Michael Schönheit, Gewandhaus Organist
studied organ, piano and conducting from 1978 until 1985 at the Hochschule für Musik "Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy" Leipzig. He received his initial musical education from his father, Walter Schönheit, in Saalfeld and was a member of the Thüringer Sängerknaben. In 1984 he was a prize winner at the International Johann Sebastian Bach Competition in Leipzig.
Michael Schönheit was organist and cantor in Saalfeld from 1985 until 1991.
In 1986 Michael Schönheit was appointed Gewandhausorganist. In this position he assumes artistic responsibility for the Gewandhaus organ concerts and thematic cycles, as well as collaborating with members of the Gewandhaus Orchestra in the chamber music series and appearing as soloist with the Orchestra.
In honour of the 300th anniversary of the death of Dietrich Buxtehude, Michael Schönheit led the period instrument ensemble he founded in 1998, the Merseburger Hofmusik, and many renowned soloists in the performance of the north-German master's complete output of cantatas and organ music in the Gewandhaus. The three-year cycle came to its culmination on 9th May 2007.
Michael Schönheit has been Artistic Director of the Merseburg Organ Festival since 1994, assuming the additional role of Merseburg Cathedral Organist in 1996. He supervised the substantial renovation of the cathedral organ, an instrument built by Friedrich Ladegast dating from 1855.
The Nuremberg College of Music is the principal focus of Michael Schönheit's pedagogical activities. He is also regularly active as a jury member at international organ competitions.
Michael Schönheit is in great demand as soloist the world over, appearing across Europe, the USA and Japan. He has performed as soloist with orchestras such as the Gewandhaus Orchestra, Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden, Munich Philharmonic and New York Philharmonic, to name but a few.
Michael Schönheit has also made a name for himself as one of the world's leading exponents of the fortepiano. Since 2006 he plays a grand fortepiano made by John Broadwood in 1805.
Countless radio and television broadcasts, as well as a substantial discography, document Michael Schönheit's diverse musical activities. 2005 saw the release on MDG of two highly acclaimed CDs of works of Franz Liszt, recorded on the organ of Merseburg Cathedral. These were followed in 2006 by a CD of those works of Liszt, Julius Reubke and Max Reger which had originally received their premiere on the organ of Merseburg Cathedral. A CD of works by Leipzig composers, performed on the Schuke organ in the Great Hall of the Gewandhaus, was released by Kamprad in 2007.