From 1987 to 1995 Professor for orchestral Conducting at Mozarteum Salzburg
Michael Gielen was born in Dresden, Germany, to Rose (née Steuermann) and Josef Gielen.
He began his career as a pianist in Buenos Aires, where he studied with Erwin Leuchter and gave an early performance of Arnold Schoenberg's complete piano works in 1949 (the South-American première). While serving as conductor and répétiteur at the Wiener Staatsoper (1950-60), he conducted productions of contemporary music outside the opera house.
His next operatic appointment was as conductor of Royal Swedish Opera from 1960-65, followed by posts at the Netherlands Opera and at the Frankfurt Opera from 1977. He was principal conductor of the Belgian National Orchestra (1969-73), the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (1980-86) and of the Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra (1986-99), which he has been closely associated with since.
He has demonstrated a mastery of the most complex contemporary scores, and he has given many premieres, including Helmut Lachenmann's Fassade and Klangschatten - mein Saitenspiel, György Ligeti's Requiem, Karlheinz Stockhausen's Carré and Bernd Alois Zimmermann's Die Soldaten. In 1973 he recorded Schoenberg's opera Moses und Aron, used as a soundtrack for the film Moses und Aron.
In 1979 he revived Schreker's opera Die Gezeichneten at the Oper Frankfurt, where it had been premiered in 1918. During his time in Frankfurt, later called the Gielen Era, he collaborated with stage directors such as Hans Neuenfels for Verdi's Aida and Ruth Berghaus for Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen.
As a composer, Gielen has elaborated on the tradition of the Second Viennese School and his small oeuvre includes settings of poems by Hans Arp, Paul Claudel, Stefan George, and Pablo Neruda.