John Nelson

Artistic Director, Soli Deo Gloria

Directeur Musical Honoraire, Orchestre de chambre de Paris

Internationally renowned for his interpretation of the large romantic repertoire, including the great works of Berlioz, John Nelson has conducted most of the world's top orchestras including the London Symphony, Orchestre de Paris, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Chicago Symphony, the Philadelphia and Cleveland Orchestras and the New York Philharmonic.  John Nelson's varied repertoire has also taken him to many of the world's major opera houses including the Metropolitan Opera, the Chicago Lyric, the Opera Bastille and the Netherlands Opera. 

John Nelson returns to Orchestre symphonique de Montréal

11 Dec 2015

John Nelson returns to the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal conducting two performances of Bach's magnificent Christmas Oratorio, with soloists Kathryn Lewek, Robin Blaze, Julian Prégardien and...

John Nelson conducts the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra

23 Sep 2015

John Nelson will conduct an all-Schumann programme in Oxford’s magnificent Sheldonian Theatre on 24 October. A performance of Schumann’s Symphony No. 2 in C major with the Oxford Philharmonic...

John Nelson begins the new season in China and Singapore

08 Sep 2015

John Nelson begins the new season with a series of concerts in China and Singapore. The first concert, with the Shanghai Opera Orchestra on September 20th, will be the culmination of a week of...

John Nelson conducts two great choral works in April

08 Apr 2015

John Nelson conducts two great choral works in April: Berlioz' Te Deum with the ...

John Nelson conducts Bach's St John Passion in Switzerland

20 Feb 2015

John Nelson conducts Bach's St John Passion in Switzerland. There are two performances with the Geneva Chamber Orchestra and the Laudate Deum Chamber Choir, the first in...

John Nelson returns to the Orquesta Nacional de España

01 Feb 2015

John Nelson returns to Spain to conduct the Orquesta Nacional de España in three concerts at the Auditorio Nacional de Música, Madrid, on February 6th, 7th and 8th.  The programme includes...

John Nelson conducts the Orchestre d'Auvergne

16 Dec 2014

John Nelson conducts the Orchestre d'Auvergne with soloist Isabelle Faust, on Friday January 9th at the Maison de la Culture in Clermont-Ferrand. The programme, entitled Shadows and...

John Nelson returns to Paris to conduct the Orchestre de chambre de Paris

01 Oct 2014

John Nelson returns to Paris to conduct the Orchestre de chambre de Paris on October 16th at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. The concert will include a performance of Chopin’s 2nd...

High praise from Gramophone Magazine for John Nelson’s Matthew Passion

04 Jul 2013

Gramophone magazine lavished praise on John Nelson’s Matthew Passion performance with Orchestre de Chambre de Paris and Schola Cantorum...

Two new DVD releases featuring John Nelson - Beethoven: Missa Solemnis and Haydn: The Creation

12 Dec 2011

Two new DVDs featuring John Nelson have been released by Ideale Audience, Beethoven's Missa...

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“What was offered was the finest music expressed with the highest sensitivity…elegant and virtuosic, a profoundly un-pretentious expression and dance-like grace became, under the sovereign direction of Nelson, a radiant painting of sound.  ”

Mittelbadische Presse (Schnittke, Haydn, Part, Mozart, Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra) - Mar 2013

“John Nelson's temperament and heart return to some identifiable signposts for those who are drawn to the inner wonders of this visceral and shimmering journey... the corporate momentum in this reading is quite compelling... Nelson gets to the core of this work with his avuncular didacticism and genial control... true characterisation, tenderness, ardour and an attentiveness to detail [Schola Cantorum of Oxford] which fuels Nelson's rounded and mature vision of the St Matthew.”

Gramophone Magazine St Matthew Passion DVD Review - Jul 2013

“John Nelson’s bracing tempos and vivacity consistently brought out the ingenuity and melodic richness of the music with a freshness and rhythmic lift.”

Chicago Classical Review (Soli Deo Gloria, The Chicago Bach Project, Bach’s B Minor Mass) - Apr 2013

“Elegance, virtuosity, serenely quiet expression, and dance-like grace became a painting in sound of extraordinary radiance under the expert direction of Nelson. This was supremely refined music-making, infused with great sensibility…splendid tonal and dynamic subtlety.”

Mittelbadische Presse (Schnittke, Haydn, Part, Mozart, Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra) - Mar 2013

“Symphonie Fantastique was the wild ride it should be. Nelson, one of the world's leading Berlioz men, held nothing back; what we heard was indeed the composer whom German poet Heine likened to "a lark as big as an eagle, such as must have existed in the primeval world”

New Zealand Herard (Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra) - Jul 2012

“Nelson commanded the vast  forces with authority and dramatic flair. From feathery hushes to great slashes of violins and blasts of brass, the orchestra played splendidly. Climaxes sent chills down the back, but never got raucous. Let’s add Nelson to a list of guests to bring back”

Dallas News (Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Berlioz Te Deum and Mozart Symphony No 39) - Mar 2012

“It seems unlikely that Beethoven's vision of the work will ever be more completely captured”

BBC Music Magazine (Missa Solemnis DVD, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Gulbenkian Choir) - Mar 2012

“John Nelson leads a powerful performance of this daunting score. Nelson responds to the music's variety, infusing the flowing cantablies with a lovely buoyancy, playing the introspective passages with sustained concentration.”

Opera News (Missa Solemnis DVD, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Gulbenkian Choir) - Feb 2012

“John Nelson understands the paradoxes and contradictions that sit at the heart of this piece: questions are posed but rarely answered.  Right from the first bars of the Kyrie you can tell that interpretational fervour is a high priority, magnificently borne out by the fiery Gloria.”

