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Nicholas McGegan to Retire as Music Director of Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale at the conclusion of the 2019-20 Season
McGegan to become Music Director Laureate after leading America’s foremost early music ensemble for 35 years
Nicholas McGegan, Music Director for the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale (PBO), has announced that he will retire from his leadership post at America’s preeminent period performance ensemble after the 2019-20 Season; at that time, he will have guided the organization for 35 years. He will be designated Music Director Laureate in recognition of his many contributions to the Orchestra at the beginning of the 2020-21 season. At the time of this announcement, the organization’s Board of Directors, led by President Kay Sprinkel Grace, and institutional leadership will convene to begin the search for a new Music Director to build upon McGegan’s legacy of programming and presenting period music at the highest level of artistic integrity.
“Nicholas McGegan has led Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra for 35 years. We have benefitted from the strength of his programmatic vision, energy, and aptitude for making historic performances accessible to broader audiences,” said the ensemble’s Board of Directors president Kay Sprinkel Grace. “He has embraced and advanced our mission throughout his decades of leadership of Philharmonia, and his passion for everything from early music to new works continues to propel Philharmonia to new heights. We look forward to having him remain an integral part of our future.”
“This certainly isn’t a farewell,” said Music Director Nicholas McGegan. “It has been an enormous honour and privilege but also tremendous fun to work with our terrific musicians for half my life, and I look forward to many more years of performances as Music Director Laureate, with fewer administrative responsibilities. Thanks to the musicians, board, staff, donors and our wonderful audience, I’ve been able to realise so many of my artistic dreams, creating lots of happy memories along the way.”
McGegan joined PBO in 1985 and has been the ensemble’s chief architect. His distinguished tenure has seen him at the podium for 981 performances and on 40 recordings. PBO is among the most-recorded period music ensembles in the world. Under McGegan’s leadership, PBO has presented the work of 135 composers. He also forged an impressive and enduring collaboration with the superlative Mark Morris Dance Group, with whom PBO has presented 35 inspired performances, including Handel’s L’Allegro and Acis & Galatea, Henry Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas, and Rameau’s Platée. Defining artistic achievements also include groundbreaking performances and recordings of Handel oratorios, particularly those with mezzo- soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (Messiah, Susanna, Theodora); critically acclaimed performances of Handel operas both on PBO’s series, as well as at the Göttingen International Handel Festival, Tanglewood, Caramoor, and Lincoln Center; and modern day premieres, most notably 2017’s sensational staged performances of Rameau’s 1745 opera-ballet Le Temple de la Gloire.
“Philharmonia owes Nicholas McGegan an incredible debt of gratitude. He has built the PBO family and an exceptionally solid foundation for us. He’s elevated the ensemble to international repute and has undertaken projects most conductors never would,” said Executive Director Courtney Beck. “Looking forward, Nic will become Music Director Laureate on the cusp of the Orchestra’s 40th anniversary—a natural point of transition that we will be ready to embark upon thanks to his steady and innovative leadership. I look forward to working with Nic over the next two years and beyond.”
About Nicholas McGegan
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. 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. Throughout his career, McGegan has defined an approach to period style that sets the current standard: intelligent, infused with joy, and never dogmatic. He is also Principal Guest Conductor for the Pasadena Symphony.
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.
Active in opera as well as the concert hall, McGegan was principal conductor of Sweden’s 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.
McGegan’s prolific discography includes more than 100 releases spanning five decades. Having recorded over 50 albums of Handel, McGegan has explored the depths of the composer’s output with a dozen oratorios and close to 20 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 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. 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.
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.
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.
About Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale
Under the musical direction of Nicholas McGegan for 33 years, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale (PBO) is recognized as America’s leading historically informed ensemble. Using authentic instruments and stylistic conventions of the Baroque to early Romantic periods, the Orchestra engages audiences through performance, tours, recordings, commissions, and education of the highest standard.
Founded in the Bay Area 37 years ago, the ensemble is the largest of its kind in the U.S. PBO’s musicians are among the best in the country and serve on the faculties of The Juilliard School, Harvard, and Stanford, among others. The Orchestra performs an annual subscription season in four venues throughout the Bay Area as well as its alternative concert series, PBO SESSIONS. In April 2017, PBO performed the modern day premiere of Rameau’s Le Temple de la Gloire. The fully staged opera included an international cast of singers and dancers and celebrated sold-out audiences and critical acclaim from around the world.
Each season welcomes eminent guest artists such as mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, countertenor Andreas Scholl, mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter, fortepianist Emanuel Ax, maestro Richard Egarr and Jordi Savall. The Orchestra enjoys numerous collaborations, including a regular partnership with the Mark Morris Dance Group and tours regularly to venues such as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Tanglewood, and Weill Hall at the Green Music Center.
Among the most recorded orchestras in the world, PBO boasts a discography of over 40 recordings and launched its own label on which it has released ten recordings, including a coveted archival performance of mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson singing Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été, and received a GRAMMY® nomination for a recording of Haydn symphonies. The Orchestra recently released the world premiere recording of Rameau’s original 1745 version of Le Temple de la Gloire.
In March 2015, Philharmonia launched its Jews & Music Initiative—a continuing exploration into early Jewish music of 17th century Italy, the significance of Jewish biblical heroes and heroines in Handel’s oratorios and operas, and Jewish musicians throughout the centuries.
PBO’s New Music for Old Instruments initiative was launched in 2017 as an effort to commission and perform new works written expressly for period instruments. Past PBO commissions include To Hell and Back, by Guggenheim Fellow Jake Heggie and songs for Anne Sofie von Otter and Dominique Labelle by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw. Future seasons will bring new commissions by Matthew Aucoin, Mason Bates, and Caroline Shaw.
To nurture the next generation of historically informed performance, Philharmonia and The Juilliard School’s Historical Performance program have established a partnership to bring the star students of Juilliard415, the school’s acclaimed period instrument ensemble, to practice and perform alongside PBO’s seasoned professionals. Annual residencies include masterclasses, coaching, and a culminating side-by-side showcase of PBO mentors and J415 students.