Martin Gester is a French conductor, organist and harpsichordist. His earliest musical experience was of choral singing. He went on to learn the harpsichord and the organ, and completed courses of study in both literature and music at Strasbourg University and at the Conservatory of the same city. He now divides his time between musicological research, performance on harpsichord and organ, conducting vocal and instrumental ensembles, and teaching. His special interest is the repertory of the 17th and 18th centuries.
In 1990, Martin Gester founded Le Parlement de Musique in order to put his research into practice, and this flexible vocal and instrumental ensemble soon achieved an international reputation. In addition to his heavy schedule of recreating early music with Le Parlement de Musique, he continues to appear as a solo instrumentalist, and with increasing frequency as a guest conductor, notably with the New York Collegium (performances of French music in New York and Boston), the Nederlandse Bach Vereniging, Collegium Vocale Gent, La Chapelle Royale (Paris), Musica Aeterna Bratislava, and the Orchestre des Pays de Savoie. He is also a regular guest with the Polish Baroque orchestra Arte dei Suonatori - Wroclaw, with whom he has performed concertos & oratorios from Muffat to Mozart, and made radio and CD recordings (for the BIS label: George Frideric Handel: 12 Concerti grossi Op. 6).
Martin Gester has recently begun a long-term collaboration with two vocal ensembles, Les Pages et les Chantres de la Chapelle Royale de Versailles and the Maitrise de Bretagne, with whom Le Parlement de Musique gives concert tours performing French ‘grands motets’ and other Baroque choral works (Charpentier, Brossard, Gilles, Lalande, G.F. Handel, J.S. Bach) in France and abroad; many of these productions are recorded for the Opus 111 label and for European radio and television stations.
Martin Gester has appeared as soloist and conductor throughout Europe, as well as on the American and Asian continents. As a soloist or with Le Parlement de Musique, he has made some thirty five recordings, mainly for the labels Opus 111, Accord, Assai and Tempéraments-Radio France. These are often recreations of little-known repertory or innovative readings of well-known works, and most of them have won awards in the musical press. Among these are the Office de Ténèbres, Pastorale, and Te Deum & Motets for Louis XIV by Charpentier, Grands Motets by M.R. de Lalande, the Lamentations of A. Scarlatti, Organ Concertos and Tilge Höchster BWV 1083 (arrangement of the Giovanni Battista Pergolesi Stabat Mater) by J.S. Bach, La Conversione di Clodoveo by Antonio Caldara, the Vespers of Giovanni Battista Bassani, a recently rediscovered manuscript by Froberger, and most spectacularly the anonymous Uppsala Passion of 1667, which has won more prizes than any other recording in France over the past decade.
Martin Gester teaches the Baroque repertory to singers and instrumentalists at the Strasbourg Conservatory, and is regularly invited to give masterclasses in France and abroad (Studio Baroque de Versailles, Jeunes Voix du Rhin, Stanford University, Academia Mexicana de Musica Antigua etc.).
In his approach to interpretation, he particularly emphasises the links between music and other disciplines, such as rhetoric, movement, dance, theatre, declamation and oral tradition.
In 1996, Martin Gester founded Le Studio du Parlement de Musique whose annual sessions devoted to Baroque vocal works (Georg Philipp Telemann, Scarlatti, Charpentier, Reinhard Keiser, Haydn) help to identify and train young talents.
In 2001, Martin Gester was appointed Chevalier des Arts et Lettres by the French Minister of Culture.