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Matthew Halls

  • Artistic Director

The word “versatile” is an apt description for British conductor Matthew Halls. He first came to prominence as a keyboard player and early music conductor, but Halls is now better known for his dynamic and intelligent work with major symphony orchestras and opera companies, and for his probing and vibrant interpretations of music of all periods.

2014 marked his inaugural season as Artistic Director of the Oregon Bach Festival, succeeding founding director Helmuth Rilling. His inaugural Festival included performances of Verdi’s Requiem, Monteverdi Vespers as well as his own reconstruction of Bach’s St. Mark Passion. Summer 2015 saw the Oregon Bach Festival launch the Berwick Academy for Historically Informed Performance under his leadership, a new national training program for advanced students.

Increasingly in demand by North American Symphony orchestras, for his 2013 debut with the Toronto Symphony he led Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, which “captured much of the energy and excitement that its first audience must have felt at its premiere nearly 200 years ago” (Toronto Star). Mr. Halls first led Washington, D.C.’s National Symphony in performances of Handel’s Messiah, returning the following season to lead works by Ravel, Dutilleux and Vaughan Williams, and he opened their 2014-15 subscription season with a program including Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 2 (“Lobgesang”). Many of the other North American orchestras that have been keen to invite him – and to invite him back – include the Calgary Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Houston Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, National Arts Centre Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Seattle Symphony, and the Utah Symphony in repertoire from Bach and Handel to Beethoven, Kernis, Mendelssohn, Messiaen, Mozart, Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky and Tippett.

European orchestras are equally eager to welcome Halls to their podiums. In spring 2014 he made a triumphant debut with Concentus Musicus Wien, substituting on short notice for Nikolaus Harnoncourt in an acclaimed performance of Haydn’s Seasons. He has also appeared with the BBC Scottish Symphony, Bergen Philharmonic, Frankfurt Radio Symphony, Iceland Symphony, Musica Viva Moscow, Northern Sinfonia, RTE National Symphony, Tonkünstler Orchestra NÖ, and regular appearances in Austria and on tour with the Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra. This season he is invited to Australia to conduct the Adelaide, Melbourne and West Australian Symphony Orchestras.

In the opera house, his repertoire covers Renaissance, Baroque and Classical works, but also extends to later works, with a particular focus on Britten. His debut performances of Handel’s Rinaldo with Central City Opera Colorado were so well received that he was reinvited to conduct not only Handel’s Amadigi but also Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. His associations with both the Netherlands Opera and Bayerische Staatsoper have included productions of Verdi’s Luisa Miller, Britten’s Peter Grimes and Bellini’s Norma. Halls’ appearances have included the Handelfestspiele Halle and the Salzburg Landestheater. In spring 2014 he led Handel’s Ariodante at the Aalto-Musiktheater Essen.

Halls is represented on disc with Handel’s Parnasso in Festa, winner of the Stanley Sadie Handel Recording Prize, released by Hyperion.  On Linn Records, he has recorded a set of four Bach Harpsichord Concertos conducted from the keyboard, which Gramophone welcomed as “joyful and invigorating”, and Bach’s Easter and Ascension oratorios, as well as award-winning discs of Purcell's Sonatas in Three and Four Parts.

Matthew Halls was educated at Oxford University and subsequently taught at the University for five years. Passionately committed to education and working with young musicians, he has taught regularly at summer schools and courses.

The Artistic Director position is endowed by J. Peter and Mary Ann Moore.

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