Sir Roger Norrington – Conductor

For nearly fifty years Roger Norrington has been at the forefront of the movement for historically informed orchestral playing. Whether with his own London Classical Players in the 1980’s with the Stuttgart Radio Symphony or Camerata Salzburg in recent years, or with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment from its foundation, Norrington has sought to put modern players in touch with the historical style of the music they play. The work involves orchestra size and seating, tempo, phrasing, articulation and sound.

Sir Roger (he was knighted by the Queen in 1997) sang and played the violin from a young age, and began to conduct at Cambridge. He studied at the Royal College of Music under Sir Adrian Boult and at the same time founded the first of several groups for the performance of early music, the Heinrich Schütz Choir. This was followed ten years later by the London Classical Players, which achieved worldwide fame with their dramatic recordings of the 9 Beethoven Symphonies. Works by Haydn, Mozart, Berlioz, Brahms, Bruckner, and many others followed, and established Norrington as a key exponent of historical style.

As early as 1966 Norrington was made Music Director of the new and exciting Kent Opera. Here again he introduced innovative thinking about orchestra size, playing style and tempi, particularly with the earlier repertoire. He brought to opera the distinguished directors Jonathan Miller and Nicholas Hytner. He conducted many hundreds of performances for Kent and went on to work at Covent Garden and the English National Opera, for La Scala and La Fenice and at the Vienna Staatsoper.

The choir, the orchestra and the opera had done their pioneering work, and Norrington moved on to share his historical findings with more “modern” orchestras, choirs and opera companies. He is a frequent guest with many of the world’s major orchestras – the Berlin Philharmonic and the Vienna Philharmonic, the Deutsche Symphonie, the Leipzig Gewandhaus, the Concertgebouw Orkest, l’Orchestre de Paris, the NHK in Tokyo, and the Philharmonia in London. In the US he has appeared over many years with the Boston, Chicago and San Francisco Symphonies, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Cincinnati and Detroit Symphonies, and the LA Philharmonic.

More permanent posts with orchestras have included Chief Conductor of the Bournemouth Sinfonietta, Music Director of the Orchestra of St. Lukes in New York, Chief Conductor (now Emeritus) of the Salzburg Camerata and (since 1998) Chief Conductor of the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra. Norrington became Principal Conductor of the Zurich Chamber Orchestra in 2011.

With Stuttgart Sir Roger has made a remarkable series of recordings on the Haenssler label, spanning the core orchestral repertoire, with sets of works by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Berlioz, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Brahms, Dvorak, Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Bruckner, Mahler, and Elgar. Taken together they offer a vivid glimpse of how a modern orchestra can get in touch with its historical roots, cherishing the gesture and sound each composer expected in his lifetime