Joseph Swensen Photo: Jack Dine

Interviews/Articles

Toulouse - 31st March 2011

Toulouse

31st March 2011
Herald Scotland 2011

Herald Scotland

November 2011
Audio Interview re: Playdirect academy, November 2010

Playdirect academy

Audio Interview re: Playdirect academy, November 2010
New England Conservatory Guest Blog

New England Conservatory Guest Blog

27th October 2011

Press

ResMusica, 14 May 2012
Michel Tibbaut

…il s’y révèle d’ailleurs aussi superbe violoniste qu’excellent chef d’orchestre. …elles sont accomplies de la manière la plus scrupuleuse, la plus habile et avec le plus grand talent.
[Swensen shows himself to be just as superb a violinist as he is an excellent conductor. The orchestrations have been created scrupulously, skillfully, and with great talent]
(review of CD Sinfonia in B, Signum)

Adelaide Advertiser, 30 March 2012
Stephen Wittington

In this performance [Beethoven Symphony No3] Swensen proved himself to be a very musical conductor with an almost balletic range of expressive gestures that he uses to get his message across to the players. It had freshness and vigour as well as a seriousness of purpose… .

The Herald, 19 March 2012
Michael Tumelty

The playing of all three on Friday, conducted by Joseph Swensen with all the dynamism that saw him offered the SCO principal conductor job on a plate back in the nineties, were classic SCO performances, compounded of phenomenal articulation and balance, with the slow march in the Beethoven [Symphony No7] a cumulative and forensic exploration of the music, powered and driven from the bottom up by extraordinary playing in the lower strings.

The Guardian, 19 March 2012
Tim Ashley

his Beethoven [Symphony No7] … combines fire with spaciousness in ways that are well-nigh ideal. The Seventh was superbly controlled yet thrilling and ecstatic, above all in the tensions of the allegretto and the drama of the finale.
(Scottish Chamber Orchestra)

The Scotsman, 17 March 2012
Ken Walton

Joseph Swensen demonstrated as much himself in his conducting of the Stravinsky [Dumbarton Oaks] and in Beethoven’s Symphony No7, which proved an inspired journey from the super-sensitivity of its opening movements to the power-driven bombast of the finale.
(Scottish Chamber Orchestra)

Edinburgh Reporter, 18 March 2012
David Kettle

It was Wagner who called the programme’s final offering, Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, ‘the apotheosis of the dance’, and it brimmed over with crazed energy in Swensen’s hard-driven yet arresting performance. It was as if Swensen gripped the listener by the lapels and refused to let go. …The funeral march-style slow movement was taken at quite a lick and had a grim determination about it, and the exhilarating finale careered to a blazing finish. No wonder Swensen seemed to glow with energy as he took his numerous bows.
(Scottish Chamber Orchestra)

Classic Toulouse, 12 March 2012
Serge Chauzy

Suivi par un orchestre ardemment réactif, Joseph Swensen en dévoile les méandres et les subtilités avec une science admirable [Schumann Symphony No.2]. L’agogique des nuances, choisies avec intelligence et sensibilité, en éclaire le déroulement. Le premier mouvement trouve ainsi sa logique et la richesse de ses étonnants contrastes. La vivacité fébrile du Scherzo, le lyrisme sensible de l’Adagio espressivo, ciselé comme une marche tranquille dans cette forêt qu’aimait tant Schumann, se révèlent en définitive comme autant de pistes menant à l’appel vigoureux du final. La ferveur rythmique de cet Allegro molto vivace transcende les angoisses et les inquiétudes qui balisent toute la symphonie. De la bien belle ouvrage!
(Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse)

Islington Gazette, 3 February 2012
Barry Forshaw

More welcome Brahms orchestrations, adding more completely persuasive orchestral works to the composer’s existing body of music. The orchestration here by the conductor Joseph Swensen is completely in the spirit of Brahms.

Metro, 6 February 2012
Warwick Thompson

Surprise of the month goes to Johannes Brahms: Sinfonia in B (Signum Classics). Didn’t know Brhams had written a Sinfonia in B? Nope, me neither: and it’s because he didn’t. This ‘Sinfonia’ is a modern orchestration of the Trio Op.8 in its rare 1854 version. Orchestrator Joseph Swensen has deliberately chosen a musical palette full of odd quirks and colours to reflect the fantastical nature of the work and it’s playing with terrific verve and polish by the Malmö Opera Orchestra.

Gramophone, June 2011
Edward Greenfield

Joseph Swensen also shows his natural sympathy for the Walton idiom, both in the lyrical and jazzily syncopated writing. His slinky rubato in the Alla Napolitana section of the second movement Scherzo is a delight, and his expressivenses exactly matches that of his soloist. …As for the string pieces which come as valuable supplements, Swensen’s readings could not be more refined. …Altogether a resounding success…
(Barber and Walton, recording for Signum, with Thomas Bowes and the Malmö Opera Orchestra)

 

Classic Toulouse, 1 April 2011
Serge Chauzy

Une experience a vivre grace a Joseph Swensen, le maitre d’oeuvre de cette soiree memorable, longuement acclame par le public mais aussi par tous les musiciens de l’orchestre.
(Mahler 9, l’Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse)

 

The Herald, 14 February 2010
Michael Tumelty

Swensen had nine years as principal conductor.  Yet on Friday, some inexplicable chemical reaction took place.  It was like that first night all over again: dynamite.  Swensen was flying, and the SCO was in magisterial form…

 

Scotsman, 15 February 2010
Susan Nickalls

Whenever the SCO are reunited with Swensen something magical always happens, and sparks were certainly flying in their sizzling performance of Mendelssohn’s Symphony No 3 in A minor
(Scottish).

