The American (?) conductor, Michael Alexander Willens, received B.M and M.M degrees at the Juilliard School in New York, where he studied conducting with John Nelson. He has also studied with Jacques-Louis Monod, Harold Farberman, Leonard Bernstein at Tanglewood, and choral conducting with Paul Vorwerk.
Michael Alexander Willens is the music director for Die Kölner Akademie, an ensemble based in Cologne which performs on both period and modern instruments. His broad experience has given him an unusual depth of background and familiarity with performance practice styles ranging from Baroque, Classical and Romantic through Contemporary.He has conducted concerts for the Great Performer's series at Lincoln Center in New York, and at major festivals in Germany, Austria , France, Spain, Holland, Italy, Belgium, Estonia and Iceland, all of which received the highest critical praise: "...performed the brilliant and closely-wrought score exactly and with real dynamismĒ; "....well-rounded and impressive interpretation"; "....strove continually for keen tonal balance between strings and winds"; "His sense of discovery is the golden thread running through the interpretations"; "The success of the whole owed in large measure to the uncommonly precise, yet never affected gestures of Michael Alexander Willens". Many of these performances were broadcast live and several were filmed for television.
In addition to performing the standard repertoire, Michael Alexander Willens is dedicated to perfoming the works of lesser known contemporary American composers and has conducted world premieres of the music of Paul Amrod, Richard Farber (which were broadcast live) and Richard Squires (which was filmed for television). He is also keenly interested in bringing lesser known works from the past to the fore through concerts and CD's.
His current recording of Johann Valentin Meders St. Matthew Passion on Raumklang received 5 stars in Goldberg, Fonoforum, Musik und Kirche as well as the highest praise from Early Music (UK) Concerto (Germany) and the record Geijitsu (Japan ). His CD's of Bernhard Crusellís clarinet concertos (with Eric Hoeprich, clarinet), Franz Danziís bassoon concertos (with Jane Gower, bassoon), Viennese bass concertos (with David Sinclair) and Music of Johann Wilhelm Wilms (with Paolo Giacometti hammerklavier and Martin Sandhoff, flute) have also received high praise. Disks of Symphonies by Bernhard Romberg, oboe concertos of Stamitz and Fischer, with Mchaael Nieseman will soon be released. Recordings of Johann Matthesonís oratorio David and music of Ferdinand Ries and Anton Eberl will take place this fall for the CPO label. Recordings of the complete Mozart piano concertos with Ronald Brautigam for the BIS label will begin in 2009.
Highlights for the 2006-2007 season (in addition to these recordings) included performances of Igor Stravinskyís Sacre du Printemps (on period instruments) in Bruges, a tour of Spain featuring arias and duets by George Frideric Handel, Tomaso Albinoni and Stefanni with Nancy Argenta and Michael Chance, a concert of J.S. Bach and Franz Liszt for Cité de la Musique in Paris with Deborah York, concerts of Haydn, Mozart. I. Stravinsky and Pärt in Belgium, Holland and Germany, a program of G.F. Handelís Chandos Anthems in Cologne for the WDR which will be broadcast live and a performance of cantatas of Bruhns, Dietrich Buxtehude, and Johann Rosenmüller for the Utrecht Oude Muziek Festival. In 2009 he will tour Japan with Die Kölner Akademie in performances of G.F. Handelís Acis and Galatea.
In addtion to the Kölner Akademie, Michael Alexander Willens has guest conducted orchestras in Germany, Holland and Israel.