Vita – long

His career took him to numerous orchestras in Austria and abroad including the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, the Sinfonieorchester Basel, the Bochum Symphony Orchestra, the Rheinland-Pfalz State Philharmonic Orchestra, the Warsaw Philharmonic, Germany’s SR (Saarbrücken/Kaiserslautern), WDR (Cologne), BR (Munich), NDR (Hannover), and MDR (Leipzig) radio orchestras, the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Bruckner Orchestra Linz, the Slovak Philharmonic, and many others.

Ernst Theis has been represented by the renowned Japanese agency JAPAN ARTS since 2015, and he made his debut with the Osaka Symphony Orchestra in June 2018.

From 2003 to 2013, Theis served as head conductor of the Dresden State Operetta, which was in the midst of a crisis when he arrived. His decidedly conceptual and visionary approach to their artistic work together subsequently helped this institution break into the recording market, brought about a gradually increasing number of guest appearances in renowned concert halls such as the Philharmonie in Cologne, the Laeiszhalle in Hamburg, and the Brucknerhaus in Linz, and drew repeated invitations to renowned festivals such as the Kurt-Weill-Fest in Dessau. 2011 witnessed a political decision to construct a new theatre, which was opened in December 2016—thus ensuring the survival of this institution.

After ten years in Dresden, Ernst Theis left his post in order to devote himself to new ideas—but he did remain true to his established concepts such as “RadioMusiken”, a project built around a series of recordings in collaboration with the Berlin’s Academy of the Arts, Deutschlandradio, Mitteldeutscher Runkfunk, and the German CD label CPO. He presented this project together with the MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra at Leipzig’s tradition-steeped Gewandhaus in February 2020 to exuberant audience reactions.

Theis records for his CD label CPO with orchestras including the Deutsche Radiophilharmonie Saarbrücken Kaiserlautern, the Munich Radio Orchestra, and the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra. The artistic breadth of his work now ranges from early Viennese classicism to avant-garde repertoire, which he realises successfully with numerous orchestras on multiple continents. Since 2017, he has also served as artistic director of the festival KLANGBADHALL. And his newest project is the FreudeNOW Festival, the launch of which was planned for 2020 but has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2021, Ernst Theis will make his debut appearance at the Deutsche Oper Berlin with a symphonic programme featuring Ute Lemper entitled The Roaring Twenties.

Following three major high points of 2011, the Austrian premier of the RadioMusiken Projekt on 20 March Brucknerhaus Linz, his invitation to the International Brucknerfest Linz on 29 September with Gustav Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde with mezzo-soprano Brigitte Printer and tenor Herbert Lippert, and finally the 1st annual Johann Strauss Festival Dresden which lead to his intensive work with the compositions of Johann Strauss and Jacques Offenbach, Ernst Theis gave his debut with the NDR Radio Symphony Orchestra Hannover on 19 January 2012, which proved to be yet another success for the Austrian conductor.
His compelling collaboration as guest conductor at the Weill Fest Dessau in 2010 has recently earned him an invitation to return to this noteworthy festival in 2013. On 10 March of that year, Ernst Theis will be at the baton with works by Kurt Weill and his contemporaries.

As for his achievement within the oeuvre of classical modernism, Ernst Theis’ first invitation to the Kurt Weill Festival 2011 (Dessau) was of special significance.

With his performance of Leben in dieser Zeit (by Edmund Nick with text by Erich Kästner), one of the principal compositions for radio of the 1920s, he generated an echo of lasting success. He was then invited back to this important German music festival immediately thereafter by impresario Michael Kaufmann. Consequentially, Ernst Theis has returned full circle to his earlier pursuits during his years of work with modern masterpieces in the 1990s. His concert repertoire includes a wide range of works from this period.

Ernst Theis has been working on and expanding RadioMusiken, a highly specialized project, in Dresden since 2005. This collaborative project between the Mittel Deutsche Radio, Germany Kultur, the Academy of Arts in Berlin, the German record label CPO, and the Dresden State Operetta produces radio performances and recordings of compositions that were written for radio between 1925 and 1935. To date, the project has produced Two Orchestral Suites by Franz Schreker and Ernst Toch, Radio Overtureby Pavel Haas, Berliner Requiem by Kurt Weill, Tänzerische Suite by Edward Künneke, Radio Music No. 1 and 2 by Max Butting, Balladen und Bänkel by Wilhelm Grosz, and the abovementioned radio play Leben in dieser Zeit by Edmund Nick and Erich Kästner, as well as radio plays Mord by Walter Gronostay and Sabinchen by Paul Hindemith. For Sabinchen, Ernst Theis took it upon himself to reconstruct Paul Hindemith’s missing original instrumentation.

The recording of Leben in dieser Zeit was broadcast on Germany Kultur, WDR and MDR to within a few days of its successful release in November 2008.