 

Scotsman, 26 October 2009
Susan Nickalls

…for all its familiarity, this iconic symphony [Beethoven's Fifth] still has the power to thrill and excite.  With the potent combination of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and emeritus conductor Joseph Swensen, this was always going to be a blistering performance, but the illumination of some of the finer details gave it an edgy, fresh quality. …By the final allegro, Swensen and the orchestra were practically airborne and looked as if they were having the ride of their lives.
(Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Queen’s Hall Edinburgh)

 

The Herald, 14 April 2009
Michael Tumelty

Swensen conducted a stately and bright performance of Respighi’s The Birds, and an enthralling account of Sibelius's Pelleas and Melisande Suite, played by the SCO with mesmerising intensity.
(Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Sibelius, Swensen, Respighi)

 

The Scotsman, 14 April 2009

Swensen allowed the orchestra plenty of room for development within the slow movements of Sibelius's Pelleas and Melisande.
(Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Sibelius, Swensen, Respighi)

 

The Times, 7 April 2009
Sarah Urwin-Jones

In recession-hewn times such as these, Joseph Swensen, sometime violin virtuoso, conductor and composer sets a laudable example.
(Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Sibelius, Swensen, Respighi)

 

La Dépêche, 13 January 2009
Anne-Marie Chouchan

Parfaitement maître de l'opulente formation instrumentale exigée par l'oeuvre (une centaine de musiciens), Joseph  Swensen tisse une magistrale symphonie de timbres sans jamais mettre en peril l'unité d'une symphonie que, bien que complexe, obéit à une forme classique en quatre mouvements. …Les musicians réserveront de chaleureux applaudissements à leur chef invite.
(Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse, Mahler 6)

 

Voix du Midi, 15 January 2009
Serge Chauzy

Tout au long de cette aventure dramatique, l'orchestre brille de tous ses feux.  Chaque pupitre, chaque instrument y joue son role, joignant l'expression à la virtuosité.  Un veritable triomphe accueille cette execution.  Non seulement le public manifeste bruyamment sa satisfaction, mais également les musicians ménagent à leur chef invité une chaleureuse ovation.
(Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse, Mahler 6)

 

Ystads/Trelleborgs Allehanda, 11 February 2008

The orchestra, under Joseph Swensen, performs flawlessly and paints effectively with colours that are neither too strong nor too weak, in beautiful synthesis with the singers. (Salome at Malmö Opera / Première 9 February 2008)

 

Politiken (Denmark), 12 September 2007
Jan Jacoby

It is worth the trip and trouble to visit the Malmö Opera House for this perfromance. Not least because of Joseph Swensen who, against challenging odds, delivered one of the best performances I have heard. … [he demonstrated] sensitivity and loving flexibility, with a big lyrical warmth and an ability to get the very best out of this score.
(La Fanciulla del West at Malmö Opera / Première: 8 September 2007)

 

Dagens Nyheter (Sweden), 13 September 2007
Thomas Anderberg

Joseph Swensen’s work with the orchestra has produced golden, shining results. All opera lovers should see this performance.
(La Fanciulla del West at Malmö Opera / Première: 8 September 2007)

 

Skånska Dagbladet (Sweden), 10 September 2007
Lars-Erik Larsson

Joseph Swensen has built an orchestra with sound and power that it has rarely before shown, with great sensitivity toward the singers and great feeling for pacing and tempo.....outstanding.
(La Fanciulla del West at Malmö Opera / Première: 8 September 2007)

 

Aftonbladet (Sweden), 27 March 2007

He makes the orchestra and chorus act with the utmost clarity and precision, there is elasticity and intensity in the rhythms, and every phrase in the orchestra seems to reveal an emotional abyss on stage. What a coup Malmö Opera made when they managed to secure Joseph Swensen as chief conductor!
(Macbeth at Malmö Opera / Première: 24 March 2007)

 

The Scotsman, 17 March 2007
Susan Nickalls

Sinfonia in B, his orchestration of the early Brahms B major Piano Trio Opus 8, was a thrilling journey of rediscovery. ….Swenson's arrangement was meticulous in terms of capturing Brahms's spirit and intention but also full of bravura and panache in terms of the kaleidoscopic colours and textures he fused - the writing for the clarinet and bassoon duo for example was exquisite. The orchestra played magnificently producing a lush symphonic sound that bristled with energy and excitement.
(Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh)

 

