Christoph Eschenbach (born February 20, 1940, Breslau, Germany (now Wrocław, Poland) is a German-born pianist and conductor. He currently holds positions in Washington, D.C. as music director of the National Symphony Orchestra and music director of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
As a pianist, Eschenbach has won numerous first-place piano competition prizes, including first prize in the Clara Haskil Competition in Vevey, Switzerland in 1965. In 1964, he made his first recording (of Mozart) for Deutsche Grammophon and signed a contract with the label. Eschenbach continued to study conducting with George Szell, with whom he worked for more than three years. In addition, Herbert von Karajan was his mentor for nearly twenty-five years.
In 1981, Eschenbach became principal guest conductor of the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, and was chief conductor from 1982 to 1986. Other posts have included Music Director of the Houston Symphony Orchestra (1988–1999), where he now holds the title of Conductor Laureate; co-artistic director of the Pacific Music Festival, from 1992 to 1998; chief conductor of the NDR Symphony Orchestra, Hamburg (1998–2004); and music director of the Ravinia Festival, summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (1994–2005). In addition, he was artistic director of the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival from 1999 until 2003. Since 2000, Eschenbach has been the Music Director of the Orchestre de Paris; in May 2007, it was announced that Eschenbach would conclude his tenure with the Orchestre de Paris in 2010. In addition, from 2003 till 2008 Eschenbach was the Music Director of the Philadelphia Orchestra. In 2010 he assumed his position as Music Director of both the National Symphony Orchestra and the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
Christoph Eschenbach has made more than 80 recordings as piano soloist, conductor, or both, has appeared in several television documentaries, and has made many concert broadcasts for different European, Japanese and U.S. networks.
Having received great mentoring guidance in his early years as a conductor through both Herbert von Karajan and George Szell, Eschenbach is credited with helping and supporting talented young musicians in their career development, including soprano Renée Fleming, pianists Tzimon Barto and Lang Lang, cellists Claudio Bohórquez, and Daniel Müller-Schott, and soprano Marisol Montalvo.