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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.
Increasingly in demand by North American symphony orchestras, Halls has performed with the Cleveland and Philadelphia Orchestras; Dallas, Pittsburgh, Houston, Seattle, Indianapolis, and Utah Symphonies; Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra; and National Arts Centre Orchestra in repertoire from Bach, Handel and Mozart to Mendelssohn, Messiaen, Rachmaninoff, MacMillan, and Tippett. His debut with the Toronto Symphony, in which he led Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony “captured much of the energy and excitement that its first audience must have felt at its premiere nearly 200 years ago” (Toronto Star). Having served as Artistic Director of the Oregon Bach Festival for five years, Halls is equally at home conducting baroque and contemporary repertoire.
In 2018-19, Halls’ North American guest appearances include his debut with the Chicago Symphony and returns to the St. Louis, Dallas and Indianapolis Symphonies; and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. In addition, Halls conducts the San Diego and Jacksonville Symphonies, as well as and the Handel and Haydn Society in Boston. Last season, he made his New York debut with Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival in a performance with violinist Joshua Bell.
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 Bergen Philharmonic, Berlin Konzerthausorchester, Royal Northern Sinfonia, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the RTE National Symphony and the Tonkünstler Orchestra, also making regular appearances in Austria and on tour with the Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra. Further afield, Halls has performed in Australia with the Adelaide, Melbourne and West Australian Symphony Orchestras and in Russia with Musica Viva Moscow.
In recent seasons, Halls has performed in Australia with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, and with the Auckland Philharmonia. His is a regular with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra recently having presented a series of five performances traversing all of Beethoven’s piano concerti with Paul Lewis. Recent European appearances include Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Warsaw Philharmonic, Mozarteum Salzburg, Philharmonie Zuidenderland, and Capriccio Barockorchester.
In the opera house, Halls’ 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 in Colorado were so well received that he was re-invited to conduct productions of Handel’s Amadigi and 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. Other appearances have included the Handelfestspiele Halle and the Salzburg Landestheater. In spring 2014 he led Handel’s Ariodante at the Aalto-Musiktheater Essen and he returned last season to conduct Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.
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 regularly teaches at summer schools and courses. Oregon’s Berwick Academy for Historically Informed Performance launched under his leadership in 2015.