Music Director, San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra
Resident Conductor, San Francisco Symphony
One of the most promising conducting talents of his generation, German-born Christian Reif is Resident Conductor of the San Francisco Symphony and Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra. He took up the role in San Francisco in September 2016 following two seasons in Miami as Conducting Fellow with the New World Symphony, working closely with Michael Tilson Thomas.Read more
In the 2017/18 season, Reif made a highly praised subscription debut with the San Francisco Symphonyand led concerts with the Orchestre National de Lyon, Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz, Brucknerorchester Linz, and Berkeley Symphony. His April 2018 San Francisco Symphony subscription concerts prompted Joshua Kosman of the San Francisco Chronicle to write: “He’s a conductor of considerable stature, and everything felt like the work of a significant musical artist.” In Summer 2018, in addition to leading concerts with the Indianapolis Symphony and at the Lakes Area Music Festival, he makes his Lincoln Center Mostly Mozart Festival debut on a program with the International Contemporary Ensemble featuring John Adams’ Grand Pianola Music.
In the 2018/19 season, Reif will conduct Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5 and the world premiere of Andrew Norman’s Cello Concerto with Johannes Moser as soloist on subscription with the San Francisco Symphony and works by Britten, Shostakovich and Haydn with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. He will also make his debuts with the Omaha Symphony and Hong Kong Philharmonic, and return to work with the Nürnberger Symphoniker, Berkeley Symphony and San Francisco Conservatory of Music. The season also includes a production of Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci at Opera San Jose and a new chamber version of John Adams’s El Niño with the American Modern Opera Company as part the Metropolitain Museum of Art’s MetLiveArts series in New York.
As part of his duties as Resident Conductor of the San Francisco Symphony, Reif regularly conducts the orchestra in many different concert formats, including performances of Hansel and Gretel, an Oktoberfest concert, and two successful Soundbox shows – the orchestra’s cutting-edge late-night series. Other previous performance highlights include the Juilliard Orchestra, Israel Chamber Orchestra, Nürnberger Symphoniker, Meininger Hofkapelle, Georgian Chamber Orchestra, Salzburg Chamber Soloists and the Munich Chamber Opera in performances of Mozart’s La finta semplice.
Reif was a Conducting Fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center in the summers of 2015 and 2016. During his time there, he stepped in for Seiji Ozawa to conduct the Seiji Ozawa International Academy Switzerland, and he led the TMC Orchestra in Shostakovich’s 14th Symphony with soprano Dawn Upshaw, baritone Sanford Sylvan and TMC vocalists.
Christian Reif studied with Alan Gilbert at the Juilliard School, where he completed his Master of Music in Conducting in 2014 and received the Charles Schiff Conducting Award. Prior to that, he studied with Dennis Russell Davies at the Mozarteum Salzburg, where he received a diploma in 2012. He is winner of the 2015 German Operetta Prize, awarded by the German Music Council, and two Kulturförderpreise awards given to promising artists of the region who promote cultural advancement in their communities. Reif is a member of Germany’s Conductor’s Forum (Dirigentenforum) and is one of the forum’s 2017/18 and 2018/19 featured “Maestros of Tomorrow”.
Facing an unfamiliar ensemble, Reif lost no time in bringing out the flair and elegant vitality of Beethoven’s score. He built up reserves of potential energy in the slow introduction, only to unleash them in a taut, hard-driven account of the first movement itself. He shaped the slow movement sleekly but tenderly, and brought explosive vigor without bluster to the scherzo. The finale, tightly coiled yet moving forward with an almost improvisatory sense of freedom, was the capper to a thoroughly dynamic performance. No doubt about it, Reif is a remarkable talent.Joshua Kosman
But to think that would be to reckon without the technical assurance and forceful interpretive prowess that this young German has repeatedly displayed over the past two years. He’s a conductor of considerable stature, and everything about Thursday’s concert in Davies Symphony Hall felt like the work of a significant musical artist.
Reif’s mastery extended to matters both large and small. He showed no diffidence about managing weighty blocks of orchestral sound, and he fine-tuned passages of detailed instrumental filigree with the deftness of an artisanal craftsman. (Nothing on the program called much for a mastery of long-range symphonic architecture, but I’m content to wait patiently for Reif’s take on Bruckner.)
And although podium technique can sometimes be an unreliable visual guide to a conductor’s musical artistry, there is a balletic quality to Reif’s physical presence — at once fluid and well-defined — that corresponds well with the qualities he elicits from an orchestral score.Joshua Kosman