Thomas Sanderling grew up in St.Petersburg, where his father Kurt Sanderling was conductor of the St.Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra. After graduating from the Music School of the Leningrad Conservatory he studied conducting at the Music Academy in East-Berlin. At the age of 24 he became the Music Director of the Halle Opera. At an early age he appeared frequently with the leading East German orchestras and opera houses, including the Dresden Staatskapelle and Leipzig Gewandhaus. He won the Berlin Critics' Prize for his performances at the Komische Oper.
After Shostakovich heard him with the State Orchestra of Russia, the composer gave Thomas Sanderling the scores of his 13th and 14th symphonies of which the young conductor conducted the German premieres in Berlin. This relationship also saw him make the world premiere recording of 'The Michelangelo Suite', Shostakovich's last orchestral work. This CD led to the assistant work for Leonard Bernstein and Herbert von Karajan.
Following the request from Shostakovich Thomas Sanderling was significantly involved in producing of German text versions for the vocal-symphonic works, he premiered in Germany.This work also led to an extensive working on Shostakovich repertory, which by now includes all the mayor works of the great composer.
Thomas Sanderling has conducted extensively on the international stage, with orchestras in North America including the National, Dallas, Baltimore and Vancouver Symphonies, in Europe with the Royal Stockholm, Oslo and Helsinki Philharmonics, and in the UK the Philharmonia, London Philharmonic and Royal Philharmonic. He is also a regular guest conductor of Radio Orchestras in the UK, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.
In Japan he won the Grand Prix of the Osaka Critics twice in three years and in 1992 became Music Director of the Osaka Symphoniker. This Orchestra recently awarded Thomas Sanderling with the title Music Director Laureate for Lifetime.
Thomas Sanderling is equally acclaimed for his operatic work. He was Permanent Guest Conductor of the Deutsche Staatsoper Unter den Linden Berlin from 1978 to 1983 (when he moved to the West ), where through the years he conducted an extensive repertory of operas by Mozart, Beethoven, Weber, Wagner, Verdi, Smetana, Dvorak Puccini, Tchaikovski, Richard Strauss, etc. Other notable appearances include the Vienna Staatsoper - 'Die Zauberflöte' (after that his Vienna Debut the Wiener Kurier wrote "....a new conductor from Berlin gave us a Mozart full of mysteries. Astonishing."), and 'Le Nozzle did Figure' (first performance after the death of Karl Boehm) - and at the Bearish Stationer, Frankfurt, Deutsche Opera Berlin and the Hamburg State Opera. He has also conducted ' Die Zauberflöte' at La Fenice - the last Ponnelle production - and 'Don Giovanni' at the Royal Danish Opera and the Finnish National Opera.
Thomas Sanderling enjoys a strong relationship with the St Petersburg Philharmonic.His CD of Mahler's 6th Symphony with the orchestra - its first Mahler recording - achieved great success, culminating in a Cannes Classical Award in 1998. His following CDs of the Brahms Symphonies with the Philharmonia achieved similar recognition and attracted critics' prizes in record magazines throughout the world.
1999 BIS released the first of two CDs with Thomas Sanderling conducting the Malmö Symphony in the Symphonies of Albéric Magnard and this has received outstanding reviews, becoming top choice in most of the major magazines. The second volume has been released in 2000 to equal acclaim.
For the 4. Symphony of Magnard he received in January 2001 again the Cannes Classical Award. He has also begun recording for BIS the first of a series of CDs of the music of Karl Weigl with the Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin. The first CD with Weigl's outstanding Symphony No5, The Apocalyptic (premiered by Stokowski in 1968) and the Fantastic Intermezzo (performed by Furtwaengler with the Vienna Phil.Orch.) released in early June 2002 has received enthusiastic reviews and again the Cannes Classical Award 2003.
In July 2000 CHANDOS released a CD of music by the contemporary American composer Steve Gerber. Also for CHANDOS Sanderling recorded music of the contemporary American composer Tobias Picker and the Violin Concerti of Barber and Menotti ( with the soloist Ittai Shapira ) for ASV.
Thomas Sanderling appeared in recent years with the Vienna Symphony, the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Montreal Symphony, the Detroit Symphony, the Dresden Philharmonic, the Liverpool Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, the London Philharmonic, with the Tchaikovski Great Radio-Symphony Orchestra in Moscow (Mahler 9.) and on their tour in Germany (Tchaikovski 6.), the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra , the WDR Symphony Orchestra in Cologne, etc.
Future plans include amongst others concerts with the Philharmonia Orchestra London, the Symphony Orchestra of the Bavarian Radio in Munich , performances of "Lohengrin" at the Mariinsky Theatre in St.Petersburg, concerts with the BSO ( Berlin Symphony Orchestra ), a new production of "Fidelio" at the new reopened Stanislavski Opera in Moscow, the British Premiere of "Anglo-American Songs" by Shostakovitch , a number of performances of works by Shostakovitch at many different orchestras, opera houses and festivals, etc.
In September 2003 he conducted the World Premiere Recording of Paul Kletzki's astonishing 3. Symphony for BIS, which also received and overwhelming reaction of the international press. In January 2004 Sanderling conducted the World Premiere Recording of Karl Weigl's last 6.Symphony with the Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin, also for BIS.
With effect of January 2004 Thomas Sanderling is appointed as Principal Guest Conductor of the new National Philharmonic Orchestra of Russia, founded under the initiative of President Putin. Following an invitation of Mrs. Shostakovitch, Thomas Sanderling will conduct a concert with two Shostakovich premiers at her Shostakovich-Festival.