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David Atherton
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Biography
David Atherton

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.

Jon Tolansky

 Recommended CD
Stravinsky Collection Vol 3
Stravinsky Collection Vol 3 David Atherton
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