The German conductor, Bernhard Klee, was born in Schleiz, Thuringia, and grew up in Jena and Leipzig, where he was a member of the world famous Thomanerchor Leipzig of the Thomaskirche, one of the four churches for which J.S. Bach supervised liturgical music as Thomaskantor of Leipzig. He went on to study piano, composition, conducting and chamber music at the Music Academy of Cologne.
Bernhard Klee began his professional career at the Cologne Opera under Otto Ackermann and Wolfgang Sawallisch, and later worked for a time as assistant to both Karl Böhm and Herbert von Karajan. At the age of 29, he was appointed General Music Director of the opera house in Lübeck, a post that he held for 7 years (1966-1973), followed by positions as Chief Conductor of the NDR Symphony in Hannover from 1976 to 1979 and Music Director of the Düsseldorfer Symphoniker from 1977 to 1987. From 1985 to 1989 he also served as Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra in Manchester. His second appointment as Chief Conductor of NDR Symphony in Hannover was from 1991 to 1995.
Throughout his career Bernhard Klee has been invited to conduct many of Europe’s leading orchestras, including the Wiener Philharmoniker, Berliner Philharmoniker, London Symphony Orchestra and all the other leading London orchestras, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestre National de France, Orchestre Philharmonique of Radio France, Radio Kammerorkest Hilversum, and in Japan the NHK Orchestra and Tokyo Metropolitan Orchestra. In addition to his European commitments, he has worked extensively in North America with such orchestras as the Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and New York Philharmonic Orchestra (including his American debut in 1974).
As a young man, Bernhard Klee was very active as an opera conductor. He made onducting debut in Cologne in 1960 with Die Zauberflöte. He worked in opera houses in Salzburg (1962-1963), Oberhausen (1963-1965), Hannover (1965-1966), and Lübeck (1966-1973). A notable conductor of opera, he has more recently led performances at many European houses including Hamburg, Munich, Berlin, Geneva and at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (debut in 1972). In addition he has appeared in many major international festivals including the Edinburgh (including his Brittish debut in 1969 with Hamburg Opera), Holland, Flanders, Salzburg (debut in 1973), Helsinki, Berlin and Lucerne Festivals, as well as the BBC Proms. He also appeared as an accompanist in recitals with the soprano Edith Mathis.
A notable recording artist, Bernhard Klee has compiled an impressive discography on the Deutsche Grammophon, EMI, Philips, Koch-Schwann, Teldec and Sony Classical labels.