Music was Benjamin Zander’s life at a very early age. When Zander was nine he was already composing and by twelve he was studying under Benjamin Britten and Imogen Holst. He left home at the age of fifteen to study for five years with the great Spanish cellist Gaspar Cassado in Florence and at the State Academy in Cologne. After completing his degree at London University, he went to the United States on a Harkness Fellowship and has made his home in Boston ever since. There, as conductor of the Boston Philharmonic since its formation in 1978, and a guest conductor of numerous orchestras, he has become the centre of an intense, at times almost cult-like following. In his case, however, the followers are not starry-eyed acolytes, but rather some of the most well-informed musical intellectuals in America. For nearly thirty years, beginning with Michael Steinberg’s passionate advocacy on his behalf in the pages of the Boston Globe, critics and public have been united in their praise of Mr. Zander’s interpretations of the central repertory.
For 45 years he was on the faculty of the New England Conservatory of Music, where his class on interpretation attracted students from all over the world, and he travels extensively giving masterclasses, conducting guest performances, and touring with his own recently formed Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. He has established an international reputation as a guest conductor and has conducted the Israel Philharmonic for three consecutive years, and conducted orchestras as diverse as the Bournemouth Symphony, the Scottish and Irish National Orchestras, the St Petersburg Philharmonic, the Malaysian Symphony, the St Louis Symphony Orchestra, the Indianapolis Symphony, the Youth Orchestra of the Americas, the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and has appeared with the National Youth Orchestras of New Zealand, Australia and Venezuela.
Mr. Zander has a unique relationship with the Philharmonia Orchestra (London), with which he is currently recording a series of Beethoven and Mahler symphonies. Beethoven’s Fifth and Seventh Symphonies, and Mahler’s First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Ninth Symphonies have been released thus far. Each of these recordings includes a full-length discussion disc with Benjamin Zander explaining the music. High Fidelity named the recording of Mahler’s Sixth as “the best classical recording of 2002.” The recording of Mahler’s Third was awarded the “Critics’ Choice” by the German Record Critics’ Award Association in 2004, and the recording of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony was nominated for a Grammy Award. Their recording of Bruckner’s 5th Symphony was nominated for a 2010 Grammy for Best Orchestral Performance.
Benjamin Zander has traveled the world lecturing to organizations on leadership. He has appeared several times as a keynote speaker at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where he was presented with the Crystal Award for “Outstanding Contributions in the Arts and International Relations.” The best-selling book, The Art of Possibility, co-authored with leading psychotherapist Rosamund Zander, has been translated into seventeen languages.
In 2002, Mr. Zander was awarded the Caring Citizen of the Humanities Award by the International Council for Caring Communities at the United Nations. In 2007, he was awarded the Golden Door award by the International Institute of Boston for his “outstanding contribution to American society” as a United States citizen of foreign birth. In March of 2009, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from New England Conservatory of Music, and in 2012 he was awarded Faculty Emeritus status at that institution. In 2019, Zander was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the ABSA Achievement Awards in Johannesburg in recognition of his contributions in the spheres of Music, Culture and Leadership. This is the first time that the award has been given to a non-South African. Previous recipients of the Award include Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu.
The Art of Possibility