Joseph Swensen

Joseph Swensen

Joseph Swensen

Joseph Swensen was principal conductor of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra from 1996-2005.


    Joseph Swensen is Artistic Director of the NFM Leopoldinum Orchestra (Wroclaw), Conductor Emeritus of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Principal Guest Conductor of the Orquesta Ciudad de Granada. He has previously served as Principal Guest Conductor & 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). A sought-after pedagogue, Joseph Swensen teaches conducting, violin and chamber music at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow.

    Recognized for forging solid bonds with orchestras, this season will also see Swensen returning to guest conduct his closest partners, the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse and Orquestra Sinfónica do Porto Casa da Música, as well as Estonian National Symphony Orchestra and the Kitchener Waterloo Symphony. In 2018 he returned to the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and made his debut with Orquesta Sinfónica de Navarra.

    During his nine-year tenure with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, 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, Tanglewood and Ravinia Festivals, the BBC Proms, the Barbican and the Amsterdam 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. As Principal Conductor of the Malmö Opera in Sweden, Swensen conducted highly acclaimed productions, notably rarely staged ones such as Macbeth, Vanessa, The Dialogues of the Carmelites and La Fanciulla del West, alongside Salome, La Boheme, La Traviata, Madame Butterfly among others.

    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 play-direct. With a special interest in exploring and developing this art, Swensen has extended the repertoire far beyond the classical period, directing from the 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. With the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris, Swensen created the first ‘Paris Play-Direct Academy’ in May 2011.

    A multifaceted musician, 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 the Sinfonia-Concertante for Horn and Orchestra (The Fire and the Rose) (2008). Swensen's Sinfonia in B (2007), an orchestration of the rarely performed 1854 version of Brahms' Trio Op. 8, has been recorded for Signum Records.

    Joseph and Victoria Swensen 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.

    An American of Norwegian and Japanese descent, Joseph Swensen was born in Hoboken, New Jersey and grew up in Harlem, New York City.