View entire season

Joseph Swensen


Joseph Swenson


After working for the past 20 years establishing a highly successful career as a conductor, American violinist/conductor Joseph Swensen will once again appear in concert performing the major violin concerti and solo repertoire.

Born in Hoboken, New Jersey and raised in Harlem by a Japanese-American mother and Norwegian-American father, both of whom are musicians, Mr. Swensen enjoyed a highly acclaimed career as a solo violinist and chamber musician before turning to conducting. He attended Juilliard as a student of the renowned pedagogue Dorothy Delay, studied chamber music with Robert Mann, Leonard Rose and Felix Galimir and composition with David Diamond and Vincent Persechetti, and also studied privately with Isaac Stern over a ten year period. A winner of the Leventritt Foundation Award, he appeared as soloist with orchestras such as Cleveland, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Montreal, Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Baltimore and performed in recital and chamber music concerts at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center and in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston. As an exclusive recording artist with BMG Classics, his recordings of the major violin concerto repertoire with conductors like Andre Previn and Jukka-Pekka Saraste received stellar reviews.

A passionate chamber musician, Mr. Swensen also performs in recital with pianist Jeffrey Kahane and with his newly formed trio with Mr. Kahane and cellist Carter Brey, which appeared in summer 2013 at the Ravinia, La Jolla, Chamber Music Northwest, Music@Menlo and Orcas Island festivals.

Currently Conductor Emeritus of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Principal Guest Conductor of the Orquesta Ciudad de Granada, Joseph Swensen was Principal Guest Conductor & Artistic Adviser of the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris from 2009-2012, Principal Conductor of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra from 1996-2005, Principal Conductor of the Malmö Opera (2007-2011), and Principal Guest Conductor of the Lahti Symphony and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. As principal conductor of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, he and the orchestra toured extensively in the US, UK, Europe and the Far East, appearing at such prestigious venues as the Mostly Mozart Festival, Tanglewood and Ravinia festivals, the BBC Proms, the Barbican and the Concertgebouw. Mr. Swensen and the orchestra also recorded a highly regarded series of CDs for Linn Records on which he is featured as violin soloist as well as conductor. As Principal Conductor of the Malmö Opera in Sweden, he was widely recognized as the driving force behind the Malmö Opera's transformation into one of the most important opera companies in Sweden.

An active guest conductor, Mr. Swensen has worked with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Toronto, St. Louis, Rochester, Colorado and New World symphonies among others in North America as well as the London Philharmonic, Philharmonia Orchestra (London), City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Halle Orchestra, Oslo and Stockholm Philharmonics, Finnish and Swedish Radio Orchestras and the Orchestra of Toulouse, where he recently completely his first Mahler Symphony cycle.

Recent and upcoming performances highlights include a concerto appearance with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra; appearances with his trio at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto and Ithaca College; duo-recitals with Jeffrey Kahane in Philadelphia and at the Aspen Music Festival; play/conducts with the Colorado Symphony, Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Haifa Symphony; and return visits to the orchestras in Toulouse, Bordeaux, Granada and Porto, Portugal as a guest conductor. Mr. Swensen will also be one of three Artistic Partners with the Northwest Sinfonietta in Washington during the 15/16 season.

As a composer, Joseph Swensen's works include Mantram (1998) for string orchestra, Latif (1999) for solo cello with chamber ensemble, Shizue (2001) for solo shakuhachi and orchestra, and the Sinfonia-Concertante for Horn and Orchestra (The Fire and the Rose) (2008). Swensen's orchestration of the rarely-performed 1854 version of Brahms' Trio Op. 8, a work he has entitled Sinfonia in B, has been performed by orchestras in Europe and the US since its première in 2007. In 2012, the world première recording of Sinfonia in B was released on Signum records, along with orchestrations by Swensen of works originally for violin and piano by Robert Schumann, Clara Schumann, and Brahms.

Joseph Swensen, along with his wife, Victoria Swensen, are co-founders and co-directors of Habitat4Music. Habitat4Music connects highly qualified young American-trained classical musicians with children living in challenged areas throughout the world with the goal of using the power of long-term, committed, participatory music education and classical music programs to inspire and bring together individuals and communities.

In September 2013, Mr. Swensen was named a Visiting Professor of Music at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University and a year later was named a full Professor of Music at IU.

Meet a Musician

Ken Meltzer