Biography

Grammy-nominated conductor Julian Wachner is one of North America’s most exciting and versatile musicians, sought after as conductor, composer, and keyboard artist.  Recent and upcoming engagements include those with the Lincoln Center Festival (The Blind), BAM Next Wave Festival (Liederabend 2013), Juilliard Opera Theatre (2013 Mainstage), The Rolling Stones (50th anniversary tour), New York City Opera (VOX), Hong Kong Philharmonic, TENET (TENEbrae), Portland Baroque (Messiah), and with Carnegie Hall (Arvo Pärt Passio).

As Director of Music and the Arts at New York’s historic Trinity Wall Street, Wachner oversees an annual season of over 900 events, including Trinity’s numerous and varied concert offerings, series and festivals, museum expositions, dance and theatre performances, poetry and literary readings, and educational/outreach initiatives in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn in partnership with New York City’s public school system.

At Trinity Wall Street, Wachner serves as the Principal Conductor of NOVUS NY (Trinity’s resident contemporary music orchestra), and the Trinity Baroque Orchestra & Choir of Trinity Wall Street, recently nominated for a 2012 GRAMMY award for its recording of Handel’s complete Israel in Egypt. He also is the director of Bach at One, Trinity’s weekly performances of the Cantatas of J. S. Bach. Performances this season with TWS include Bach’s Matthew Passion, Christmas Oratorio, B-minor Mass, the complete late works of Igor Stravinsky (April 2013), and the complete non-operatic works of Benjamin Britten (Fall 2013). To open the 2012-13 Season, Wachner conceived of and directed Trinity’s Twelve in 12 Festival celebrating the Pulitzer Prize in music.  Of this festival, Steve Smith noted in Time Out that “some ideas seem so utterly obvious and right at a glance that you wonder why it took someone so long to hatch them. ‘Twelve in 12’ is that kind of notion…Mark your calendars, and give thanks.”

Wachner is also Music Director of the Grammy Award-winning Washington Chorus, with whom he won ASCAP’s Alice Parker award for adventurous programming in 2011.  Wachner has also made memorable guest appearances with such major organizations as the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Montreal and Pittsburgh Symphonies, Spoleto Festival USA, the Handel and Haydn Society, Glimmerglass Opera, Hawaii Opera Theater, New York City Opera and the Boston Pops.  A Baroque specialist, he was the founding Music Director of the Boston Bach Ensemble and the Bach Académie de Montréal, besides serving as Artistic Director of International Bach Festivals in Boston and Montreal.  In 2011 he founded New York City’s newest music festival, The Twelfth Night Festival of Early Music, most recently presented in collaboration with Gotham Early Music Society (GEMS) and featuring many of New York’s leading baroque and renaissance ensembles.

In 2010, Wachner made New York City Opera history when he was selected as both conductor and composer at the company’s annual VOX festival of contemporary opera leading to the invitation to be the sole conductor of this Festival in 2012.  His original music has been variously described as “jazzy, energetic, and ingenious” (Boston Globe), having “splendor, dignity, outstanding tone combinations, sophisticated chromatic exploration…a rich backdrop, wavering between a glimmer and a tingle...” (La Scena Musicale), being “a compendium of surprises” (Washington Post), and as “bold and atmospheric”, having “an imaginative flair for allusive text setting” and noted for “the silken complexities of his harmonies” (New York Times.) The American Record Guide noted that “Wachner is both an unapologetic modernist and an open-minded eclectic – his music has something to say.”  E. C. Schirmer publishes his complete catalogue, comprising over 80 titles.

Wachner’s performances inspire uncommon praise.  The New York Times pronounced his Trinity Wall Street debut “superbly performed” and, this season, noted that the ensemble’s annual Lincoln Center presentation of Handel’s Messiah was “led with both fearsome energy and delicate grace…a model of what is musically and emotionally possible with this venerable score.” Of his interpretation of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, according to the Boston Globe, “there was genius here and no mistaking it.”  Anne Midgette, of The Washington Post, declared recent Wagner and Verdi performances “exhilarating,” commenting: “Julian Wachner knows how to draw maximum drama from a score,” and noted that he was “emphatic and theatrical and so at home in opera that he could bring out the requisite sense of drama.”  Following his account of the Messiah at the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Inquirer’s David Patrick Stearns observed: “Few conductors have drawn such focused, committed, and meticulous music-making as Julian Wachner. … [He] built the music, line by line, as an architectural edifice, serving both the music’s emotional and more purely aesthetic elements.”  As a result, Stearns “couldn’t help fantasize that [Wachner] might do an annual Philadelphia Orchestra festival of Bach and Handel.”

An award-winning organist and improvisateur, Wachner’s solo recital at the Spoleto Festival USA featured an improvised finale that inspired one reviewer to conclude: “This stupefying wizardry was the hit of the recital, and it had to be heard to be believed” (Post and Courier, South Carolina).  As a concert pianist, in his recent Kennedy Center Rachmaninoff performance, the Washington Post noted “Wachner dazzled with some bravura keyboard work, both in the rhapsodic accompaniments to the songs and…in the highly virtuosic transcription of the Dances.”

Wachner’s recordings are with the Chandos, Naxos, Atma Classique, Arsis, Dorian, Musica Omnia, and Titanic labels.