The German pianist, conductor, producer and arranger, Cord Garben, studied music education, piano and conducting at the Staatlichen Hochschule für Musik in Hannover. After his studies he became a repetitor (vocal coach) at the Niedersächsischen Staatstheater in Hannover. He soon began appearing in concert as accompanist to singers and was then taken on by Deutsche Grammophon as a recording producer
The focus of Cord Garbenís activities at Deutsche Grammophon were working with Herbert von Karajan (including the maestro's first collaborations with Anne-Sophie Mutter in 1978 - Mozart Violin Concertos No. 3 and No. 5), Carlo Maria Giulini, and Mstislav Rostropovich. Since 1972, Garben supervised all the recording productions of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, including the acclaimed complete Lieder recordings of Schumann (1975), Wolf and Johannes Brahms. For 17 years he worked closely with Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, who supported him especially as a conductor. In 1986 Garben was appointed Director of Vocal Productions for Deutsche Grammophon, and was responsible or all vocal productions. One focus is the recordings at the Met under James Levine, including the production of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen. Besides the Deutschen Schallplattenpreis, he received important international awards including the 1989 Prize of the French Minister of Culture for the best cultural initiative and the Grand Prix Franz Liszt Budapest. His work as a record producer in the USA won seven Grammy Awards.
Within the Classical recording industry, Cord Garben was for years better known as a record producer than as a pianist or conductor.. But he has been active as a pianist throughout his career as well, typically as an accompanist to singers and as a conductor. As pianist he has worked and recorded with some of the greatest singers of our time. As a conductor, Garben worked with renowned orchestras, including: NDR Sinfonieorchester Hamburg (tours and a 1989 acclaimed DG disc with pianist Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli of Mozart's Piano Concertos No. 20 and No. 25), Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra (2001 Wagner's Tannhauser), NHK Symphony Orchestra Tokyo, Radio-Philharmonie Hannover, Radio Symphony Orchestra in Warsaw. With the Ensembles der Hamburgischen Staatsoper, Berliner Philharmoniker and Orchesterakademie, he devoted himself particularly to the revival of the historical arrangements of symphonic works for salon orchestra.
Throughout the 1990ís and into the new century Cord Garben remained active in both the concert hall and recording studio. In the latter realm he worked on a 21-CD set on the CPO label of the complete Lieder and Ballads of Carl Loewe, with singers Andreas Schmidt, Kurt Moll, Ruth Ziesak, and others. Other projects are the complete recordings of Alexander Zemlinsky and Hector Berlioz songs.
In recent decades Cord Garben has amassed a discography of his own, accompanying some of the leading singers of the day in Lieder repertoire - Anne Sofie von Otter, Hildegard Behrens, Brigitte Fassbaender, Andreas Schmidt, Thomas Allen, and many others - and as a conductor and solo pianist in rarely encountered repertoire (piano sonatas of Carl Loewe). Garben has also partnered instrumentalists, most notably the violinist Gottfried Schneider in Leopold Godowsky's 12 Impressions for Violin and Piano on the Etcetera label. Garben has recorded for DG, Naxos, Sony, Harmonia Mundi, CPO, Orfeo, and Hänssler Classics.
Cord Garben gives master-classes in Lied interpretation throughout the world and is author of several books which have received great attention, including Die Liedzyklen Franz Schuberts (The Song Cycles of Franz Schubert) and Gratwanderungen mit einem Genie a biography of the pianist Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (Europäische Verlagsanstalt, April 2002). Another focus of his activities are several international cooperation projects. He works together with young German and foreign on a concert program, which is then documented on CD. In the Heinrich-Heine-Project with the Heine-Gesellschaft Düsseldorf, he combines the re-discovery of unknown settings of the poet with the promotion of young singers. A similar extensive Goethe project is in preparation. Since 2002, Cord Garben President of the Johannes-Brahms-Gesellschaft, Internationale Vereinigung in Hamburg.