteen years until 1984. With this orchestra he programmed a large amount of contemporary music, much of which has been preserved through radio recordings. He also led the first performance of Zimmermann’s opera Die Soldaten at Hamburg in 1977.
In 1984 Zender left Saarbrücken to become chief conductor of the Hamburg State Opera and the Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra, holding these positions for three years. One of the new works which he premièred in Hamburg was Luigi Nono’s Intolleranza. Between 1988 and 2000 he held the position of professor of composition at the Frankfurt Music High School, but continued to be active as a conductor, serving as chief conductor of the Netherlands Radio Chamber Orchestra and principal guest conductor of the La Monnaie Opera in Brussels between 1987 and 1990. Since 1999 he has shared the conductorship of the South West German Radio Symphony Orchestra, Baden-Baden, with Michael Gielen and Sylvain Cambreling.
In addition to his permanent posts Zender has appeared intermittently as a guest conductor at the Salzburg, Holland and Berlin Festivals as well as at the Bayreuth Festival in 1975, when he conducted Parsifal; and with several international orchestras including the London Symphony, BBC Symphony, and Philharmonia. In 1997 he was awarded the Goethe Prize by the City of Frankfurt. He is one of Germany’s most distinguished post-war composers: his works include two operas, Stephen Climax (1979/1984) and Don Quixote (1989/1991); a ‘composed’ re-interpretation of Schubert’s Winterreise for tenor and small orchestra; Shir hashirim for soloists, choir, orchestra and live electronics; and Bardo for cello and orchestra. However, Zender’s music has made little impact outside his native country. While his discography of contemporary works is relatively large, that of the traditional repertoire is correspondingly small, but displays a lively musical intelligence of considerable depth.