Biography

Multi-Grammy-nominated Julian Wachner’s 2017-18 season was punctuated by an extensive outburst of compositional creativity including “Gaudé: An LB Anniversary for Large Orchestra”, commissioned by the Colorado Music Festival; “TS Variations”, commissioned by the Royal College of Canadian Organists; “Psalm 90”, composed for The Tallis Scholars, Norwegian Soloists Choir, Netherlands Chamber Choir, and The Choir of Trinity Wall Street for Lincoln Center’s White Lights Festival; “Regina Coeli à 8” for the Ora Singer’s “ORA100” recording project with Harmonia Mundi; “Epistle Mass”, written in collaboration with librettist Royce Vavrek for Trinity Wall Street’s Mass Reimaginings project; and a festival setting of “I’ll Praise my Maker” which was premiered at the opening ceremony of the American Guild of Organists Regional Convention in Richmond, Virginia.

Crowning these works was the world premiere of Wachner’s second full length opera, REV 23, a farcical comedy imagining life after Armageddon for White Snake Projects, setting an original libretto by Pulitzer-Prize-winner Cerise Lim Jacobs. Multiple reviewers ranging from The Boston Globe to The Boston Musical Intelligencer lauded the new opera, describing it as “a magnificent beast of a score!”, and noting that “Wachner’s endlessly creative score moved with integrity and versatility” with other reviewers noting “an endlessly unfolding chain of highly controlled polystylism”, that was “novel and entertaining”, and suggesting that “amidst this entertaining gallimaufry, Wachner often reveals deep emotional intelligence.” REV 23 makes its New York City debut at the 2020 Prototype Festival at the Gerald Lynch Theater at John Jay College.

Wachner’s other compositional work 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,” while 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.”

As Director of Music at New York’s historic Trinity Church Wall Street, Wachner oversees an annual season of hundreds of events, with duties including conducting Trinity’s flagship weekly series, Bach-at-One, canvassing the entire choral-orchestral output of J. S. Bach, and leading Compline-by-Candlelight, Trinity’s innovative fully-improvised variation on an ancient monastic ritual. In addition, Wachner curates the long-standing and cherished series Concerts-at-One, presenting an eclectic program of weekly concerts for Lower Manhattan and beyond through its HD live webcasting. Also at Trinity Wall Street, Wachner serves as the Principal Conductor of NOVUS NY (Trinity’s resident contemporary music orchestra), the Trinity Baroque Orchestra, and the Choir of Trinity Wall Street. 

Wachner has made numerous guest appearances with various organizations such as: the Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, Glimmerglass, and Mannes Opera; Hawaii and Juilliard Opera Theater; Opera America;  Encompass Opera; the Philadelphia and The National Arts Centre Orchestra; the Montreal, Pacific, Calgary, and Pittsburgh Symphonies; the New York and Hong Kong Philharmonic; Carnegie Hall Presents; National Sawdust; Montréal Bach Festival; Lincoln Center Festival; Philharmonia Baroque; Salle Bourgie; Beth Morrison Projects; Berkeley Festival and Exhibition; Prototype Festival; Spoleto Festival USA; Handel and Haydn Society; Bang on a Can All-Stars; and the Boston Pops.  

Wachner’s performances inspire uncommon praise.  The New York Times pronounced his Trinity Wall Street debut “superbly performed” and 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.”

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 many recordings are with Chandos, Naxos, Atma Classique, Erato, Cantaloupe Music, Arsis, Dorian, and Musica Omnia. Having scored a Grammy nomination for his recording of Handel’s Israel in Egypt, Wachner and the Choir of Trinity Wall Street released, alongside the Bang on a Can All-Stars, the world premiere and Grammy- nominated recording of Julia Wolfe’s 2015 Pulitzer prize-winning Anthracite Fields, and, with NOVUS NY, released Du Yun and Royce Vavrek’s Angel’s Bone, winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize.