biography of david zinman - going against fate

biography of david zinman - going against fate

a Film by viviane blumenschein about DaviD Zinman

and the Tonhalle-orchesTra Zurich on

the recording oF GusTav mahlers 6 Th symphony



DaviD Zinman anD

GusTav mahler’s 6 Th symphony

bioGraphy DaviD Zinman (excerpT)

key DaTa of

The Tonhalle-orchesTra Zurich

The proTaGonisTs

The filmcrew


anD evaluaTion



the documentary “going againSt Fate” follows

the american conductor david Zinman and the tonhalle-ochestra

Zurich during rehearsals, concerts

and the recording of gustav mahler’s 6 th Symphony.

the central character of the film is the charismatic

david Zinman who takes us through the film, providing

both content information and an emotional connecting

thread. his narration of mahler’s private life

gives us insight into the emotional and musical world

of the eminent composer. at the same time, we look

behind the scenes and witness how conductor and

orchestra interact on their journey towards the finished

recording, as they unravel the secret of a musical

masterpiece: the symphony.

in many ways, gustav mahler’s music expresses his

searching, tinged with self-doubt, and his longing to

explore the most remote areas of the human soul.

the problematic existence of mankind was on his

mind for his entire life and an ever inspiring, powerful

source of his creativity. every new piece of work was a

further attempt to find an answer. the 6 th Symphony,

called “the tragic”, is his most autobiographical and

personal work. the film conveys Zinman’s intense

closeness to mahler’s emotional universe and takes

the audience on a powerful visual and aural journey

into the world of sounds.

DaviD Zinman

anD GusTav


6 Th symphony

the 6 th Symphony is an impassioned work. david

Zinman believes it could also be described as egomaniac.

in his opinion however, it also symbolizes the

awakening to a new world. the 6 th has little in common

with the previous five symphonies. this music is

utterly focussed on mahler’s personality and on the

tragic and tumultuous facets of his life. according to

Zinman, this symphony contains everything one may

like or dislike in mahler’s music. For many years it was

pushed into the background by the other symphonies

and its value only truly recognized by musical experts

and devotees.

david Zinman has devoted himself for decades to

mahler and his work. With the tonhalle-ochestra

Zurich he intends to play and record the entire cycle

of mahler symphonies. the first four symphonies,

performed by the tonhalle-ochestra Zurich and conducted

by david Zinman, are already available, the 5 th

Symphony will be released in may 2008 and the 6 th in

autumn 2008. For an orchestra it is a rare privilege, as

well as a huge challenge, to perform mahler’s entire

cycle of symphonies. it is a gigantic project that allows

us to gain a new point of view on mahler. in the

course of the project, david Zinman has acquired a

clear idea on interpreting mahler. he follows as closely

as possible the instructions in the original score and

brings out every detail highlighting the unique structure

of the symphonies. this sets him apart from most

previous conductors and their usually emotional approach.

the film tracks the unfolding of the 6 th Symphony

which, in its large orchestra setting, ensures a

spectacular visual and auditory experience.

ioGraphy of DaviD Zinman ( excerpT)


place of resiDence







since 1998


since 1995

1936, new york (uSa)

Zurich and uSa

awarded “artist of the year” at the midem classical award


10-year anniversary as chief conductor and artistic director of the tonhalleochestra

Zurich, extension of his contract until July 2010 and hence, third longest

term of office achieved by a principal conductor in the history of the tonhalleochestra


awarded the “Kunstpreis der Stadt Zürich”

appointed “chevalier de l’ordre des arts et des lettres” by the French ministry of


awarded the “Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik” for the complete recording

of the beethoven symphonies

artistic director of the aspen music Festival (colorado, uSa)

grammy award in the category best classical album for the recording of contemporary

american works

Principal conductor and artistic director of the tonhalle-ochestra Zurich and the

tonhalle Society














grammy award with yo-yo ma in the category best classical contemporary


gramophone award in the category classical recording of the year for the recording

of gorecki’s 3 rd Symphony which became a sensational success

gramophone award for the recording of barber’s cello concert and britten’s

Symphony for orchestra and cello with yo-yo ma

chief conductor of the baltimore Symphony orchestra

Principal conductor of the rotterdam Philharmonic orchestra

chief conductor of the rochester Philharmonic orchestra, uSa

Principal conductor of the netherlands chamber orchestra

american debut with the Philadelphia orchestra

european debut

Studies in composition at the university of minnesota

Studies in conducting at the boston Symphony’s tanglewood music center

First encounter with Pierre monteux who was to become his mentor

Studies at the oberlin college conservatory of music (ohio, uSa)








complete recording of the beethoven symphonies

awarded the “Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik”

