John Nelson (Conductor)
Born: 6th December 1941, San José, Costa Rica
The American conductor John Nelson was born in San José in 1941 and studied at the Juilliard. He is particularly associated with the music of Berlioz, and above all with his epic Les Troyens, with which he made his New York debut in 1973 and his Metropolitan Opera debut two years later when he stood in for an ailing Rafael Kubelík. (In 2017 Nelson eventually fulfilled his long-term dream of recording the opera – released on Erato and starring Joyce DiDonato and Michael Spyres, it swept the board at the following year’s awards ceremonies, winning Recording of the Year at the Gramophone Awards, and also took prizes at the International Opera Awards, Opus Klassik Awards, and BBC Music Magazine Awards).
Nelson’s Berlioz discography also includes Benvenuto Cellini with Gregory Kunde and Patrizia Ciofi on Erato, Béatrice et Bénédict and Les nuits d’été with Susan Graham, and the Te Deum with Roberto Alagna; further afield, he has recorded a Grammy-winning account of Handel’s Semele with Kathleen Battle in the title-role, a DVD of JS Bach’s Mass in B minor, and recital-albums with Vivica Genaux and David Daniels.
Further Reading: John Nelson
Vocal shape-shifter Michael Spyres tackles the song-cycle in the original orchestral keys, whilst viola-player Timothy Ridout is a warmly collegiate soloist in Harold on this clear-eyed, affectionate recording from Strasbourg.
Ahead of his performance and recording of the Grande Messe des Morts at St Paul's Cathedral tomorrow evening to mark the 150th anniversary of the composer's death, the American conductor talks to Katherine about his fifty-year relationship with music which 'lit something up in me that's remained all my life'.
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