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Energy, attention to detail, stylistically informed interpretation and charisma, are the attributes that best convey the essence of Celso Antunes as a conductor. He is a man of great integrity, charm and personal discipline.
“Antunes showed he knows that rarest of arts: how to make the contributions in a perspective that always makes musical sense… He secured performances that were high on illumination, getting inside the music, as it were…“
Michael Dervan, Irish Times
Energy, attention to detail, stylistically informed interpretation and charisma, are top among the wide range of attributes that best convey the essence of Celso Antunes as a unique conductor.
The São Paulo Symphony Orchestra (OSESP), Brazil, has appointed Celso Antunes as Associate Conductor, for five years from 2012. Each season, he will conduct at least two different programmes with the orchestra (6 to 8 concerts) and one programme with the Choir. He is Chief Conductor of Camerata Fukuda, Brazil and Professor of Choral Conducting at the distinguished Haute École de Musique de Genève. He is equally in demand as an orchestral and a choral conductor.
Born 1959 in São Paulo, Brazil, Celso Antunes studied conducting at the Musikhochschule Köln in Germany. From 1994 until 1998 he was Chief Conductor of the Neues Rheinisches Kammerorchester in Cologne and of the Belgian contemporary music ensemble Champ d'Action (1994 – 1997), with whom he directed numerous world premieres. As Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the National Chamber Choir of Ireland, his influence on its development from 2002 onward was exceptional. In 2007 the Irish Times regretted his departure with the words: ‘…this period will have to be seen in the future as a golden age for professional choral singing in Ireland’. Following this, from August 2008 to March 2012, Antunes was Chief Conductor of the Groot Omroepkoor (Netherlands Radio Choir).
Flexibility is the key to Celso Antunes’ conducting expertise, with a repertoire that spans from Renaissance choral music, through orchestral works from the 18th and 19th century to contemporary music, of which he is a devoted advocate. This advocacy has led to engagements to direct numerous renowned contemporary music ensembles such as the Nieuw Ensemble, the Ensemble Modern and the Tippett Ensemble (of which he remains Music Director). He has conducted many world premieres including works by Michael Tippett, Wolfgang Rihm, Jonathan Harvey, Hans Zender, Brice Pauset, Unsuk Chin and Lera Auerbach.
Celso Antunes is regularly invited as a guest conductor by leading orchestras, such as the Netherlands Radio Filharmonisch Orkest, the NDR Radiophilharmonie, the Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland Pfalz, the Brussels Philharmonic, the Ulster Orchestra, Manchester Camerata, the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and the Philharmonia Orchestra. He frequently works with a number of prestigious choirs, including the SWR Stuttgart Vocal Ensemble, the BBC Singers in London, Choeur de Radio France and the Vlaamse Radio Koor in Brussels. For many years Celso Antunes has been an active figure on the European concert scene: engagements have included the City of London Festival, Salzburger Festival, Berliner Festspiele, the Flanders Festival and the Musikbienale München.
Antunes’ CD recordings have achieved high critical acclaim, and multiple award nominations. In 2010 a CD of works by Joaquin Turina with the NDR Radiophilharmonie for hänssler classic was nominated for a Grammy award. His 2010 recording of Sun Dogs by James MacMillan with the Netherlands Radio Choir, on the BIS label, was shortlisted for a Gramophone Classical Music Award. In 2011 Antunes recorded works by Xavier Montsalvatge, again with the NDR Radiophilharmonie for hänssler classic. In the same year, he recorded a CD of works by Richard Rijnvos, Uptown|Downtown, featuring both the Netherlands Radio Filharmonisch Orkest and the Netherlands Radio Kamer Filharmonie, released May 2012. The recording led the composer to describe Celso Antunes’ leadership of the two orchestras as ‘inspiring’. In 2013 he recorded a CD of works by the Brazilian composer Almeida Prado with OSESP, released November 2013.
Franck, Honneger, Poulenc, RTE National Symphony Orchestra, Dublin, 3 May 2013
Antunes is an individualist, engineering frequent adjustments of mood .... the playing he secured was first rate, and he brought real rough-hewn bite to Honneger's Rugby, a work the composer called "the savage, brusque, untidy and desperate rythym " of the game.Poulenc's Gloria, with Tynan radiant and the Philharmonic Choir in fine voice, was a blaze of glory.
