|Christoph von Dohnanyi - photo credit Bertold Fabricius|
Christoph von Dohnanyi was born in Berlin, though because of his father (the jurist Hans von Dohnanyi) they moved around a lot and his schooling included a year at the Thomasschule in Leipzig. There was a lot of music until the start of the war when the music stopped. After the war he was 15 and he had to decide whether to try to make up the years he had missed. At 16 he started studying law in Munich but moved on to music at the Musikhochschule where his studies included composition, chamber music, accompanying and he won the Richard Strauss prize.
'Christoph can you improvise?'
He went to the USA to further his studies, going to Florida where we would study with his grandfather, the composer Ernst von Dohnanyi. When asked about studying with his grandfather he surprised everyone by saying that he had only met his grandfather once previously. He was 20, and his grandfather's first question as 'Christoph can you improvise'. This was something he'd never learned and which he now regards as very, very important. In fact, he commented that his grandfather hated practising and was very good at improvising and he included an anecdote about his grandfather playing an entire sonata in the wrong key.