The Waverley Fund Conductor’s Podium
As he embarks on his fifth decade on the podium, Nicholas McGegan — long hailed as “one of the finest baroque conductors of his generation” (London Independent) and “an expert in 18th-century style” (The New Yorker) — is recognized for his probing and revelatory explorations of music of all periods. The 2017/18 season marks his 32nd year as music director of Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale and he is also Principal Guest Conductor of the Pasadena Symphony.
McGegan has established the San Francisco-based Philharmonia as one of the world’s leading period-performance ensembles, with notable appearances at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the London Proms, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, and the International Handel Festival, Göttingen. One of their greatest successes was the recent fully-staged modern-day premiere of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s 1745 opera-ballet Le Temple de la Gloire.
PBO’s 2017/18 opens in October with the North American premiere of Sally Beamish’s The Judas Passion, co-commissioned by PBO and London’s Orchestra of the Age of Enlightment (OAE). Other season highlights include Handel’s Messiah and his oratorio Joseph and his Brethren, a program with cellist Steven Isserlis, and Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy and Mass in C Major.
Throughout his career, McGegan has defined an approach to period style that sets the current standard: intelligent, infused with joy, and never dogmatic. Under his leadership Philharmonia continues to expand its repertoire into the Romantic Era and beyond. Calling the group’s recent recording of the Brahms Serenades “a truly treasurable disc,” James R. Oestreich in The New York Times made special note of the performance’s “energy and spirit.” The recording, said Voix des Arts, offers “evidence that ‘period’ instruments are in no way inhibited in terms of tonal amplitude and beauty. These are … exceptionally beautifully played performances.”
McGegan’s ability to engage players and audiences alike has made him a pioneer in broadening the reach of historically informed practice beyond the world of period ensembles to conventional symphonic forces. His guest-conducting appearances with major orchestras — including the New York, Los Angeles, and Hong Kong Philharmonics; the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Toronto, Sydney, and New Zealand Symphonies; the Cleveland and the Philadelphia Orchestras; and the Royal Northern Sinfonia and Scottish Chamber Orchestra — often feature Baroque repertoire alongside Classical, Romantic, 20th-century and even brand-new works: Mendelssohn, Sibelius, Britten, Bach and Handel with the Utah Symphony; Poulenc and Mozart with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra; Mahler and Mozart with the Pasadena Symphony Orchestra; and the premiere of Stephen Hough’s Missa Mirabilis with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, paired with Haydn, Brahms and Mendelssohn. His position in Pasadena provides the opportunity to conduct a wider range of his favorite repertoire, including Dvořák, Britten, Elgar, Mahler, Brahms and Wagner.
His 17/18 guest appearances include his return to the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl for two programs (his 21st consecutive appearance at the Hollywood Bowl); Cleveland and Philadelphia Orchestras; and the Pasadena, Dallas, Nashville (Haydn’s Creation), St. Louis (all-Vivaldi), Indianapolis, and New Jersey Symphony Orchestras. A residency at the Juilliard School this fall will lead to performances in New York and a side-by-side with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Juilliard415 on the West Coast. He will make his annual return to The Aspen Music Festival as well. Abroad, he appears at Casa da Musica (Portugal) and with SWR Sinfonieorchester, Gottingen Symphonieorchester, and Jerusalem Symphony. In the summer of 2017, McGegan conducted the Royal Northern Sinfonia for the BBC Proms in Hull, marking 300 years since Handel’s Water Music was first famously performed on the River Thames. It was the first time since the 1930s a festival performance had been moved outside London.
Active in opera as well as the concert hall, McGegan was principal conductor of Sweden’s perfectly preserved 18th-century Drottningholm Theater from 1993 to 1996, Artistic Director and conductor at the Göttingen Handel Festival for 20 years (1991-2011), and Principal Guest Conductor at Scottish Opera in the 1990s. Guest appearances have brought him to the podium at Covent Garden, San Francisco, Santa Fe, and Washington. Mr. McGegan has enjoyed a long collaboration with groundbreaking choreographer Mark Morris, notably the premiere performances of Morris’s production of Rameau’s Platée at the Edinburgh Festival, and Handel’s Acis and Galatea and L’Allegro at venues including the Ravinia Festival, the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York, and Cal Performances in Berkeley.
McGegan’s prolific discography includes more than 100 releases spanning five decades. Having recorded over 50 albums of of Handel, McGegan has explored the depths of the composer’s output with a dozen oratorios and close to twenty of his operas. Under its own label, Philharmonia Baroque Productions (PBP), Philharmonia has recently released almost a dozen acclaimed albums of Handel, Scarlatti, Vivaldi, Brahms, Haydn, Beethoven, and more. McGegan’s latest release with PBO is the first-ever recording of the recently rediscovered 300-year-old work La Gloria di Primavera by Alessandro Scarlatti, recorded live at the U.S. premiere. Since the 1980s, Nic has released more than 20 recordings with Hungary’s Capella Savaria on the Hungaroton label, including groundbreaking opera and oratorio recordings of repertoire by Handel, Monteverdi, Scarlatti, Telemann and Vivaldi. Most recently, the collaboration has produced releases of Haydn, Kraus, Mendelssohn, Schubert, and a 2-CD set of the complete Mozart violin concerti. Grammy nominations include Handel’s Susanna for Best Choral Performance and Haydn’s Symphonies 104, 88 & 101 for Best Orchestral Performance, both with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra.
Mr. McGegan is committed to the next generation of musicians, frequently conducting and coaching students in residencies and engagements at Yale University, the Juilliard School, Harvard University, the Colburn School, Aspen Music Festival and School, Sarasota Music Festival, and the Music Academy of the West. In 2013 he was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Music by the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and in 2016 was the Christoph Wolff Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Harvard. McGegan’s fun and informative lectures have delighted audiences at Juilliard, Yale Center for British Arts, American Handel Society, and San Francisco Conservatory.
Born in England, Nicholas McGegan was educated at Cambridge and Oxford and taught at the Royal College of Music, London. He was made an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for 2010 “for services to music overseas.” Most recently, he was invited to join the board of Early Music America. His awards also include the Halle Handel Prize; an honorary professorship at Georg-August University, Göttingen; the Order of Merit of the State of Lower Saxony (Germany); the Medal of Honour of the City of Göttingen; and an official Nicholas McGegan Day, declared by the Mayor of San Francisco in recognition of his distinguished work with Philharmonia.
Visit Nicholas McGegan on the web at www.nicholasmcgegan.com.