(more than one million cds sold)

opening of the tonhalle Zurich, one of the world’s finest

concert halls in terms of acoustics

establishment tonhalle-ochestra Zurich

Tours abroaD (selecTion)

Japan/david Zinman

rheingau musik Festival Wiesbaden/david Zinman

bbc Proms london/david Zinman

germany/david Zinman

uSa/david Zinman

ljubljana – Prague – Vienna/david Zinman

rheingau musik Festival Wiesbaden/Wolfgang Sawallisch

brussels – bbc Proms london – besançon/david Zinman

Zagreb/david Zinman

by 1999, when this oldest Swiss symphony orchestra was awarded the “Preis der

deutschen Schallplattenkritik” for a musical milestone, its complete recording of

the beethoven symphonies, the tonhalle-ochestra Zurich had become the focus

of worldwide attention. today, the tonhalle-ochestra Zurich is composed of more

than 100 musicians and it performs nearly a hundred times a year, with about 50

key DaTa of The TonhalleochesTra








ravenna/gennady rozhdestvensky

Vaduz/Frans brüggen

Vaduz/ Kurt Sanderling

amsterdam – germany/david Zinman

dijon/mstislaw rostropowitsch

Stuttgart/david Zinman

milan/david Zinman

Japan/david Zinman

uSa/david Zinman

Spain – Portugal/neeme Järvi

Vienna – Zagreb/david Zinman

Wroclaw – bucharest/gary bertini

besançon/david Zinman

different concert programmes. guest performances in Switzerland, concert tours

in all the major musical centres worldwide, as well as numerous cd recordings,

have successfully established the excellent reputation of the orchestra, both with

the audience and the critics.

Feldkirch/Vladimir ashkenazy

great britain – Paris – germany – amsterdam/david Zinman


The pro TaGonisTs

DaviD Zinman

chief conDucTor anD

arTisTic DirecTor

Julia becker

1 sT concerTmasTer

aniTa leuZinGer

solo violoncello

Thomas Grossenbacher

solo violoncello

caThrin kuDelka

2 nD violin

his strength lies in his hands, his musicians say. thanks to his accuracy and stamina

he has led the tonhalle-ochestra Zurich to worldwide acclaim. in our film, he

also reveals some of his other skills: using his mischievous charm, magnificent

humour and unique singing talent he guides the audience through the film, with

achieved ease and expertise.

She lives in germany, is the mother of two children and also 1 st concertmaster,

a living proof that it is possible to cope with two demanding activities with ease

and good humour. She loves working in the orchestra and sometimes wonders

how she got there because, nowadays, demands placed on young musicians are

extraordinarily high. She has made it – and she prefers her current situation to a

solo career.

aged only 23, anita is an exceptional talent and was hired even before having

graduated. this is truly remarkable and unusual. in mahler’s 6 th Symphony, she

leads the cello section and is therefore exposed to tremendous pressure. her

colleagues, like thomas grossenbacher, are supportive and eager to help when

difficult decisions arise.

he became a cellist because he fell in love with his cello teacher and kept diligently

attending the cello lessons. he loves the feminine shape of his instrument and

confesses to having a very personal relationship with its sound which reminds

him of the human voice. he loves the great joyfulness of the tonhalle-ochestra

and it would be difficult to imagine the ensemble without him. he imparts his vast

knowledge to particularly gifted students at the musical academy.

She is one of the youngest musicians in the orchestra, but she can easily imagine

being a violinist with the tonhalle-ochestra Zurich for the rest of her life. the orchestra

is young, international and it has a remarkably high proportion of female

musicians (37%). in her opinion, these are ideal conditions to keep playing as long

as possible in Zurich, in spite of the very high demands. in addition, she considers

it a blessing to be able to play most of the time to a full house. She always tries to

convey her musical experiences to the audience in a refreshing way. She can tell

from their reaction when she succeeds, and this boosts her motivation to play.

