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Holly matt

Holly Mathieson’s Biography

Last Updated:
19/11/2020, 3:23 pm
Award for Patronage 2009 - Dame Adrienne Stewart
Holly Mathieson is Music Director of Symphony Nova Scotia, co-Artistic Director of the Nevis Ensemble, and works as a guest with orchestras, ballet companies and opera houses across the UK, Australasia and North America.

New Zealand-born Holly Mathieson is an award-winning conductor, regularly working with opera houses, ballet companies and orchestras in Europe, Australasia and North America. She is the Music Director of Symphony Nova Scotia and Co-Artistic Director of the Nevis Ensemble with Jon Hargreaves. She frequently records for BBC Radio, and her first major commercial recording with Decca, a collaboration with Isata Kanneh-Mason and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, reached #1 on the UK classical charts. Her work has seen her travel to nearly every continent on the planet, and perform for audiences spanning from the British Royal Family and Europe’s political elites to Scotland’s homeless and refugee communities. In addition to her conducting work, Holly is on the board of Directors for London-based opera company formidAbility, an opera company pioneering the commissioning and producing of opera with accessibility at the foundation of the creative process.

A passionate communicator, with crystalline technique and a collaborative approach, she has won plaudits in all forms of music direction from opera, ballet and family concerts, to full-scale symphonic programmes. In recent seasons she conducted the London Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, most of the BBC Orchestras, RPO, CSBO, LPO, Auckland Philharmonia Scottish Chamber Orchestra. In the theatre, she has worked with Opera North, Scottish Ballet, Scottish Opera and English Touring Opera. Recording and broadcasting credits include the Philharmonia Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Opera North. Despite significant cancellations during the pandemic, the 20-21 season will nevertheless retain debuts with the NZ Symphony Orchestra, Christchurch Symphony Orchestra and Danish National Ballet, alongside return visits to long-term performing partners and the beginning of her Music Director post at Symphony Nova Scotia.

2018 saw the inaugural tour of the innovative Nevis Ensemble, of which she is co-Artistic Director with husband Jon Hargreaves, a project founded on the maxim that "music is for everyone, everywhere", and aims to take music out of the concert hall, and into isolated and marginalised communities. In two years, the orchestra has given 170 free performances to around 25,500 people all across Scotland, from farming communities in the Scottish Borders to the summit of Ben Nevis in the Highlands, and including the most comprehensive tour of the Outer Hebrides by an orchestra, which even saw the ensemble perform on Hirta, in the remote archipelago of St Kilda.

She held several significant early-career positions, including the Leverhulme Fellowship in Conducting at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Assistant Conductor of both the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestras, and Resident Conductor within the National Youth Orchestras of Scotland. Before that, she was chosen as one of only four young conductors from around the world to participate in the Interaktion Dirigentenwerkstatt des Kritischen Orchesters with players from the Berlin Philharmonic and other top-tiered German orchestras. She enjoyed a critically acclaimed London debut with Opera Holland Park as part of the 2015 Christine Collins Young Artist Programme. She was a conducting fellow at Dartington International Summer School and Taki Alsop Conducting Fellowship Prizewinner in 2013. She holds a PhD in Music Iconography, during which she was awarded the global Sylff Fellowship, and in 2016 Zonta New Zealand named her one of New Zealand's Top 50 Women of Achievement.

She currently lives in Glasgow and is regularly invited to be a guest teacher at institutions like the Royal College of Music, the University of Manchester, the University of Glasgow, and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. She is a frequent contributor and guest speaker for various industry podcasts and blogs, writes about music, and in summer 2019 launched her own podcast called Scordatura.

Review Extracts:

The instrumental playing (largely members of Orchestra Wellington, led by violinist Justine Cormack), and complemented by pianist David Kelly (whose stylish solo accompanying Jared Holt’s narration opened the work) was directed with precision, verve and enthralling atmosphere by New Zealand-born conductor Holly Mathieson.

Middle-C Classical Music Reviews (Peter Mechen)

The orchestra and conductor were on-stage, part of the set, so the balance was perfect. In fact, often Britten’s score alternated the accompaniment and the singer's lines, or the accompaniment was two or three instruments only. The orchestra was superb. With only 13 players, everyone was a soloist, and they played magnificently – aided [...] by the taut expertise of conductor Holly Mathieson.

{...} It was a fabulous, compelling production – perfectly cast, perfectly performed and sung, and had an unsettling set, galvanic lighting and a ghostly, ghastly, uneasy, psychological drama.

DMS Review Blog (Stephen Gibbs)

The speed of the choreography and the stylistic moves are delivered with style and panache by the company. Never once does the energy lapse, driven by the brilliance of Mozart’s music and the terrific conducting of Holly Mathieson. At times, one wonders how the dancers cope with the fine detail required whilst working with a harness and diamond-sharp hand movements. *****

The Wee Review (Mary-Ann Connolly), 31 MAR 2019 (Scottish Ballet, Dextera, Inverness)

Holly Mathieson made a considerable impression with her concern for clarity and elegance in all circumstances. Enescu’s Romanian Rhapsody No.1 is having a London renaissance with appearances from the LSO and LPO in recent months. It’s a cherishable creation with glittering orchestration that is stuffed full of folk melodies. Mathieson made a most persuasive case for it in an amiable reading that caught its chimerical nature and drew out fine woodwind solos, especially the languorous opening clarinet and a quicksilver flute. Phrases were carefully moulded with swooning strings, and there was an almost improvisatory quality as Mathieson danced on the podium [...] Bartók casts a long shadow over Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra, music with great rhythmic vitality as well as bold and vivid colours. The KSO rose to the challenge, and Mathieson was totally responsive to the demands of this intricate score creating steadily mounting tension in the opening ‘Intrada’, its closing section particularly haunting. Mathieson captured a sense of nocturnal mystery as well as furtive motion in the central ‘Capriccio notturno ed arioso’ building to a powerful climax. The Finale is longer than the other two movements combined and maybe too long for its material. Still, Mathieson held it together with a sense of purpose – brooding, vivacious and dynamic. The concluding ‘Corale’ had some chandelier-rattling climaxes with Mathieson a cool head amongst the surrounding mayhem as brass and percussion delivered in spades, with energy and enthusiasm.

Classical Source (Brian Barford), March 16, 2019 (Kensington Symphony Orchestra, St John's, Smith Square, London)

Holly Mathieson brings clarity and transparent appreciation for the elegance of the music to the seasonal diet of Strauss waltzes. Not to criticise the fine line-up of guest conductors we have seen already this season, but we do not see her often enough on the podium, where she was also a very informative emcee. This was a concert of charm and sophistication, miles from the barn-storming arena-filling approach that others have inflicted on these beautiful tunes.

The Herald Scotland (Keith Bruce), 2018 (RSNO, Viennese Gala, Stirling)