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 conducts in Tokyo

06 Jun 2017

John Nelson returns to Tokyo to conduct the Kioi Hall Chamber Orchestra in two concerts on 30 June and 1 July. The orchestra will perform two French works: Le Festin de l'Araignée by...

John Nelson conducts Berlioz's Les Troyens in Strasbourg

06 Apr 2017

Following the huge success of Berlioz’s Les Troyens at Oper Frankfurt earlier this year, John Nelson, an internationally renowned interpreter of Berlioz, conducts two concert performances...

John Nelson to conduct The Damnation of Faust

02 Mar 2017

John Nelson, renowned for his interpretations of Berlioz, conducts the third performance of the widely-acclaimed production of Les Troyens at Oper Frankfurt on 3 March, then...

John Nelson debuts at Oper Frankfurt with Les Troyens

06 Feb 2017

John Nelson makes his debut at Oper Frankfurt with Les Troyens. Internationally renowned for his interpretations of Berlioz, John Nelson has previously conducted ...

John Nelson returns to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra

21 Jan 2017

John Nelson returns to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, to conduct three concerts of works by Ravel, Vaughan Williams and Rachmaninov: Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin and ...

John Nelson returns to Costa Rica to conduct Beethoven's Missa Solemnis

09 Nov 2016

John Nelson returns to Costa Rica to conduct Beethoven's Missa Solemnis at the Teatro Nacional. He will direct over 150 members of the Orquesta ...

Yi-Jia Susanne Hou to perform and record with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and John Nelson

13 Oct 2016

Chinese Canadian violinist Yi-Jia Susanne Hou travels to London to perform with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under conductor and fellow ICA artist...

John Nelson returns to China

07 Sep 2016

John Nelson returns to China to conduct the opening concert of the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra's season at Xinghai Concert Hall on 17 September. The programme consists of Bartók's Romanian Folk...

John Nelson returns to Santa Fe Opera

24 Jun 2016

John Nelson returns to Santa Fe Opera to conduct Mozart's Don Giovanni, following a successful production of The Marriage of Figaro in 2013. He will conduct ten performances...

John Nelson returns to Orchestre de Chambre de Paris

10 May 2016

On 24 and 25 May at Notre Dame de Paris, John Nelson will lead Orchestre de Chambre de Paris in two performances of Fauré's Requiem, which was first performed in Paris at...

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“At present there are few conductors who, like John Nelson, can rightly be called 'Berlioz experts.' The Museumsorchester was transformed under his conductorship. The realisation of the instrumentation was breathtaking, unusual colour combinations emerged so naturally, the flow from light to shade was so transparent, so gripping the sprays of sparks, the dynamic peaks. And it was a joy to hear the choruses and singers being not only led, but lifted, transported. They seemed to be electrified, a current passing through them, from the triumphant opening notes to the final chord.  ”

Eleonore Büning, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung - Feb 2017

“From the first to the last minute of this 5-hour performance John Nelson expertly controlled  the timing, the polyphony, the balance of the powerful orchestra and choruses, reducing them to a minimum for the Dido and Aeneas love duet, and the intensity and tension of every phrase of this score, which he had totally mastered. This score, which for a long time was said to be unplayable, was here realised to perfection, and was held aloft before the audience at the final applause.”

Elodie Martinez, Opera Online - Apr 2017

“John Nelson proves to be a master at the desk of the Frankfurter Opern- und Museumorchesters and treats the drama of the music with differentiation. At the end of the evening he is deservedly greeted with tumultuous applause.  ”

Thomas Molke, - Feb 2017

“We must first of all honour the energy and impeccable conducting of the renowned  Berlioz expert, John Nelson. He was in total control, and directed the 350 performers in this great Romantic opera with perfection.”

Mark Munch, Dernières Nouvelles d'Alsace - Apr 2017

“John Nelson took everyone to the summit. He has an intimate knowledge and a true vision of Les Troyens, developed over many years. He drew back the bow to its limit and made of this concert a great theatrical experience.”

Didier van Moere, L'Avant-Scène Opéra no. 128-129 - Apr 2017

“John Nelson conducted and the orchestra (New York Philharmonic) produced the liveliest, most polished and committed playing I have heard from it this season.  ”

Andrew Porter, The New Yorker - Jun 2017

“Maestro Nelson succeeds in giving us a recording (Handel L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato) that - in its ideal balance and crystalline clarity - is texturally superior, properly weighted at the appropriate points, and offers fastidious attention to the most minute details. The result is a presentation that is exceptionally imaginative and rewarding throughout, one that decidedly deserves a niche in our Classical Hall of Fame.  ”

Michael Carter, Fanfare Magazine  - Jun 2017

“Quite simply, one of the most exciting experiences this listener has ever had in the concert hall.  ”

John Schneider, The Atlanta Journal - Jun 2017

“John Nelson...clearly has the measure, as much as anyone, of this score (Beethoven Missa Solemnis, European Chamber Orchestra) and succeeds in conveying the urgency of his view with gestures and expressions that are eloquent and undemonstrative. It seems unlikely that Beethoven's vision in this work will ever be more completely captured.  ”

Michael Tanner, Music DVD Choice, BBC Music Magazine  - Jun 2017

“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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John Nelson is recognized on the international scene as one of America's principal conductors. He studied at the Juilliard School in New York, where he received the Irving Berlin conducting prize. He has been the Musical Director of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Opera Theater of St. Louis, the Caramoor Music Festival in New York and the Chamber Orchestra of Paris. He has also been the Principal Guest Conductor of the National Orchestra of Lyon, Artistic Advisor of the orchestras of Nashville and Louisville, and is presently the Principal Guest Conductor of the National Orchestra of Costa Rica, the country in which he was born to American missionary parents.

In the course of his career he has conducted virtually all the major orchestras in the United States and Canada, including those of New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Montreal and Toronto, and also in Europe, where he has conducted all the major London orchestras, the Dresden Staatskapelle, the Leipzig Gewandhaus, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, the Orchestre de Paris, the Oslo Philharmonic, the Czech Philharmonic, the Budapest Festival Orchestra and all the major orchestras in Spain. In Asia he has conducted the New Japan Philharmonic, the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, the Malaysian Philharmonic, the Hong Kong Philharmonic, the China Philharmonic and the orchestras of Shanghai and Guangzhou. His large repertoire has led him to the world's great opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera, the Chicago Lyric Opera, the Bastille in Paris, the Stuttgart Opera, the Grand Théâtre in Geneva, the Netherlands Opera and the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma.

John Nelson is recognized as a great interpreter of the sacred music repertoire. In 1994 he co-founded SOLI DEO GLORIA, an organization based in Chicago that commissions works of sacred music from the world's great composers, such as Christopher Rouse, James MacMillan and Roxanna Panufnik.

Maestro Nelson's distinguished discography includes Handel's Semele (Grammy Award 1993), Berlioz’s Béatrice et Bénédict (Diapason d'Or 1992) and highly acclaimed DVDs of Bach's B minor Mass and St. Matthew Passion, Haydn's Die Schöpfung and Beethoven's Missa Solemnis. He also recorded the complete Beethoven Symphonies and Piano Concertos with the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris, of which he is Honorary Musical Director.

A recent debut at Oper Frankfurt with a new production of Berlioz's Les Troyens was followed by concert performances of the opera with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg. John Nelson’s engagements this season include the St Petersburg Philharmonic, Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust at the Enescu Festival in Bucharest, and a tour of Asia with London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. 









June 2017