James Conlon

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    Meet the Musician: James Conlon and Composers from the Holocaust Era

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    Meet the Musician: James Conlon and Music from the Holocaust


James Conlon, one of today's pre-eminent conductors, has conducted a broad range of the operatic, symphonic and choral repertoire in nearly every music capital in the United States, Europe and Japan. Since 1995, Mr. Conlon has served as Principal Conductor of the Paris National Opera. In July 2002, he concluded his thirteen-year tenure as General Music Director of the City of Cologne, Germany. He was simultaneously Principal Conductor of the Gürzenich Orchestra-Cologne Philharmonic and, from 1989 to 1996, Chief Conductor of the Cologne Opera. Mr. Conlon was also Music Director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic from 1983 to 1991, and since 1979, has served as Music Director of the Cincinnati May Festival, America's oldest choral festival.

Since his New York Philharmonic debut in 1974 at the invitation of Pierre Boulez, Mr. Conlon has appeared with virtually every major North American and European orchestra. In the United States, he has led the Boston, Chicago and Pittsburgh Symphonies, the Cleveland and Philadelphia Orchestras, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Washington's National Symphony Orchestra. In Europe, he has conducted the Berlin Philharmonic, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Dresden Staatskapelle, London Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, l'Orchestre de Paris, l'Orchestre National de France, Orchestra Sinfonica di Santa Cecilia, and the Kirov Orchestra, among many others.

Associated for over twenty-five years with the Metropolitan Opera, where he made his debut in 1976, Mr. Conlon has conducted more than 200 performances with that company, leading a wide range of works from the Italian, German, French, Russian and Czech repertoire. He has appeared with many of the world's major opera companies, including Teatro alla Scala (Milan), the Royal Opera at Covent Garden (London), the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino (Florence).

This season in the United States, Mr. Conlon leads a three-concert series in New York, including a performance at Carnegie Hall, devoted to works by composers - Viktor Ullmann, Alexander Zemlinsky, Pavel Haas and Hans Krása - whose lives were affected by the Holocaust. These concerts are the beginning of a three-year project that will include concerts, symposia and expositions, all intended to raise the consciousness of the public, music lovers, students and professionals to the importance of a considerable body of work that represents an important link in the history of twentieth-century music. During this season, Mr. Conlon will also conduct the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Minnesota Orchestra, lead a production of Les Dialogues des Carmélites at the Metropolitan Opera, and return to the Cincinnati May Festival for the 24th consecutive year.

Abroad, he conducts five productions at the Paris Opera including Boris Godunov, Falstaff, Parsifal and Les Vêpres Sicilienne, as well as the world premiere of Pascal Dusapin's Perelá, l'Homme de Fumèe. Mr. Conlon also leads the Paris Opera Orchestra, and guest conducts the Bayerische Rundfunk, European Community Youth Orchestra, Cologne Philharmonic, and the Orchestra of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino.

Since the beginning of his tenure with the Paris Opera, Mr. Conlon has conducted twenty-five operas, seventeen of them as new productions, with a total thus far of over 300 operatic and symphonic performances. Among the highlights of the past seven years are four Wagner operas (Tristan und Isolde, Parsifal, Lohengrin, Fliegender Holländer), six Verdi operas (Falstaff, Don Carlo, La Traviata, Rigoletto, Nabucco, Macbeth), and highly praised new productions of Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande and Offenbach's Tales of Hoffmann. He led the French premiere of Zemlinsky's Der Zwerg, as well as the first Parisian production of Dvorák's Rusalka. He also led productions of Peter Grimes, Wozzeck, Der Rosenkavalier, Turandot, Don Giovanni, Le nozze de Figaro, and the Paris Opera's first production of Moussorgsky's Khovanschina in 75 years.

During his tenure in Cologne, Mr. Conlon conducted 231 performances of 34 operas and more than 230 symphonic concerts, including virtually all the major works of Wagner, Mahler, Zemlinsky, Beethoven and Berg. In addition, under his stewardship, the Orchestra has recorded over 20 CDs, several of which have earned prestigious international awards.

Mr. Conlon has recorded extensively for the EMI, ERATO, Capriccio and SONY Classical labels. A champion of the works of Alexander Zemlinsky, he has made nine recordings of the composer's operas and orchestral works with the Gürzenich Orchestra-Cologne Philharmonic for EMI, including the September 2002 release of the Lyric Symphony coupled with operatic preludes and interludes from Sarema, Es war einmal, Kleider machen Leute, Der Kreidekreis and Der König Kandaules. Several of these recordings have earned prestigious international awards, and in October 2002, the series was awarded the 2002 ECHO Classic Award for "Editorial Achievement of the Year."

This season Capriccio will release two new recordings by Mr. Conlon and the Gürzenich Orchestra-Cologne Philharmonic. The first disc, Karl Amadeus Hartmann's Violin Concerto with Vladimir Spivakov as soloist and Symphony Nos. 2 and 4, will be released in November, and the second, works by Viktor Ullmann, is due out in March. Mr. Conlon's first recording on Capriccio, Shostakovich's Orchestral Suite from Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and Violin Concerto No. 1 with Mr. Spivakov and the Cologne Philharmonic, was released in February 2002.

Among the most recent of his television appearances was "The Cliburn: Adventures in Great Music" - a documentary on the eleventh Van Cliburn Competition, "Cincinnati May Festival 2000" and "Hearing Ear to Ear with James Conlon" - a documentary focused on his master class and coaching activities with the finalists of the tenth Van Cliburn Competition. This October, PBS began airing "Concerto," six half-hour shows hosted by Mr. Conlon about his work with the six finalists of the 2001 Cliburn Competition.

A native of New York, James Conlon is a graduate and former faculty member of The Juilliard School of Music. He made his professional debut in 1971 conducting Boris Godunov at the Spoleto Festival, and his New York debut the following year while still a student, leading a Juilliard production of La Bohème on the recommendation of Maria Callas.

In 1999, Mr. Conlon received the Zemlinsky Prize, awarded only once before, for his efforts in bringing the composer's music to international attention. He was named an Officier de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government in 1996, and in September 2002, he received France's highest distinction - the Légion d'Honneur - from the President of the French Republic, Jacques Chirac.
James Conlon

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