Biography

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As he embarks on his sixth 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 2018/19 season marks his 33rd 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. A recording of the live performance will be released in summer 2018, marking the 10th album produced on the Philharmonia Baroque Productions label. As part of their initiative of performing new music written for period instruments, PBO gave the world premiere of Sally Beamish’s The Judas Passion in 2017.

Highlighting PBO’s 2018/19 season is the completion of a PBO-commissioned song cycle by Caroline Shaw featuring mezzo Anne Sofie von Otter. The program will be toured to Alice Tully Hall at New York’s Lincoln Center. McGegan and PBO also bring Handel’s Atalanta to Caramoor Music Festival in addition to presenting Saul, one of the composer’s most inventive and popular oratorios, on their west coast subscription series.

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 Dvoƙák, Britten, Elgar, Mahler, Brahms and Wagner.

His 18/19 guest appearances in North America include his annual return to St. Louis Symphony as well as engagements with Baltimore, Detroit, Calgary, National and Pasadena Symphonies. Abroad, McGegan makes returns to the New Zealand Symphony, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, and appears with the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra in performance and in the recording studio for an upcoming release with soloist Gil Shaham. Summer Festivals include Aspen, Music Academy of the West, and MDR Musiksommer in Germany. 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 more than 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. A new album of early horn concertos was released in spring of 2018, featuring McGegan conducting the Swedish Chamber Orchestra along with soloist Alec Frank-Gemmill.

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. He returns to Yale in Fall 2018 for a residency and performance with the Institute of Sacred Music. He has been awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Music by the San Francisco Conservatory of Music; an honorary professorship at Georg-August University, Göttingen; 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 Art, 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.” 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.