David Atherton is one of the world's most versatile and
experienced symphonic and operatic conductors. He has been especially acclaimed for his
pioneering championship and detailed preparation of major new contemporary works and for
his dramatic grasp and musical control of the great operatic masterpieces.
David Atherton shot to fame when he was appointed by Sir
Georg Solti as Resident Conductor at the Royal Opera House when he was only 24 years old,
in 1968. The same year he conceived, co-founded and directed a remarkable new artistic
group, the London Sinfonietta, which was to become one of the world's most influential and
successful proponents of new music.
Quickly David Atherton was recognised as an artist of
precocious gifts. At Covent Garden, where he stayed for twelve years and to where he then
returned regularly as a guest, he conducted a wide range of works with some of the
greatest singers of recent times. Notable successes were Il Trovatore (Verdi), Don
Giovanni (Mozart), Salome (Strauss), The Rake's Progress (Stravinsky), We Come to the
River (Henze), and a double bill of Le Rossignol (Stravinsky) and L'Enfant et les
Sortilèges (Ravel). With the London Sinfonietta he performed and recorded an enormous
repertoire ranging from neglected chamber, choral and stage works by composers as diverse
as Schubert and Weill, through the complete chamber works of Schoenberg, to choral and
operatic music by Tippett and Tavener. In all the repertoire he conducted, and especially
in difficult new works, he became recognised for his ability to hear intricate details and
his commanding technical facility in co-ordinating the performers.
During the 1980s David Atherton pioneered and directed
ambitious and imaginative festivals in London featuring performances of the complete works
of Ravel, Stravinsky, Webern and Varèse. They have now taken their place as major
artistic innovations in the annals of London's musical life.
Equally in demand on the concert platform and in the opera
house, David Atherton has frequently conducted the world's finest orchestras, including
the BBC Symphony, Berlin Philharmonic, Berlin Radio Symphony, Detroit Symphony, London
Philharmonic, London Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Philharmonia, Pittsburgh,
Montreal Symphony, Royal Concertgebouw, Dallas Symphony and San Francisco Symphony.
David Atherton was appointed Music Director of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra in 1989, a position he held for 11 years becoming Conductor Laureate in 2000.
Previous to his work in Hong Kong, he was the Music Director of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic
Orchestra and the San Diego Symphony Orchestra and held titled positions with the BBC
Symphony Orchestra and BBC National Orchestra of Wales. He is also the Artistic Director
and Founder (1989) of the Mainly Mozart Festival held each summer in Southern California
and Northern Mexico.
In opera David Atherton recently scored great successes at
the New York Metropolitan Opera with Rossini's Barber of Seville and Britten's Death in
Venice and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. His performances of Britten's Peter Grimes and
Billy Budd at the English National Opera received particularly strong praise for the
drama, cohesion and atmosphere he obtained from the orchestra and chorus. Both productions
were recorded for laser disc and home video.
David Atherton's copious discography includes recordings
that have won the highest international awards, including an Edison Award, many Grammy
nominations and the coveted Grand Prix du Disque. He has also been honoured with the Serge
Koussevitsky Critics' Award and the Prix Caecilia. His recording of Tippett's opera King
Priam won what is considered the world's most prestigious recording prize, the
International Record Critics'Award. Referring to this in his autobiography, the composer
said "Atherton is a conductor of genius". With the Hong Kong Philharmonic
Orchestra David Atherton has recently recorded a series of six CDs of works by Stravinsky
and one containing the two symphonies of Kurt Weill.
David Atherton's music making is distinguished by a
meticulous attention to detail, balance and structure, whatever the genre, and by a strong
rhythmic character. His performances create
excitement through their combination of dramatic flair and technical control.