Michael Haefliger has been involved with major European festivals since the start of his career, initially as an active performing artist and, since 1999, as Lucerne Festival’s Executive and Artistic Director. His career as a solo violinist included engagements in the early 1980s at such festivals as those in Lucerne, Interlaken, and Spoleto. In 1986 he co-founded the “Young Artists in Concert” Festival in Davos, which he led until 1998. From 1996 to 1998, he also served as Artistic Director of the Collegium Novum Zürich’s program.
Since his appointment as Lucerne Festival’s Executive and Artistic Director at the beginning of 1999, Haefliger has pursued a number of fresh directions, enhancing the Festival’s commitment to new music and to young audiences alike and implementing such innovative concert formats as the 40min series. He focuses on artistic and social-political points of emphasis for each Summer Festival by programming around a specific theme. For example, he made the role of women in the world of music the topic of discussion in 2016 with the “PrimaDonna“ theme, while in 2021 the thematic focus was on how music can reflect our “crazy” world; the theme of “Diversity” in 2022 addressed issues of social criticism. Among the many initiatives for which Haefliger has been responsible are the establishment, together with Claudio Abbado, of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra in 2003, as well as of the Lucerne Festival Academy with Pierre Boulez. Following the deaths of these two founders, in 2016 he initiated a new era for both institutions, appointing Riccardo Chailly as the new Music Director of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra and Wolfgang Rihm as Artistic Director of the Lucerne Festival Academy. In the fall of 2013, he teamed with Anish Kapoor and Arata Isozaki to launch the Lucerne Festival Ark Nova, a mobile concert hall. This innovative social project was created as a gift for the Japanese population living in the area affected by the 2011 earthquake.
In the spring of 2021, he announced a new structure for Lucerne Festival, categorizing the programming into the three areas labeled “Symphony,” “Contemporary,” and “Music for Future.” He additionally founded the Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra (LFCO) in 2021, a top-level orchestra devoted to contemporary music, which also performs abroad at renowned festivals and musical organizations. Haefliger has also launched three new smaller festivals in recent years: “Lucerne Festival Forward” for contemporary music, which takes place in November; a spring festival featuring the Lucerne Festival Orchestra; and a piano festival that takes place in May and is curated by the pianist Igor Levit.
Born in Berlin in 1961, Michael Haefliger began studying the violin and piano at the age of six; he completed his violin studies at the Juilliard School of Music in New York in 1983, graduating with a Bachelor of Music degree. In 1985, together with his brother Andreas, he made his debut at Lucerne Festival, which at the time was still known as the Lucerne International Music Festival. He subsequently studied management at the Schools of Business, Law, and Social Sciences at St. Gallen University, earning his Executive MBA in 1999. In 2003, Haefliger received a scholarship (through the Harvard Club of Switzerland) to attend the General Manager Program at Harvard University. Haefliger serves as a board member on international organizations; in January 2000, he was named “Global Leader for Tomorrow” by the World Economic Forum in Davos. He received the European Cultural Innovation Award in 2003, and, in 2007, the Tourism Award from Lucerne’s Tourism Forum. In 2014, he garnered the Cultural Award of Central Switzerland and was additionally given the Badge of Honor of the City of Lucerne and the Swiss Society of New York Award.
Michael Haefliger is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Davos Festival, the UBS Cultural Foundation, the Pierre Boulez Foundation, and, since 2020, the Swiss Youth Music Competition. He was additionally a member of the Board of Trustees of the World Arts Forum from 2012 to 2018 and a member of the Board of Trustees of Avenir Suisse from 2008 to 2020. He serves as Chairman of the Jury for the Credit Suisse Young Artist Award. Michael Haefliger is an alumnus of the Juilliard School of Music, St. Gallen University, and the Harvard Business School.