Joseph Swensen, violin

Joseph Swensen currently holds the posts of Conductor Emeritus of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and Founder/Director of Habitat4Music. From 2009-2012 he was Principal Guest Conductor and Artistic Adviser of the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris (formerly known as the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris).  He was Principal Conductor of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra from 1996-2005, and has also held positions at the Malmö Opera (2008-2011), Lahti Symphony, and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Mr. Swensen is a busy guest-conductor throughout the world (from Europe, to the USA, Japan and Australia), enjoying long-established relationships with the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse (with whom Swensen recently completed a Mahler cycle, spanning ten years), London Mozart Players, and Orquestra Sinfónica do Porto Casa da Míºsica, amongst others.

As principal conductor of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Joseph Swensen and the orchestra toured extensively in the US, UK, Europe and the Far East. They have performed together at the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York, Tanglewood and Ravinia Festivals, the BBC Proms, the Barbican and the Concertgebouw. Mr. Swensen and the orchestra have also made several recordings including a series of CDs for Linn records where he is featured as violin soloist as well. As Principal Conductor of the Malmö Opera in Sweden, Mr. Swensen was widely recognised as the driving force behind Malmö Opera's transformation into one of the most important opera companies in Sweden. During his tenure there, he conducted highly acclaimed productions of SalomeLa BohemeLa TraviataMacbethVanessaThe Dialogues of the CarmelitesLa Fanciulla del West, and Madama Butterfly, among others.

In addition to his conducting engagements, recently Joseph Swensen has returned to the concert platform as a violin soloist, performing the major violin concerti including the Brahms Violin Concerto with the London Mozart Players and Mozart’s Violin Concerto in G, K216 in Aalborg, Denmark.  Before launching his conducting career in the mid 1990's, Swensen enjoyed a highly successful career as a violin soloist appearing frequently with the world’s major orchestras and important conductors.  As an exclusive recording artist with BMG Classics his recordings of the Beethoven and Sibelius concerti in particular (with André Previn and Jukka-Pekka Saraste respectively) were well-received and influential. Chamber music has always been a hugely important and essential part of Swensen’s music-making. He is a member of a violin-piano duo with the American pianist and conductor, Jeffrey Kahane, and a brand new piano trio including cellist Carter Brey: KahaneSwensenBrey. Joseph Swensen has also recently been appointed Visiting Professor of Music (violin) at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.

Joseph Swensen has a keen interest in developing the art of play-directing, and regularly directs from the violin with orchestras such as the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris, London Mozart Players and Scottish Chamber Orchestra. His series of recordings for Linn Records with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, where he directed the Brahms, Mendelssohn, Sibelius and Prokofiev’s 2nd Violin Concerti from the violin, were internationally acclaimed. With the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris, Swensen created the first ‘Paris Play-Direct Academy’ in May 2011, and this week-long course for talented young soloists was repeated in June 2013, once again under Swensen’s guidance.

As a composer, Joseph Swensen's works include Mantram (1998) for string orchestra, Latif (1999) for solo cello with chamber ensemble, Shizue (2001) for solo shakuhachi and orchestra, and the recently premiered Sinfonia-Concertante for Horn and Orchestra (The Fire and the Rose) (2008). Swensen's orchestration of the rarely performed 1854 version of Brahms' Trio Op. 8, a work he has entitled Sinfonia in B, has been performed by orchestras in Europe and the US since its première in 2007. In 2012, the world première recording of Sinfonia in B was released on Signum records, along with orchestrations by Mr. Swensen of works originally for violin and piano by Robert Schumann, Clara Schumann and Brahms.

Joseph Swensen and Victoria Eisen are co-founders and co-directors of Habitat4Music. Habitat4Music connects highly qualified, passionate young American-trained classical musicians with children living in challenged areas across the world. Its goal is to use the power of long-term, committed, participatory music education and classical music programs to inspire and bring together individuals and communities.

Of  American, Norwegian and Japanese descent, Joseph Swensen was born on August 4, 1960 in Hoboken, New Jersey and grew up in Harlem, New York City. He maintains residences in Copenhagen (Denmark), Bloomington, Indiana and Vermont (USA).