SIR ROGER NORRINGTON – PRINCIPAL CONDUCTOR
Sir Roger Norrington was raised in a musical family in Oxford, England and played the violin and sang from a young age. He studied History at Westminster School, and English Literature at Cambridge University, where he was a choral scholar. Several years’ wide experience of top class amateur music making, while working as a publisher of scholarly books, ended with a return to musical studies at the Royal College of Music in London and the start of his professional career as a singer and conductor.
In 1962, he founded the Schütz Choir, which achieved fame in its field and made many records. In 1969, he was invited to become music director of Kent Opera and, for 15 years, conducted over 400 performances of 40 different operas. In 1978, he founded the London Classical Players, to research original instrument performance from 1750 to 1900. The orchestra received enormous acclaim particularly for its recorded cycle of the Beethoven symphonies with EMI (still available today). Works by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Wagner and Bruckner gave listeners an idea of how these pieces might have sounded in their own day.
During the 1980s and 1990s, Norrington was much in demand as a guest conductor (as he still is today). He worked in Britain at Covent Garden and the English National Opera, with the BBC Symphony and the Philharmonia orchestras, and was Chief Conductor of the Bournemouth Sinfonietta. Abroad he appears with the Berlin Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Orchestre de Paris, as well as in New York, Washington, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Since 1998 Norrington has been Principal Conductor of the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra (SWR), and – up to summer 2006 – of the Camerata Salzburg. In both places he has established a historically aware style of playing which is very dear to his heart. This involves all the demands of early instrument orchestras, but in a “modern” context. Appropriate numbers of players, historical seating plans, bowing, phrasing, tempo and articulation are all employed, and absolutely crucial is the use of pure tone, without the addition of late 20th century continuous vibrato.
The results have been startling. The Stuttgart RSO stands out from the crowd, and has won devoted followings in its home town and abroad. In particular a whole series of recordings on the label SWRmusic (in cooperation with Hänssler Classics) are giving other professionals, and the musical public all over the world, the chance to hear music as it was expected to sound by the great composers of the past.
Norrington’s Beethoven cycle with the Stuttgart RSO has astonished its buyers. No less inspiring are records of Mozart, Berlioz, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Elgar and Mahler, all with the same pure tone, expressive phrasing and transparent orchestral textures. Norrington often invites other orchestras to experiment with his historical aims. But at present the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra leads the field.