Michael Dervan - Irish Times 8 May 2013
Unsuk Chin, nieuw ensemble – Wittner Tage für Neue Kammermusik
Unsuk Chin’s cosmigimmicks demonstrates her unerring sense of musical expression in a confined musical space. The Nieuw Ensemble, under the direction of Antunes, delivered with relish, a finely detailed performance of her pantomime for seven players.
Egbert Hiller, Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, April 2013
Borodin Symphony No. 2, Orquestra Sinfonica do Estado de Sao Paulo, 7 March 2013
Brazilian newspaper Estadao features a full page interview with conductor Celso Antunes and reviews a recent performance of Borodin's second symphony.
Extract from the review:
On the podium, Celso Antunes demonstrated security and full mastery of his craft. In spite of his origins linking him to choral conducting, it is time that Antunes devotes himself exclusively to conducting symphonic works - and the best example of this is the way in which he built an engaging reading of the second symphony of Borodin.
João Marcos Coelho, Estadao
Extract from the interview:
“You have no idea how many times I've heard agents say: Celso, you need to decide – do you want to be a symphonic conductor or a choir conductor? But up until now I have managed to escape, I'm slippery, like soap. And one thing helps the other. Monteverdi is a lesson in how to play Borodin, and vice versa. Whatever I have learned from conducting choirs I have been able to apply to conducting orchestras. There are two worlds which people divide, but they are really the same thing.”
Read the full article here
“The violin parts are almost always lyrical throughout, while the orchestral accompaniment alternates between surging climaxes and cheeky, rhythmic comments from the woodwinds... Antunes and his forces make a distinguished contribution to the whole disc.”
“More than the sum of its parts, this disc is a perfect introduction to the music of a 20th-century Spanish master. The recording quality is top-class, the performances terrific, and the music itself is well worth getting to know.”
Philllip Scott, Fanfare, 04.08.12
„Both orchestras perform under the inspiring leadership of Brazilian maestro Celso Antunes"
„Celso Antunes...is credited with extremely competent handling of the piano concerto as well as 'The Manhattan Square Dances', where the forces of the Dutch Radio Philharmonic Orchestra are split into two orchestras of the same size... 'Times Square Dance' and 'Washington Square Dance' burst with sheer vitality as well as the up-beat music of the 'Union Square Dance', in which 'leggiero' passages and wild pulsation-counterpoint, hoquetus-like, are intertwined“
Helmut Rohmas, BRKlassik, 11.06.2012
„The performances (under Celso Antunes, we might add...) are as playful as they are formidable“
Jan van Laar, Elsevier, 23.06.2012
„Celso Antunes conducts...fascinating, swinging and effective music, with a dollop of humour too, always dazzingly and ingeniously composed“
Peter van der Lint, Trouw, 26.06.2012
“… The musicians of the NDR, led by the Brazilian conductor Celso Antunes realize Turina’s Idiom magnificently.”
Ekkehard Pluta, klassik-heute.de, 03.09.10
“The Canto contains as much orchestral as vocal music … Celso Antunes and the orchestra do a fine job throughout, and the engineering is excellent. Given the fact that the music is entirely gorgeous, this is quite recommendable.”
David Hurwitz, classicstoday.com
“Truly international Turina - Sensitively performed and beautifully-recorded”
“A truly international approach to Turina this, with Slovakian mezzo Lucia Duchonová and the NDR Radiophilharmonie under Brazilian conductor Celso Antunes. … Finest of all is the performance of Saeta en forma de Salve, a too-little known jewel, which finds all the performers on top form.”
