Born in Upper Austria, Ernst Theis studied at the the University of Music and Performing Arts, Vienna. He completed the courses of trumpet and percussion. He graduated with honors with an artist degree in percussion in 1983 and received the Honour Award from the Federal Ministry of Education and the Arts of the Republic of Austria. He subsequently played in various orchestras in Vienna (Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, Vienna Volksoper Orchestra, Vienna Symphony, Vienna Philharmonic). In 1986 he was already given his own studio in the percussion department at the Vienna Conservatory.
Thereafter, Ernst Theis studied conducting with Otmar Suitner while Peter Keuschnig also became one of his mentors. He gave his debut as a conductor on 5 January 1989 with the Austrian Chamber Symphony in the Chamber of the Imperial Council in Lustenau (Vorarlberg). With this ensemble he conducted his first concert series at the Vienna Konzerthaus in 1991, working intensively on the development of contemporary music and music of the early 20th Century.
His career had already started gaining momentum in 1995. Ernst Theis was offered a series of performances at the Vienna Chamber Opera (Rudolf Berger, director). There, Ernst Theis prepared premieres for “Cosi fan tutte” (Mozart), “The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein” (Offenbach) and “A Night in Venice” (Johann Strauss). On his own initiative, he wrote an instrumentation for 16 instrumentalists for “The Night in Venice”, which suited both the aesthetics and acoustics of the Vienna Chamber Opera particularly well. This resulted in a nearly three-year long engagement as conductor at the house. He remained the artistic manager of the Austrian Chamber Symphony until 2004, expanding its repertoire of the First Viennese School, which resulted in the world’s only complete recordings of 13 piano concertos and concertini by Haydn, featuring Italian pianist Massimo Palumbo, released in 2002 by Label Arts Music, totaling 3 CDs. Besides that, E.Theis has 4-CD series, featuring works from the beginning of the 20th century (Martinu, Honegger, Milhaud, Schulhoff) produced for the German recording label Cantate Musicaphon.
Ernst Theis has been working on and expanding RadioMusiken, a highly specialized project, in Dresden since 2005. This collaborative project between the Mittel Deutsche Radio, Germany Kultur, the Academy of Arts in Berlin, the German record label CPO, and the Dresden State Operetta produces radio performances and recordings of compositions that were written for radio between 1925 and 1935. To date, the project has produced “Two Orchestral Suites” by Franz Schreker and Ernst Toch, “Radio Overture” by Pavel Haas, “Berliner Requiem” by Kurt Weill, “Tänzerische Suite” by Edward Künneke, “Radio Music No. 1 and 2 “ by Max Butting, “Balladen und Bänkel” by Wilhelm Grosz, and the abovementioned radio play “Leben in dieser Zeit” by Edmund Nick and Erich Kästner, as well as radio plays “Mord” by Walter Gronostay and “Sabinchen” by Paul Hindemith.
So far Ernst Theis’ concert career lead him to conduct such Orchestras as the St. Petersburg and Hamburg Symphony Orchestras, the MDR Chamber Orchestra and the MDR Symphony Orchestra Leipzig, the WDR Radio Orchestra, Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, the Haydn Orchestra of Bolzano, the Latvian National Orchestra in Riga, the United European Chamber Orchestra Milan, the Monterrey Symphony orchestra, the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Lower Austrian Composers orchestra, the Bruckner Orchestra Linz, the Vienna Chamber Orchestra as well as the ensembles for new music, Ensemble Modern Frankfurt among others.
He initiated the promotion of the lesser-known works of Johann Strauss with the project “Der Unbekannte Johann Strauss” (“The unknown Johann Strauss”). What followed were stage productions and complete recordings of the Strauss operettas “The Queen's Lace Handkerchief”, “Carnival in Rome” and “Prince Methuselah” , as well as “La Périchole” by Jacques Offenbach, which was the first production of the “Der deutsche Offenbach” project. This work lead to become part of the above-mentioned 1st Johann Strauss Festival Dresden in 2011.
Following three major high points of 2011, the Austrian premier of the RadioMusiken Projekt on 20 March, his invitation to the International Brucknerfest Linz on 29 September with Gustav Mahler’s “Das Lied von der Erde” with mezzo-soprano Brigitte Printer and tenor Herbert Lippert, and finally the 1st annual Johann Strauss Festival Dresden, which lead to his intensive work with the compositions of Johann Strauss and Jacques Offenbach, Ernst Theis gave his debut with the NDR Radio Symphony Orchestra Hannover on 19 January 2012.