Within the Classical recording industry, Cord Garben was for years better known as a record producer than as a pianist or conductor. In fact, he won eight Grammy awards for various recordings he produced. Veteran record collectors will remember his name from the many von Karajan, Fischer-Dieskau, and Michelangeli recordings he oversaw for the Deutsche Grammophon label beginning in the 1970s. But Garben has been active as a pianist throughout his career as well, typically as an accompanist to singers and as a conductor. In recent decades Garben has amassed a discography of his own, accompanying some of the leading singers of the day in lieder repertory -- 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 repertory (piano sonatas of Carl Loewe). Garben has also partnered instrumentalists, most notably the violinist Gottfried Schneider in Godowski'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 was born in Bad Homburg, Germany, in 1943. He studied music at the Academy of Music and Theater in Hanover and after graduation served as a vocal coach at the Niedersächsische Staatstheater there. He soon began appearing in concert as accompanist to singers and was then taken on by Deutsche Grammophon as a recording producer.
In 1975 he served as executive producer on the acclaimed multi-disc complete DG set of Schumann lieder sung by Fischer-Dieskau. Garben would produce many more Fischer-Dieskau recordings, as well as several by Rostropovich, Michelangeli and von Karajan, including the maestro's first collaborations with Anne-Sophie Mutter in 1978 (the Mozart Violin Concertos No. 3 and No. 5).
In 1986 Garben was appointed director of vocal productions for Deutsche Grammophon. By then he was already well known as a pianist and conductor. In 1989 Garben led the North German Radio Symphony Orchestra in a collaboration with pianist Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli on an acclaimed DG disc of Mozart's Piano Concertos No. 20 and No. 25.
Throughout the 1990s and into the new century 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 songs of Carl Loewe, with singers Andreas Schmidt, Kurt Moll, Ruth Ziesak, and others.