La Dépêche du Midi, 4 November 2006
Anne-Marie Chouchan

Sous la baguette de Joseph Swensen, la première [John Adams: Fearful Symmetries] est d’une precision rythmique irresistible. La seconde [Mahler: Symphony No5], au climat sombre et pessimiste, s’ouvre par une marche funèbre. Optant pour un tempo très retenu, Joseph Swensen en souligne le climat tragique. Avec habileté, il assume ensuite les multiples facettes de cette musique constamment en ébullition, rendant justice à son lyrisme comme à la subtilité de son instrumentation… Très inspiré par le fameux Adagietto, Joseph Swensen phrasera ce moment avec delicatesse admirable.
(Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse)

[Under the baton of Joseph Swensen, the first piece had such rhythmic precision that it was utterly irrestible. The second piece, which has a somber and pessimistic feeling, opens with a funeral march. Swensen decided to hold the tempo back and really brought this tragic feeling to life. With skill, he kept the many different layers o this music constantly at boiling point, doing justice to the music’s lyricism and subtle instrumentation… Obviously hugely inspired by the famous Adagietto, Joseph Swensen phrased it with admirable delicacy.]

 

Granada Hoy, 29 October 2006
Gonzalo Roldan Herencia

Joseph Swensen…se mostró como uno de los directores de major escuela y más impactante concepción estética de los que han visitado nuestra orquestra en los ùltimos años. Su gesto es resuelto, y su vision del repertorio denota un profuno studio del mismo a la vez que cierta independencia ante los modismos y cánones preestablecidos. Pese a enfrentarse a tres obras habituales en las salas de conciertos, es seguro de que todos los asistentes pudieron descubrir en ellas nuevos matices interpretativos. …Swensen y la Orquesta Ciudad de Granada demostraron de Nuevo su alta calidad interpretativa [Schumann Symphony No3], dando una version redonda de la partitura; el director dotó en todo momento a la Orquesta del balance oportuno y la coherencia necesaria, sin que nada sobrase ni faltase.
(Orquesta Ciudad de Granada, Sibelius-Mendelssohn-Schumann)

[Joseph Swensen proved himself to be a conductor from the very best school and made one of the biggest aesthetic impacts that any guest conductor has made on the orchestra in the last few years. His gestures are resolute and his interpretations reveal profound study of the repertoire but, at the same time, a certain freedom and independence from pre-established ideas and conventions. Everyone in the audience heard new things in his interpretations. …Swensen and the orchestra gave a very high quality of the performance in Schumann’s Third Symphony, giving a fully-rounded and satisfying rendition. At every moment, the conductor created a perfect balance and cohesion in the orchestra.]

 

The Scotsman, 23 October 2006
Conrad Wilson

Joseph Swensen's conducting of the SCO possesses a vitality so palpable that his appearances with his old orchestra continue to be events.
(Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh)

 

Evening Standard, 20 March 2006
Barry Millington

Joseph Swensen’s performance with BBCSO unleashed what sounded like unstoppable natural forces.
(Barbican Hall, London, Neilsen Symphony No4)

 

The Independent, 29 July 2004
Robert Maycock

...the Scottish Chamber Orchestra matched the soloist for dash and ardour, and in a programme notable for the quantity of high-adrenalin fast music, showed itself adept in ensemble and balance. Swensen made the depths of the slow movement both spacious and restless, acknowledging details, yet always keeping sight of the big picture.
(BBC Proms, London, Dvorak/Saint-Säens/Schumann)

 

Star Tribune, 2 May 2004
Larry Fuchsberg

…he kindles playing that dances with brio. He has a fine ear for balance, a keen nose for harmonic direction (and misdirection). He knows a chamber orchestra isn’t a stunted symphony, but a different beast altogether. And he’s no control freak – he lets his colleagues play.
(St Paul Chamber Orchestra, Sibelius/Beethoven/Haydn)

 

La Dépêche du Midi, 11 January 2004
Anne-Marie Chouchan

Swensen porte l’oeuvre avec un sens aigu de son architecture, en souligne les audaces, les subtils jeux de timbres, le drame et le lyrisme sans jamais briser l’unité du discours. On est captive, ému, emporté aussi par l’énergie finale de ce chef-d’oeuvre vibrant de passion
(Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse, Mahler Symphony No1)

[Swensen has an acute sense of the architecture of the piece; opening its doors and underlining its idiosyncracies, subtle play with timbres, and drama and lyricism, without ever breaking up its sense of wholeness. The listener is captivated, moved and transported by the energy of the finale, so full of passion]

 

The Telegraph, 16 December 2003
James Allen

The SCO’s playing under Joseph Swensen had all the grace and rhythm of fine verse. There were effortless shifts of focus between soloist and orchestra in the beautifully balanced outer movements and the adagio was succinct and sonorous.
(Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Beethoven)

 

The Guardian, 8 April 2003
Rian Evans

Certainly in this performance by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales under its principal guest conductor, Joseph Swensen, there was an awesome inevitability about the outcome of this work, with its final hammer blows of fate. Swensen is the complete musician: a virtuoso violinist and composer as well as conductor, ostensibly well suited to Mahler.
(BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Sibelius/Mozart/Beethoven)