Prof. Franz-Xaver Ohnesorg
Born in 1948, Franz-Xaver Ohnesorg studied the flute, then obtained his diploma in managerial economics at the University of Munich, including an education in the liberal arts (musicology, dramaturgy and art history). While he was still a young orchestra manager for the Munich Philharmonic in 1979, he was able to engage Sergiu Celibidache as the new Generalmusikdirektor. Then, as founding director of the Cologne Philharmonie, Ohnesorg’s energy and leadership characterized that concert hall’s uniquely successful history during its first 16 years from 1983 on. In 1994 he also founded the Cologne MusikTriennale, a festival originally dedicated in its entirety to the “sound of a century”, i.e. contemporary music. Then, in early 1999, Ohnesorg finally decided to accept Isaac Stern’s repeatedly voiced invitations and went on to become the first non-American Executive and Artistic Director of Carnegie Hall, handpicked in order to carry out important and necessary reforms there. After 2½ years in New York, he then responded to the call by the Berlin Senate to return to Europe as “Intendant” of the Berliner Philharmoniker. This was towards the end of the Claudio Abbado era, and Ohnesorg played an essential part in transforming that orchestra into a foundation, thus paving the way for its new Chief Conductor, Sir Simon Rattle.
Once all contracts ensuring the financing and successful operation of that foundation had been drawn up in early 2003, Ohnesorg returned to the Rhineland for good. Here, as Artistic Director of the Ruhr Piano Festival, he had already been playing a major role since 1996, with the support of the Initiativkreis Ruhrgebiet, in helping that festival to become what is now recognized as the most important yearly piano event worldwide. Furthermore, Ohnesorg was appointed Managing Director of the Initiativkreis Ruhrgebiet on 1 June 2005, thus assuming the post of Ruhr Piano Festival Director as well. In this new role, Ohnesorg reorganized the Festival’s modus operandi, thus laying the foundation for greatly improved financial success. Thanks to the groundwork laid by Ohnesorg, the Circle of Initiatives was able to end the Ruhr’s tenure year as European Capital of Culture (2010) with the creation of the Ruhr Piano Festival Foundation – a move designed to guarantee this musical event’s longstanding survival as one of the region’s main cultural flagships. Thus on 1 January 2011 Festival Artistic Director Franz-Xaver Ohnesorg was able to leave his former post as Managing Director of the Initiativkreis Ruhrgebiet in order to assume two new, important functions: President of the Ruhr Piano Festival Foundation (Stiftung Klavier-Festival Ruhr) and Managing Director of the Klavier-Festival Ruhr Sponsoring and Service GmbH.
Franz-Xaver Ohnesorg serves in a number of honorary posts: among others, as President of the Cologne Zentraler Dombau-Verein (responsible for building and restoring the Cathedral), as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Cologne Cathedral Cultural Foundation (Kulturstiftung Kölner Dom), as Chairman of the Board of the Kölner Kammerorchester, as a member of the organizing committee of the Bonn Beethoven Competition, as a chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Cologne Hochschule für Musik and as Senior Counsellor of the American Academy in Berlin.
In 1999, at the end of sixteen dedicated years of service in Cologne, Mr Ohnesorg was honored with the title “Founding Director of the Cologne Philharmonie” by the KölnMusik GmbH Supervisory Board. He was previously condecorated with the Dr Kurt Neven DuMont Medal in 1994, followed by a number of other distinctions bestowed by local citizen associations and foundations. Mr Ohnesorg was selected for the coveted national “EchoKlassik Special Prize” in 1997, and received the German Composers’ Union “Order of Merit” in 1998.
The Land of North Rhine-Westphalia appointed Franz-Xaver Ohnesorg professor in 1999. Already in 1993 the Republic of Austria had honored him for his magnanimous, ongoing dedication to Lockenhaus Chamber Music Festival by awarding him the Distinguished Service Cross for the Arts and Sciences, followed in 2002 with the First Class Medal for his efforts in favor of the Wiener Philharmoniker. The Music Council of the Federal Republic of Germany (Deutscher Musikrat) chose him as one of its honorary members. In 2003, the Bavarian Academy of the Arts awarded him the Wilhelm Hausenstein Prize for his valuable contributions in the area of cultural cooperation, citing Ohnesorg’s “joy of discovery, his love of experiment and his meticulous eye for quality and substance”.
Ohnesorg created the Ruhr Piano Festival Education Projects, a renowned series of ventures which went on to be singled out as one of Germany’s “365 Locations in the Land of Ideas”, crowned with the German Federal Cultural Foundation’s “Kinder zum Olymp” Prize and selected for exceptional support on the part of the Ernst Von Siemens Musical Foundation.