Ivan Moody Gramophone 30.11.10
Visitatio Sepulchri and Sun Dogs – James McMillan, BIS
*Shortlisted for a Gramophone Award (Choral Section) in 2011
“It is remarkable that a Dutch choir can offer such strong and polished performances of these two choral works by James Macmillan, readily surmounting any problems over singing the English text of the a cappella writing in Sun-Dogs [conducted by Celso Antunes]...Altogether a fine coupling of two superb works”
Gramophone Magazine, August 2010
“[Sun Dogs] is a tour de force of choral writing, in which Macmillan is always assured and in the layered execution of which the Dutch professional choir [Conductor Celso Antunes] excels, it sets texts by Michael Symmons Roberts...with memorable results...It would be hard to imagine a more fervent performance than this”
BBC Music Magazine, September 2010 *****
Carmina Burana / Cantata Profana
„...You do not very often listen to this piece (Carmina) performed at such a high level. Brazilian conductor Celso Antunes brought together the Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz, the Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart, three fantastic soloists and formed an ensemble that showed all those qualities needed for a highly effective performance: rhythmical conciseness and sound awareness, particularly a wonderful feeling for this music's specific inflection, in a piece that sometimes shows drastic changes of mood. Antunes managed it in an exemplary manner...“
Frank Armbruster, Stuttgarter Zeitung, 21.11.2011
„...the Gächinger Kantorei and the Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz under Celso Antunes are simply ideal interpreters for this rhythmically very demanding hymn to the joy of living: magnificent vocal material, perfect articulation, flexibility and effervescence...Both the ensembles and the impressive conductor were in top form – a great evening!“
Waltraud Brunst, Mannheimer Morgen, 19.11.2011
„A rousing sound impact on the first concert of the series Mannheimer Meisterkonzerte at the Rosengarten...The master of the sound masses was Brazilian conductor Celso Antunes...Modelling these sound masses without creating a massive sound – that's where the secret of a successful performance of Orff's Carmina Burana lies...With Bela Bartok's Cantata Profana Antunes provided an impressive foretaste to the abilities of both ensembles: an interpretation with no trace of fear of rhythmic, melodic and harmonic difficulties...Finding the necessary degree of transparency between the rhythmical vitality and the monumentality of the scenes – that's Antunes's recipe for success!“
Markus Pacher, Die Rheinpfalz, 21.11.2011
Goethe's "Theatralisches Abentheuer", Radio Philharmonie NDR Hannover, 20 February 2009
Neue Presse 23 February 2009
Lonneke Regter, De Volkskrant, 19.01.2009
Eddie Vetter, De Telegraaf, 16.01.09
Heide Oehmen, Rheinische Post, 30.4.2008
Volker Hagedorn, Der Tagesspiegel, 17.4.2008
"This music sounds intense and vivid, subtle and never overloaded … Above all, because the Belgian Het Spectra Ensemble under Celso Antunes’ competent direction were remarkably able to delve deeply into this highly dramatic work…"
Christoph Dittmann, Westdeutsche Allgemeine, 08 February 2008
Andrea Rea, Newsletter 20 November 2007
“Conductor Celso Antunes got the combined Belfast Philharmonic and Guinness Choirs off to a wonderfully atmospheric start in his Verdi Requiem with the Ulster Orchestra on Friday… it was good to hear so many of the work’s moments of tenderness and warmth conveyed with sensitivity. The care with which Antunes sculpted individual choral lines and ensured musically sound balances was commendable, as was his concern not to overpower the vocal soloists.“
Michael Dervan, The Irish Times, Nov 19 2007
“It was good to witness an impressive performance in the Waterfront Hall on Friday evening given by the Ulster Orchestra… All credit to conductor Celso Antunes: he was impressive in that he conducted the whole piece from memory, bringing tremendous musicality and colour to the performance. Antunes kept a good balance between singers and the orchestra, despite the wide range of dynamic contrasts in a piece that moves continuously from moods of mystical spirituality to high drama. As well as the thrilling climaxes for which this work is justly famous, not least the Dies Irae, we also got moments of tremendous tenderness and intimacy”.
Ruth McCartney, Irish News, 19 November 2007
"Under Celso Antunes ’direction, all musicians, spread all over the church, could perform with absolute precision: the spatial sound effects were perfectly achieved…"
Westdeutsche Zeitung, 22.Oktober 2007
NRZ, 23.Oktober 2007
Gerd Zacher, 22. Oktober 2007
Lauro Machado Coelho, Estado de São Paulo, September 2007
"Brazilian conductor Celso Antunes knows how to get the most out of all dances, including Tangos and Mambos: This is sensational music making, the Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie plays for him with luxurious strings and with a lavish orchestral brass sound..."
Mannheimer Morgen, June 2007
Die Rheinpfalz, June 2007
Irish Times, Editorial, February 2007
O Estado de São Paulo, January 2007
O Estado de São Paulo, September 2006
O Estado de São Paulo, August 2006
Belfast Telegraph, June 2006
Irish Times, July 2005
Belfast Telegraph, March 2004
Fono Forum, January 2003
Uptown/Downtown, Richard Rijnvos
Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic
Challenge Classics CC72538
Canciones & Conciertos - Xavier Montsalvatge
Jenny Lin - Piano
Hänssler Classic 098.642.000
Canto a Sevilla - Joaquin Turina
Sun Dogs - James Mac Millan
1) TIPPETT ENSEMBLE
Ltg: Celso Antunes
2) CHAMP D’ ACTION