Matthew Halls - Oregon Festival - OregonLive.com
35, a bright British conductor who comes out of the early music
movement, will replace founder Helmuth Rilling as artistic director at
the Oregon Bach Festival at the end of the 2013 season. Rilling,
who led the 17-day festival since its founding in 1970, will remain
with the University of Oregon event as director emeritus.
For 41 years, the German-born Rilling has been the heart and soul of the festival. His deep knowledge of classical music's great choral works, and his majestic, measured performances, have shaped nearly two generations of audiences, both in live concert and on hundreds of recordings. He will remain with the University of Oregon event as director emeritus.
Halls reflects significant change, not least in a shift toward early music performance practice, which Rilling resisted. Halls is a harpsichordist as well as a conductor with expertise in Baroque music, especially that of Bach. In 2005, he led the Portland Baroque Orchestra's performances of Handel's "Messiah. But his breadth as a conductor in other music also helped win him the job.
In a statement, John Evans, the festival's president and executive director, said that Halls was the ideal candidate at the right time.
"In Matthew, we found a candidate who has it all, a range of repertoire well-matched to the programming needs of the Festival; an international reputation in the worlds of choral and early music, specializing in historically-informed performances; consummate skill as a Bach interpreter; a commitment to teaching and education; and most of all, a figure who is passionate about the music at the heart of the OBF, and charismatic in communicating that passion."
Said Halls in a statement, "It is a very great honor for me to accept the position of Artistic Director at the festival upon the retirement of Helmuth Rilling-a colossal musical figure for whom I have the deepest admiration. I am looking forward to working closely with John Evans to help preserve everything that makes this festival so special, whilst exploring and developing new ideas that will allow the festival's musical and educational programs to continue to grow. Above all, I look forward to summer months in Oregon filled with music-making of the highest level as we all make our annual pilgrimage to the Pacific Northwest to celebrate and honor the musical legacy of the great Johann Sebastian Bach."
Based in London, Halls has made debuts with the Houston Symphony, Tonkünstler Orchestra, Bach Collegium Stuttgart, Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte Carlo, Berlin Radio Symphony, Frankfurt Radio Symphony, Iceland Symphony, and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. His 2011 season includes engagements with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, Detroit Symphony, Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra, and the National Symphony in Washington, D.C.
He is the founding director of the Retrospect Ensemble, an English period instrument and choir group formed in 2009. The group gives annual performances in London's Wigmore Hall and has appeared at the Edinburgh International Festival, Krakow Festival of Polish Music and the Korean National Opera.
Retrospect's recent recording of Bach's Easter and Ascension oratorios on the Linn label, "a disc to make your heart leap" (The Times-London) is a finalist in the Baroque Vocal category as the 2011 Gramophone Record of the Year.
Halls has performed on keyboard for such period-practice luminaries as John Eliot Gardiner, Ton Koopman, and Portland Baroque Orchestra's Monica Huggett. A former director of the UK's famed King's Consort, he has worked with many of Europe's early music groups, and in opera houses including The Netherlands Opera, Bavarian State Opera, and Komische Oper Berlin, in venues such as the Megaron (Athens), Lincoln Center (New York) and Wiener Festwochen (Vienna).
On disc, Halls's 2007 recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations on harpsichord earned the "outstanding" list of the International Record Review. "Halls is a formidably talented young keyboard player, bursting with energy and inspiration," wrote the Evening Standard.
Halls graduated from Oxford and taught there five years.
As for his programming, he has designed choral programs that contrast the Renaissance's William Byrd and the 20th century's Benjamin Britten. He also has an affinity for the 19th century Germanic and 20th century British repertoires.
Halls made his debut at the Oregon Bach Festival in July 2011 as concert conductor and lecturer-teacher in the conducting master class.
"My trip to Eugene this past July ranks amongst one of the most stimulating and rewarding collaborations of my musical career to date," he said. "I was immediately struck by the extraordinary levels of talent and commitment amongst musicians and staff alike and experienced firsthand the very real sense of pride that the local community feels for this magnificent festival."
"I have seen Matthew Halls working and conducting in Stuttgart and Eugene," said Rilling. "He is an unusually gifted musician with a solid professional grounding and exceptional charisma. I'm sure he will preserve the heritage of our Festival, and will also find new ways to enrich the lives of many people with our music."
In his announcement, Evans, former Head of Music at BBC's Radio 3 cultural network for 12 years, outlined a process that began soon after he joined the Festival in 2008.
"The search committee identified twenty potential candidates," said Evans. "Eight of whom have now appeared here as guest conductors, and we had extensive talks with two others. It's interesting that Matthew joins the Festival at the same age as Helmuth (Rilling) when the Festival started, 42 years ago. That indicates the Festival and University of Oregon are ready to invest in a rare, young talent, someone with a fresh approach capable of taking this organization to even greater heights."
Halls will conduct programs in the 2012 and 2013 Oregon Bach Festival as artistic director designate. His 2012 repertoire will be announced at the OBF's season preview in the last week of October. Festival dates for 2012 are June 29-July 15.