Gramophone Magazine (Missa Solemnis DVD, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Gulbenkian Choir) - Feb 2012

“John Nelson speaks Berlioz without accent.  Who, better than he, can re-establish 'L'Enfance du Christ'?  The Ensemble Orchestral de Paris covers itself with glory by his concern for transparency.”

Le Figaro (L'Enfance du Christ, The Ensemble Orchestral de Paris)

“A splendid  achievement.... John Nelson steers it all with a sure hand and total conviction, and with delight.  Here indeed is the 'verve and vitality'  Berlioz always believed he had found. ”

Gramophone Magazine (Berlioz Benvenuto Cellini, Virgin Classics)

“....wonderfully conducted.... a glorious achievement.”

The Sunday Times (UK) (Beatrice et Benedict, Welsh National Opera)

“I have nothing but rapture to express about this great interpretation of one of Handel's supreme masterpieces.”

Fanfare Magazine (L'Allegro, il penseroso ed it moderator (Virgin Classics))

“The Netherlands Philharmonic played with precision and subtlety under the direction of John Nelson, who has been hailed as a Berlioz specialist and indeed gave the marvellous score a captivating, detailed and inspired reading full of magical moments and overpowering drama.”

Opera Magazine

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Born in Costa Rica of missionary parents, John Nelson is recognized internationally as one of America's leading conductors. He studied piano at the Wheaton College Conservatory of Music and conducting at the Juilliard School where he received the Irving Berlin Prize. Soon after his Juilliard studies he burst onto the New York music scene with the American premiere of Berlioz' complete Les Troyens at Carnegie Hall, which led to his debut at the Metropolitan Opera and his European debut at the Grand Théâtre de Genève.

Recognized as one of the world’s most distinguished choral/orchestral conductors, John Nelson led the 300th anniversary celebrations of Bach and Handel at Carnegie Hall, conducting Bach’s St. Matthew and St. John Passions and the B minor Mass together with Handel’s Semele.  In 1990 he was invited by the Staatskapelle Dresden to conduct their first concert in West Berlin.

John Nelson held the positions of Music Director of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Opera Theater of St. Louis and the Chamber Orchestra of Paris. As guest conductor he has conducted virtually all the leading American orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Boston Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Pittsburg Symphony and the Minnesota Orchestra amongst others. In Canada he has worked with the Montreal Symphony, Toronto Symphony, Vancouver Symphony and Ottawa Symphony. In South America he has conducted the State Symphony Orchestra of São Paolo and the Philharmonic Orchestra of Buenos Aires at Teatro Colón.

In the Far East, Maestro Nelson has conducted the New Japan Philhaŗmonic, the Kioi Sinfonietta, the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, the Hong Kong Philharmonic, the China Philharmonic and the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, as well as the Auckland Philharmonia in New Zealand, and all the orchestras in Australia.

The major part of his performing career has been in Europe, where he has conducted most of the orchestras in the UK, including the London Symphony Orchestra, the Philharmonia, the BBC Symphony, the Hallé Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, all the major orchestras in France, including the Orchestre de Paris, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, the Strasbourg Philharmonic, and the National Orchestras of Lyon, Bordeaux and Toulouse. In Germany he has conducted the RSB Berlin, Bayerische Rundfunk, NDR Hamburg, Stuttgart Radio Symphony, the Leipzig Gewandhaus and the Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne. He has conducted the Swedish Radio Symphony, Tonhalle Zurich, the Czech Philharmonic and the Budapest Festival Orchestra, as well as the Orquesta del Teatro Real in Madrid.

John Nelson has conducted at the world’s leading opera houses including the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Opera, the Chicago Lyric Opera, Santa Fe, the Grand Théâtre de Genève, the Opéra Bastille, the Netherlands Opera, Rome's Teatro dell’Opera, the Opéra National de Lyon and La Monnaie.

Of particular interest to Maestro Nelson is working with young musicians around the world. He conducted and taught extensively at the Aspen Music Festival and for nine consecutive seasons he conducted the New World Symphony in Miami Beach. With the Australian Youth Orchestra he traversed the nine Beethoven Symphonies, and most recently he led masterclasses and conducted the Pacific Music Festival Orchestra in Sapporo: 80 young orchestral players selected from 1600 worldwide applications.

His distinguished discography includes Handel's Semele (Grammy Award 1993), Berlioz' Béatrice et Bénédict (Diapason d'Or 1992), as well as highly acclaimed DVDs of Bach's B minor Mass and St. Matthew Passion, Haydn's Die Schoepfung and Beethoven's Missa Solemnis. He recorded all the Beethoven Symphonies and Piano Concertos with the Paris Chamber Orchestra.

John Nelson is co-founder of SOLI DEO GLORIA, Inc., a Chicago-based organization fostering new sacred music, which has commissioned major works from composers such as Christopher Rouse, James MacMillan, Aaron J. Kernis, Augusta Reed Thomas, Roxanna Panufnik and Sven-David Sandstrom.

Recent and future projects include Berlioz Te Deum with the Warsaw Philharmonic, Beethoven Missa solemnis with the Beethoven Orchester Bonn, concerts with the Spanish National Orchestra in Madrid as well as a return to China for concerts and masterclasses with the Shanghai Opera Orchestra, the Qingdao and Guangzhou Symphony orchestras, and the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. This season John Nelson conducts Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, Bach’s St Matthew Passion with the Orchestre philharmonique de Strasbourg, he returns to the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris for performances at Notre Dame, and to Santa Fe Opera to conduct performances of Don Giovanni






January 2016