Winning a long string of adulatory reviews in the process, conductor Andreas Delfs raised the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra from a creditable ensemble to a superlative one. With imaginative programming, he drew ever-larger audiences to Milwaukee's Uihlein Hall, selling out an unprecedented 40 concerts during the 2000-2001 season. Considered one of the world's finest among the his generation of conductors, Delfs was also engaged as music director of the prestigious St. Paul Chamber Opera between 2001 and 2004. In 2009, Delfs became the Milwaukee's conductor laureate.
Born in Northern Germany, "very close to the Danish border" as he puts it, Delfs was something of a prodigy. Beginning the study of piano and theory at age five, he joined the Flensburg Stadttheater as conductor and composer when he was but 17. At the Hamburg Conservatory, he studied with conductors Aldo Ceccato and Christoph von Dohnányi, and held the post of staff conductor at the Luneburg Stadttheater. Shortly thereafter, he became a musical assistant at the Hamburg Staatsoper and the music director of the Hamburg University Orchestra, at 20 the youngest ever to have held that post. After graduating from Hamburg Conservatory in 1981, Delfs followed the advice of Dohnányi and traveled to New York to study at the Juilliard School of Music. After winning the Bruno Walter Memorial Scholarship, Delfs received his master's degree in 1984. Delfs credits include both symphonic performance and opera house music directorships. A former music director at the Bern Opera, he served as resident conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and from 1986 through 1995, as music director of the Orchestre Suisse des Jeunes. In Europe, Delfs was much-in-demand as a guest conductor, leading such ensembles as the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Beethovenhalle Orchestra in Bonn, the Netherlands Philharmonic, the Leipzig Radio Orchestra, the Frankfurt Radio Symphony, Zurich's Tonhalle Orchestra, and the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie. During a tour of France and Spain with the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival Orchestra, Delfs was invited by the tour's soloist, Mstislav Rostropovich, to lead the Moscow Conservatory Orchestra for the opening concert at the Evian Festival's new concert hall in France. In the realm of opera, Delfs has been applauded for his work in both Europe and America. At the New York City Opera, his conducting of a 1995-1996 production of Carmen was much praised by critics and audiences alike, as were productions of Puccini's Il Trittico and Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro mounted at the Aspen Music Festival. In Europe, he has conducted Mozart, Verdi, and Puccini at Sweden's Royal Opera House and a memorable production of the uncut edition of Henze's sprawling König Hirsch at Stuttgart. In Bern, he led the Swiss premiere of György Ligeti's Le Grand Macabre, eliciting a strong commendation from the composer. For the first few years of his Milwaukee tenure, Delfs divided his time between America and Hanover, Germany, where he was music director general of both the Staatsoper and the orchestra. During his years at Hanover, Delfs conducted the European premiere of John Corigliano's Ghosts of Versailles during the 1998-1999 season and directed a celebrated production of The Greek Passion by Bohuslav Martinù. In 1999, Delfs led the M.S.O. in the first Cuban performances by an American orchestra in 37 years, attracting widespread attention in the general American press in addition to receiving outstanding reviews by critics who followed the tour.