Biography

Joseph Swensen

Joseph Swensen is the newly named Artistic Director of the NFM Leopoldinum Orchestra (Wroclaw, Poland), Conductor Emeritus of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor of the Orquesta Ciudad de Granada and Artistic Partner of the Northwest Sinfonietta in the state of Washington. He has previously served as Principal Guest Conductor and Artistic Adviser of the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris (2009-2012), Principal Conductor of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (1996-2005), and Principal Conductor of Malmö Opera (2005-2011).

During the 17/18 season, Mr. Swensen appears with his closest orchestra partners, the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Orquesta Ciudad de Granada, Orquestra Sinfónica do Porto Casa da Música and the Northwest Sinfonietta. In addition, he returns to the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the Hawaii Symphony. During his first season as Artistic Director of the NFM Leopoldinum Orchestra, Mr. Swensen has created adventurous and innovative programs that bring together the classical and contemporary eras, juxtaposing Mozart with Berg and CPE Bach with Pärt and Larcher, as well as featuring Polish composers such as Lutoslawski, Penderecki and Gorecki.

During his nine-year tenure with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Joseph Swensen and the orchestra toured extensively in the US, UK, Europe and the Far East. They performed together at the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York, the Tanglewood and Ravinia Festivals, the BBC Proms, the Barbican in London and Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw. With the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris, Swensen appeared at the “Festival de Radio France” in Montpellier and “La Folle Journée” de Nantes et Tokyo. In North America he has appeared as a guest conductor with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Toronto, St. Louis, New World and Colorado symphonies, and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra among others. As Principal Conductor of the Malmö Opera in Sweden, Mr. Swensen conducted highly acclaimed productions of rarely staged operas such as Macbeth, Vanessa, The Dialogues of the Carmelites and La Fanciulla del West, as well as better known operas such as Salome, La Boheme, La Traviata and Madame Butterfly.

Before launching his conducting career in the mid-1990s, Swensen enjoyed a highly successful career as a violin soloist, appearing with the world’s major orchestras and conductors. As an exclusive recording artist with BMG Classics, he recorded the Beethoven violin concerto with André Prévin and the Royal Philharmonic and the Sibelius violin concerto with Jukka Pekka Saraste and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. The violinist and conductor naturally meet in the art of the play/conduct. With a special interest in exploring and developing this art, Swensen has extended the repertoire far beyond the classical period, play/conducting violin concertos by composers such as Brahms, Barber and Prokofiev. His series of recordings for Linn Records featuring Brahms, Mendelssohn and Prokofiev’s second concerto with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, were internationally acclaimed. Swensen created the first “Paris Play-Direct Academy” with the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris in May 2011.

Also a talented composer, Swensen's works include Mantram (1998) for string orchestra, Latif (1999) for solo cello with chamber ensemble, Shizue (2001) for solo shakuhachi and orchestra, and the Sinfonia-Concertante for Horn and Orchestra (The Fire and the Rose) (2008). Swensen's orchestration of the rarely performed 1854 version of Brahms' Trio Op. 8, a work he has entitled Sinfonia in B, has been performed by orchestras in Europe and the US since its premiere in 2007. In 2012, the world premiere recording of Sinfonia in B was released on Signum records, along with orchestrations by Swensen of works originally for violin and piano by Robert Schumann, Clara Schumann and Brahms.

Joseph Swensen was born in Hoboken, New Jersey and raised in Harlem by a Japanese-American mother and Norwegian-American father, both of whom are musicians. He attended Juilliard as a student of the renowned pedagogue Dorothy Delay and studied chamber music with Robert Mann, Leonard Rose and Felix Galimir, composition with David Diamond and Vincent Persechetti, and also studied privately with Isaac Stern over a ten year period. A winner of the Leventritt Foundation Award, he appeared as soloist with orchestras such as Cleveland, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Montreal, Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Baltimore and performed recital and chamber music concerts at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center and in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston.

A sought-after pedagogue, Mr. Swensen is a Visiting Professor at the Royal Conservatory of Scotland where he teaches violin and conducting master-classes. He and his wife, Victoria, also present year-round workshops and offer residencies for chamber-music, conducting and instrumental study at their 250 year old 15 room farm house in Vermont. (SwensenMusicHouse.com)

Photographs

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