marc luisoni

1 sT violin

simon sTyles

T u ba

florenZ Jenny

solo bassoon

anDreas berGer

solo percussion

benJamin forsTer

solo Timpani

he has been playing with the tonhalle-ochestra for more than 15 years. in the beginning,

he didn’t expect the orchestra would evolve to such an extent. With david

Zinman his hopes finally came true and Zinman has proven that he could take the

orchestra to a level of worldwide recognition. marc loves touring with the orchestra

and also teaches violin to his son. if he had to choose between buying a house or

a new violin, he would always choose the violin.

he feels his instrument to be the extension of his personality. the tuba has a character

all of its own, a character that needs nurturing. it’s a bit like a rolls-royce that

you only take out of the garage on special occasions. the sounds he manages

to elicit from the instrument by means of his breath go right through the audience

and are one of the concert highlights. Simon bewitches with his thoughtful charm

and his infinite english humour.

he is the musician who has been longest with the orchestra and will retire next

year. he has seen numerous musicians and conductors come and go, and he can

hardly imagine how it will feel to eventually leave the orchestra. he has a particular

fondness for the music of gustav mahler who, in his opinion, possesses the ability

to express man’s deepest yearnings and obsessions through his brilliantly inspired

compositions. in his view, a concert is successful when a blissful connection occurs

between the musicians and the audience.

he is the most playful member of the orchestra, though a serious improviser. he

masters every percussion instrument, except the timpani. he was the one who

thought up the hammer blows for mahler’s 6 th Symphony. the blows were meant

to sound like lightning striking a tree. For berger, a simple matter. he just hammered

a few sound variations until the conductor beamed all over his face. he

particularly values a good relationship with his colleagues, as he spends a major

part of his life with them.

We learn from him that timpani need special cowhides that must be replaced after

every performance of mahler’s 6 th Symphony. he has just completed his year of

probation and found his dream job with the orchestra, which he would not swap

with anyone.

The film crew

viviane blumenschein, director / Script

She was born in 1969 in lower Saxony and lives now

in berlin.

With her film debut “dance for all” (co-directed with

elena bromund), she won several awards in 2007 and

2008. She has a fine expertise in music documentaries.

She also makes short films and is currently planning

a new film about classical music.

frank Griebe, cinematographer

he was born in 1964 in hamburg and now lives in


For his photography in “Perfume: the Story of a murderer”

he received both the german and the european

Film award. he has just finished working on tom

tykwer’s new film, “the international”, featuring clive

owen, natalie Portman and armin müller-Stahl. Furthermore,

he worked on films like “deutschland. ein

Sommermärchen”, “berlin blues”, “naked”, “run lola

run”, “Winter Sleepers” etc.

alberTo venZaGo, 2 nd cinematographer

born 1950 in Zurich

he has been working for many years as an established

photographer, photo journalist and film-maker.

his filmography comprises “my brother. the conductor”,

“invisibles”, “Voodoo - mounted by the gods”

etc. he regularly contributes to the magazines national

geographic, Stern, geo and time. he too has

won several awards.



Sascha Felix

carlotta Steinmann

Samuel gyger

anne bürger

maher maleh

christian datum

lukas nigg

christoph arni


dieter meyer


oli Weiss



Frank Kruse

sounD mixer

martin Steyer



Susann henggeler

hans Syz


anD creaTive


elena bromund


anD liGhTinG

urs Schmid

sounD recorDinG


Patrick Storck

marco teufen

foley recorDisTs

Johannes Warns

carsten richter

proDucT manaGer

Sandra monse



christoph arni

assisTanT eDiTors

mirko Scheel

benjamin eugster


DaTa anD



80 min


german and english

with subtitles


minidV 25p



proDucTion DaTe

may 2007–June 2007


July 2007–april 2008




Viviane blumenschein


Susann henggeler


turnus Film ag

hans Syz


Swiss television

urs augstburger and

thomas beck

main sponsor


Sony overseas Sa

From 13 July 2008 until the end of august 2008, “going

againSt Fate” will show in the Sunday matinees

of the arthouse movie 1, nägelihof 4, 8001 Zurich.

the film will be broadcasted by Swiss television in

november 2008.

the dVd will be released in late autumn 2008.

in addition, the film will be submitted to various national

and international film festivals.


Susann henggeler


t: +49 176 622 09 436 or

+41 79 402 00 02


turnus Film ag

claridenstr. 20

ch-8002 Zurich

t: +41 44 286 79 90


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