"As a composer with a combined Mexican, Greek and Jewish identity, I have always found myself living and working in the no-man’s land between pure post-Impressionism and post-Expressionism, combined with the modes and rhythms of my various ethnic ancestries—composing music that has been thought of as "too simple" from one camp and "too complex" from the other. As I have always considered my compositional process and philosophy to be aligned with the assimilators of previous eras, (Bach, Stravinsky and Foss come to mind)—I have found equal inspiration from strict form or unbridled chaos; tonality, modality or post-tonality; and lyricism, pointillism or minimalism—I find it crucial to have as sweeping a palette of creative possibilities at my disposal as possible, believing that this desire is no different from any composer of the past."
Multi-Grammy-nominated conductor, composer, and keyboardist Julian Wachner – recently named one of Musical America’s Top 30 Professionals of the Year – has enjoyed an extensive outburst of compositional creativity including “Here’s the Thing”, a choral-orchestral response to Black Lives Matter and the Covid pandemic in collaboration with award-winning poet Samiya Bashir for the 60th Anniversary of The Washington Chorus; the critically acclaimed New York premiere of “REV 23” at the 2020 Prototype Festival; “The Vision of the Archangels” for cornetist Bruce Dickey; “We Two Alone” for chorus and baroque orchestra, commissioned by The Providence Singers; “Lord, Thou hast been our refuge” for choir, organ and solo trumpet commissioned by The Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys; “My Cathedral” for choir and organ commissioned by the American Guild of Organists for the 2020 National Convention in Atlanta, Georgia; “Gaudé: An LB Anniversary for Large Orchestra”, commissioned by the Colorado Music Festival as the winning composer of their annual “Click” competition; “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; and “Epistle Mass”, written in collaboration with librettist Royce Vavrek for Trinity Wall Street’s Mass Reimaginings project. Wachner’s collection of colorful arrangements of favorite Christmas carols “The Snow Lay on the Ground” has been performed all over the world including a recent run with the Chicago Symphony. Upcoming projects include Wachner’s fourth opera, also in collaboration with Royce Vavrek, “Broadview Christ” commissioned by Beth Morrison Projects for the Prototype Festival, a new children’s opera focussing on cyber-bullying with librettist Samiya Bashir, and a new musical, “Vincent” written in collaboration with Tom Wade and Dana Davies focussing on income inequality.
Wachner’s compositions have 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 recognized that, “Wachner is both an unapologetic modernist and an open-minded eclectic – his music has something to say.” Most recently, Early Music America noted that ““The Vision of the Archangels” soars and entwines, builds and diminishes, with absolutely gut-wrenching beauty.”
Wachner also enjoys an active schedule as a guest conductor. Orchestral engagements have included performances with the Philadelphia Orchestra; Kansas City, Montreal, Pacific, Calgary, and Pittsburgh Symphonies; New York Philharmonic; Seraphic Fire; National Arts Centre Orchestra; Philharmonia Baroque; Hong Kong Philharmonic; Bang on a Can All-Stars; and Apollo’s Fire. As an opera conductor, he has lead the San Francisco Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Hawaii Opera Theater, Juilliard Opera Theater, and New York City Opera, as well as conducted shows for Carnegie Hall Presents, National Sawdust, and the Lincoln Center Festival. Wachner served for nine seasons as the music director of the Grammy Award-winning Washington Chorus, with whom he won ASCAP’s Alice Parker award for adventurous programming and Chorus America’s Margaret Hilles award for Choral Excellence. In March 2018, Wachner was appointed artistic director of Michigan’s Grand Rapids Bach Festival.
Since his professional debut as Music Director of Boston University’s Marsh Chapel in 1990, Wachner was decades ahead of the current focus on diversity and inclusion in classical music, indeed he was a pioneer in consistently commissioning, performing, and recording both women and BIPOC artists. This life-long dedication to diversity has yielded three Pulitzer-prize winning works (Julia Wolfe’s “Anthracite Fields”, Ellen Reid’s “Prism”, Du Yun’s “Angel’s Bone”) and multiple other projects, festivals and recordings (Jessie Montgomery’s “Strum”, Luna Pearl Woolf’s “Fire and Blood”, Elena Ruehr’s “Averno”, Trevor Weston’s “Choral Works”, Paola Prestini’s “Oceanic Verses” and “Hubble Cantata”) – several of these releases have been nominated for Grammy awards in a variety of categories.
As Director of Music at New York’s historic Trinity Church Wall Street, Wachner created a world-renowned performing arts center with an annual season of hundreds of events.
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 a 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."