The distinguished American conductor, John (Wilton) Nelson, is one of the world's most versatile and accomplished conductors. He is particularly noted as a great interpreter of large Romantic works, for his performances of opera – in particular the operas of Berlioz – and for his vibrant and stylish performances of Baroque music.
Born in Costa Rica of American parents, John Nelson studied at Wheaton (III) College and with Morel at the Juilliard School of Music in New York.
John Nelson has held the title of Music Director with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra from 1976 to 1987, and with the Opera Theatre of St Louis from 1979 to 1988 (or 1985-1991, according to Baker’s). He was also music director of the Caramoor Festival in Katonah, New York from 1983 to 1990. In September 1998, he took up the position of Music Director of the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, beginning in 1998-1999 season.
John Nelson regularly conducts in virtually all the major cities thoughout the world. In America he has appeared with such orchestras as the New York Philarmonic Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. In Europe, with all the London orchestras, Dresden Staatskapelle, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Orchestre de Paris, the orchestras of Cologne, Stuttgarter Philharmoniker, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Oslo, and Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra.
John Nelson has a particular love of opera and is a frequent visitor to such opera houses as the Chicago Lyric, Metropolitan Opera and Santa Fe, as well as the opera houses of Rome, Paris, Lyon and Geneva. His Erato recording of Beatrice and Benedict has won numerous awards in Europe, and in 1994 his DG recording of Georg Frideric Handel's Semele won a Grammy award in the USA.
Great sacred masterpieces are central to John Nelson's work and he is renowned for his interpretations of the great choral works of the repertoire, in particular the J.S. Bach’s Passions and B minor Mass (BWV 232). His commitment to this repertoire and his concern for the lack of 20th century choral works has led him to form Soli Deo Gloria Inc., a non-profit organization which commissions one leading composer per year to write a major sacred work. Recent projects have included the World Premiere performance of Paul Schoenfield's Deborah in Israel. Commissions have been given to Christopher Rouse, George Arasimowicz, Paul Schoenfield, Augusta Read Thomas and others.
Engagements last season have included the complete L.v. Beethoven Symphony Cycle in Paris with the Ensemble orchestral de Paris, a performance and recording of the Berlioz Te Deum with the Orchestre de Paris and G.F. Handel's Alcina at Chicago Lyric Opera. In April last year he conducted G.F. Handel's Julius Caesar at the Metropolitan Opera, New York.
Has just come out: a recording of the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris in G.F. Handel's L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato on Virgin Classics.