The word “versatile” is often applied to musicians; in the case of the British conductor Matthew Halls it is particularly well deserved. Although he first came to prominence as a keyboard player and early music conductor, Halls, still in his thirties, 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.
For his debut with the Toronto Symphony in 2013, he led Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, a work he calls “the heart and soul of the modern symphonic tradition.” The performance, according to one reviewer, “captured much of the energy and excitement that its first audience must have felt at its premiere nearly 200 years ago” (Toronto Star). He first led Washington, D.C.’s National Symphony in performances of Handel’s Messiah; he returned the following season to lead works by Ravel, Dutilleux and Vaughan Williams. Other recent and upcoming North American engagements include appearances with the Houston, Colorado and Seattle symphony orchestras, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and Ottawa’s National Arts Centre Orchestra.
In July 2011 he appeared for the first time at the Oregon Bach Festival. Such was the impact of his performances there that he was immediately asked to succeed Helmuth Rilling as artistic director of the Festival. He has since returned annually and assumes the post at the close of the 2013 festival.
European orchestras are equally eager to welcome Halls to their podiums, including the BBC Scottish Symphony, Bergen and Bremen philharmonics, Frankfurt Radio Symphony, Iceland Symphony, Northern Sinfonia, RTE National Symphony, Tonkünstler Orchestra NÖ and regular appearances in Austria and on tour with the Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra. He is also invited to Australia to conduct the Melbourne and West Australian Symphony Orchestras.
In the opera house, Halls has appeared with companies such as the Handelfestspiele Halle and the Salzburg Landestheater. 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 operatic repertoire covers Renaissance, Baroque and Classical works, but also extends to later works, with a particular focus on Britten. 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. In spring 2014 he leads Handel’s Ariodante at the Aalto-Musiktheater Essen.
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. Following his tenure in Oxford, he has held positions as artistic director of the King’s Consort and the Retrospect Ensemble, which he founded in 2009. Passionately committed to education and working with young musicians, he has taught regularly at summer schools and courses.
Visit Matthew Halls on the web at www.schwalbeandpartners.com.