Biography

Named one of New York City’s “10 Imagination-Grabbing, Trailblazing Artists of 2014” by WQXR, music director Julian Wachner continues to enjoy an international profile as conductor, composer and keyboard artist. Wachner’s extensive catalogue of original compositions 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.”  

Following an acclaimed premiere last season at the San Francisco Opera, stepping in last minute to conduct Handel’s Partenope, Wachner also directed Handel’s Saul in a fully staged version for New York’s Twelfth Night Festival; He conducted the premiere of Ellen Reid’s Winter’s Child for the Prototype Festival, and enjoyed a momentous premiere at Carnegie Hall leading the full forces of Trinity Wall Street, the National Cathedral Choir, and the Washington Chorus in a performance of Alberto Ginastera’s epic Turbae ad passionem gregorionem alongside Charles Ives’ massive Fourth Symphony.

As Director of Music and the Arts at New York’s historic Trinity 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. 

This season, Wachner directs Opera America’s New Opera Showcase, appears at New York’s annual Prototype Festival leading the fully staged world premiere production of Du Yun and Royce Vavrek’s Angel’s Bon,; conducts the U.S. premiere of Tim Brady’s Symphony No. 3: Atacama with Newspeak at National Sawdust, appears with Trinity Wall Street at Montreal’s Salle Bourgie, California’s Berkeley Festival, the Metropolitan Museum, and at Lincoln Center. He also directs Miami’s Seraphic Fire in a program centered around his 2001 Rilke Songs for a cappella choir. In addition to numerous performances of his music throughout North America, this season Wachner has received composition commissions from Vision into Art (Epistle for orchestra and chorus), the Washington Master Chorale (An October Garden), the Rivers School (Composer-in-residence), and from Beth Morrison Projects and Friends of Madame White Snake for his second full-length opera (REV23).

Wachner’s recordings are with Chandos, Naxos, Atma Classique, Erato, Cantaloupe Music, Arsis, Dorian, and Musica Omnia. Having scored a Grammy nomination together for their recording of Handel’s Israel in Egypt, Wachner and the Choir of Trinity Wall Street can now be heard alongside the Bang on a Can All-Stars on the world premiere recording of Julia Wolfe’s 2015 Pulitzer prize-winning Anthracite Fields, an evocation of the lives of coal-mining families in turn-of-the-century Pennsylvania.

Wachner has made memorable guest appearances with such major organizations as: the San Francisco, New York City, and Glimmerglass Opera; Hawaii and Juilliard Opera Theater; Opera America;  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; Lincoln Center Festival; Philharmonia Baroque; Beth Morrison Projects; Berkeley Festival and Exhibition; 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."