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.
The 15/16 season marks his second as Artistic Director of the Oregon Bach Festival, having succeeded founding director Helmuth Rilling the previous year. This year's festival includes performances of Mahler's Symphony No. 2, Brahms' Symphony No. 4 and Haydn's Creation, among many other works. Summer 2015 saw the Oregon Bach Festival launch the Berwick Academy for Historically Informed Performance under his leadership, a new national training program for advanced students.
Increasingly in demand by North American Symphony orchestras, Halls has performed with the Calgary Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Houston Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, National Arts Centre Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Seattle Symphony, and the Utah Symphony in repertoire from Bach and Handel to Beethoven, Kernis, Mendelssohn, Messiaen, Mozart, Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky 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). He also led Washington, D.C.'s National Symphony in Handel's Messiah and has returned to conduct works by Ravel, Dutilleux, Vaughan Williams, and Mendelssohn.
Halls' 2015-16 North American appearances include the Nashville Symphony for the complete Brandenburg Concertos, Los Angeles and St. Paul Chamber Orchestras, Oregon Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Yale Institue of Sacred Music, Artis Naples, and Les Violons du Roy in Quebec.
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 BBC Scottish Symphony, Bergen Philharmonic, Frankfurt Radio Symphony, Iceland Symphony, Musica Viva Moscow, Northern Sinfonia, RTE National Symphony, Tonkünstler Orchestra NÖ, and makes regular appearances in Austria and on tour with the Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra. He has also been featured in Australia with the Adelaide, Melbourne and West Australian Symphony Orchestras. This season he appears with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Irish Baroque Orchestra, Konzerthaus Berlin, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, and returns to the Moazarteum. He is also featured with the Taipei Symphony Orchestra in Taiwan and returns to both the Iceland Symphony Orchestra in Reykjavik, and Musica Viva in Moscow.
In the opera house, his 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 Colorado were so well received that he was reinvited to conduct not only Handel's Amadigi but also 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. Halls' 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 returns this 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 has taught regularly at summer schools and courses.
'...illuminating details, crisp rhythmic articulation and clever yet tasteful ornamentation.'more >>Opera News
'A new period-instrument ensemble from London brings verve, precision and spontaneity to a recording of J. S. Bach's Easter and Ascension Oratorios.'more >>The Consort
'This particular recording, featuring the Retrospect Ensemble, has a lot to recommend it; especially the technically refined and elegant quality of both the orchestra and the soloists. The choruses are refreshingly crisp and bright, sung in a soloistic manner that I find very appealing.'more >>BBC Music Magazine
'...irresistible energy.'more >>BBC Music Magazine
Chamber Disc of the Month: 'The Retrospect Trio speak the language of Purcell as if it was their mother tongue.'more >>allmusic.com
'The ensemble's sound is exquisite, and the pair of violinists and the basso continuo of bass viol and harpsichord or organ produce a vibrant blend that gleams with authentic period sonorities and ornamentation.'more >>International Record Review
IRR Outstanding Award: 'This is an utterly delightful disc.'more >>MusicWeb International
'Now they complete the set with the three-part works, in which they are just as recommendable if not even more so.'more >>Slipped Disc
'He won the Oregon post fair and square from several impressive candidates.'more >>Oregon Music News
'...a rising star in the classical music world with a stellar background in Baroque music...'more >>OregonLive.com
'...a bright British conductor...'more >>Fanfare
'Heartily recommended.'more >>Classica
'...le duo meditative de la soprano et flute traversière idéalment assure par Carolyn Sampson et Rachel Brown.'more >>Oregon Music News
'Halls led the Handel piece with crisp stickwork that resulted in a thoroughly engaging performance.'more >>tommanoff.com
'...the conductor is an exceptional interpreter of [Purcell's] music.'more >>RegistedGuard.com
'...an incisive yet expressive technique that made for an scintillating concert.'more >>Audiophile Audition
Multichannel Disc of the Month: 'The fact is that there is not a weak link anywhere in this cast...'more >>RegistedGuard.com
'early music whiz Matthew Halls'more >>Denver Post
'It is brought vividly and organically to life by conductor Matthew Halls, who outdoes himself in his third appearance with the company...'more >>MusicWeb International
"...the Linn recording is a must."more >>Scotland on Sunday
"There is plenty of action and passion in these two, quite different, works..."more >>Gramophone
'The Retrospect Ensemble's orchestral playing and choral singing is of the highest quality...'more >>Audio Video Club of Atlanta
'...the impression is that of heavenly beauty without earthly weight...'more >>BBC Music Magazine
'...enjoyably relaxed and unselfconscious performances.'more >>International Records Review
'...highly impressive playing...'more >>Pizzicato
'...superbement interprétées.'more >>San Francisco Classical Voice
'The soloists are all excellent.'more >>McAlister Matheson Music
'top class'more >>The Observer
"Matthew Halls directs sprightly singers and accomplished players."more >>The Times
"A disc to make your heart leap."more >>AudioVideoHD
'...dirigiendo esta brillante y fresca interpretación de dos de los tres monumentales oratorios de Bach...'more >>Early Music Review
'Fielding an excellent group of singers and players, and with soloists of such calibre, this is a landmark Bach recording.'more >>The Sunday Times
Classical Record of the Week: "Top-drawer Bach throughout, beautifully recorded and documented by Linn."more >>SA-CD.net
"Retrospect Ensemble simply sparkles in this repertoire...Johann Sebastian himself would give this one not 5 but 10 stars as well."more >>The Scotsman
"Musical highs don't come much better...Conductor Matthew Halls gleans warmth from this wonderful music."more >>Classics Today
'...can boast renditions of Bach's Easter and Ascension oratorios as fine as--or better than--any in the catalog.'more >>Musical Pointers
"The recording at St Jude's Church in Hampstead...makes the most of a perfect acoustic."more >>Klassik.com
'Eine wertvolle, in vieler Hinsicht überzeugende Einspielung.'more >>Opus Musica
"En esta grabación exhibe todas las virtudes por las que ha sido calurosamente aplaudido: virtuosismo, sensibilidad, refinamiento y vivacidad."more >>High Fidelity
"Warto te plyte miec."more >>International Record Review
IRR Outstanding: "[Halls displays] a natural grace and refinement, and a lightness of touch and delicacy of ornamentation..."more >>Musical Pointers
"For "straight" accounts on harpsichord, Matthew Halls is as good as any..."more >>MusicWeb International
"I had high expectations of his Bach. I was not disappointed."more >>Audiophile Audition
"I am sure it will be getting a lot of play time at my place."more >>Dallas Morning News
"...the most convincing and most moving I've ever heard."more >>The Scotsman
"Halls reveals...needle-sharp precision, stylistic awareness and suitably restrained flamboyance."more >>