Joseph Swensen currently holds the posts of Conductor Emeritus of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and Founder/Director of Habitat4Music. Swensen was Principal Guest Conductor & Artistic Adviser of the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris (formerly known as the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris) from 2009-2012. He was Principal Conductor of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra from 1996-2005, and has also held positions at the Malmö Opera (2008-2011), Lahti Symphony and the BBC National Orchestra
of Wales. Swensen is a busy guest conductor throughout the world (from Europe, to the USA, Japan and Australia), enjoying
long-established relationships with the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse (with whom he recently completed a
Mahler cycle, spanning ten years), London Mozart Players and Orquestra Sinfónica do Porto Casa da Música, amongst others.
As principal conductor of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Swensen and the orchestra toured extensively in the USA, UK,
Europe and the Far East. They have performed together at the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York, Tanglewood and Ravinia
Festivals, the BBC Proms, the Barbican and the Concertgebouw. Swensen and the Orchestra have also made several albums
including a series of recordings for Linn where he also featured as violin soloist. As Principal Conductor of the Malmö Opera in
Sweden, Swensen was widely recognised as the driving force behind Malmö Opera's transformation into one of the most important opera companies in Sweden. During his tenure there, he conducted highly acclaimed productions of Salome, La Bohème, La Traviata, Macbeth, Vanessa, The Dialogues of the Carmelites, La Fanciulla del West
and Madama Butterfly
, among others.
In addition to his conducting engagements, Swensen has recently returned to the concert platform as a violin soloist, performing the major concerti including the Brahms Violin Concerto with the London Mozart Players and Mozart's Violin Concerto in G Major, K. 216 in Aalborg, Denmark. Before launching his conducting career in the mid-1990s, Swensen enjoyed a highly successful career as a violin soloist, appearing frequently with the world's major orchestras and conductors. As an exclusive recording artist with BMG Classics his recordings of the Beethoven and Sibelius concerti in particular (with André Previn and Jukka-Pekka Saraste respectively) were well-received and influential.
Chamber music has always been a hugely important and essential part of Swensen's music-making. He is a member of a violin-piano duo with the American pianist and conductor, Jeff rey Kahane, and a new piano trio including cellist Carter Brey: KahaneSwensenBrey. Swensen has also recently been appointed Visiting Professor of Music (violin) at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.
As a 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 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 USA since its premiere in 2007. In 2012, the world premiere recording of Sinfonia in B was released on Signum, along with orchestrations by Swensen of works originally for violin and piano by Robert Schumann, Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms.
With Victoria Eisen, Swensen is co-founder of Habitat4Music. Habitat4Music connects highly qualified, passionate young American-trained classical musicians with children living in challenged areas across the world. The goal is to use the power of long-term, committed, participatory music education and classical music programs to inspire and bring together individuals and communities.
Swensen was born in 1960 in Hoboken, New Jersey and grew up in Harlem, New York City (an American, of Norwegian and Japanese descent). He maintains residences in Copenhagen (Denmark), Bloomington, Indiana and Vermont.
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