The next year, alongside a recording of Dimitri Schostakowitsch’s 5th Symphony (Staatskapelle Dresden, Jury Kondraschin, 1965) this recording was to become one of two contributions from Saxony to be broadcast on all ARD stations on the radio programme, 60 Deutsche Jahre. The high-point of this production was its presentation at the Kurt Weill Festival in Dessau 2001 ( To achieve this level of performance sustainability and simultaneous recognition among experts is indeed rare for musical re-discoveries. Ernst Theis has been chief conductor of the Dresden State Operetta since the beginning of the season 2003/04. This ensemble has been working to build a new performance space and he has supported this project with his artistic contributions and great personal commitment. His work with the compositions of Johann Strauss and Jacques Offenbach has been attracting the attention of the musical theater community for years. Together with the director of the Dresden Theatre, Wolfgang Schaller, he initiated the promotion of the lesser-known works of Johann Strauss with the project Der Unbekannte Johann Strauss (The unknown Johann Strauss). What followed were stage productions and complete recordings of the Strauss operettas The Queen’s Lace Handkerchief, Carnival in Rome and Prince Methuselah as well as La Périchole by Jacques Offenbach, which was the first production of the Der deutsche Offenbach project. This work lead to become part of the above-mentioned 1st Johann Strauss Festival Dresden in 2011.

Previous Achievements

So far Ernst Theis’ concert career has lead him to conduct such Orchestras as the St. Petersburg and Hamburg Symphony Orchestras,

the MDR Chamber Orchestra and the MDR Symphony Orchestra Leipzig, the WDR Radio Orchestra, Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, the Haydn Orchestra of Bolzano, the Latvian National Orchestra in Riga, the United European Chamber Orchestra Milan, the Monterrey Symphony orchestra, the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Lower Austrian Composers orchestra, the Bruckner Orchestra Linz, the Vienna Chamber Orchestra as well as the ensembles for new music, Ensemble Modern Frankfurt among others. Under the management of Rudolf Berger, Ernst Theis returned back to the Vienna Volksoper in 2007, where he conducted two theatrical revivals. An early high point Ernst Theis‘ career came in 1996 after he had been conducting for 5 years. Equipped with a grant from the Federal Ministry of Education and the Arts, he participated in the International Summer Courses for New Music in Darmstadt and also took part in the Conducting Competition there. Chaired by the renowned conductor Peter Eötvös, the jury named Ernst Theis the winner. The prize included conducting the Ensemble Modern in Frankfurt and an invitation to the Spring Festival in St. Petersburg among other opportunities. There, he worked on Anton Webern’s Passacaglia and Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto with the St. Petersburg Symphony, a programme that was then performed at the St. Petersburg Philharmonic. However, his career had already started gaining momentum in 1995. After a last-minute audition at the Vienna Chamber Opera (Rudolf Berger, director), Ernst Theis was offered a series of performances there. His collaboration at the Vienna Chamber Opera continued until after Josef Hussek took over as impresario. There, Ernst Theis prepared premieres for Cosi fan tutte (Mozart), The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein(Offenbach) and A Night in Venice (Johann Strauss). On his own initiative, he wrote an instrumentation for 16 instrumentalists for The Night in Venice, which suited both the aesthetics and acoustics of the Vienna Chamber Opera particularly well. That same year, Ernst Theis was asked to jump in as conductor at the Vienna Volksoper. This resulted in a nearly three-year long engagement as conductor at the house until the era of Klaus Bachler as artistic director came to an end. Ernst Theis has spent the following years working to perfect his capabilities as kapellmeister and continuously expanding its concert repertoire.


Born in Upper Austria, Ernst Theis studied at the the University of Music and Performing Arts, Vienna. He completed two instrumental courses of study – trumpet and percussion.

He graduated with honors with an artist degree in percussion in 1983 and received the Honour Award from the Federal Ministry of Education and the Arts of the Republic of Austria. He subsequently played in various orchestras in Vienna (Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, Vienna Volksoper Orchestra, Vienna Symphony, Vienna Philharmonic). In 1986 he was already given his own studio in the percussion department at the Vienna Conservatory. Thereafter, Ernst Theis studied conducting with Otmar Suitner while Peter Keuschnig also became on of his mentors. Following Suitner’s emphatic advice, Ernst Theis decided to become a conductor. He gave his debut on 5 January 1989 with the Austrian Chamber Symphony (an extension of the ORF Sifonietta) in the Chamber of the Imperial Council in Lustenau (Vorarlberg). With this ensemble, to which he was then appointed artistic director, he conducted his first concert series at the Vienna Konzerthaus in 1991 with the support of Roland Geyer, the manager of the jeunesse musicale. In the years following, he worked intensively on the development of contemporary music and music of the early 20th Century. Through this work, his reputation has been established as a specialist in music of these eras. He remained the artistic manager of the Austrian Chamber Symphony until 2004, expanding its repertoire of the First Viennese School. This resulted in the world’s only complete recordings of Haydn’s piano concertos, featuring Italian pianist Massimo Palumbo, which was released in 2002 by Label Arts Music. These recordings include 13 piano concertos and concertini totaling 3 CDs. A comprehensive 4-CD series, featuring works from the beginning of the 20th century (Martinu, Honegger, Milhaud, Schulhoff) and contemporary musik, also originates from this time period, which Ernst Theis produced for the German recording label Cantate Musicaphon.

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