As he embarks on his sixth decade on the podium, Nicholas McGegan — long hailed as “one of the finest Baroque conductors of his generation” (The Independent) and “an expert in 18th-century style” (The New Yorker) — is recognized for his probing and revelatory explorations of music of all periods.
The 2019-20 season marked the end of his 34-year tenure as music director of Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale, for which he is now music director laureate. He is principal guest conductor of the Pasadena Symphony and Hungary’s Capella Savaria. At home in opera houses, McGegan championed close to 20 Handel operas as the artistic director and conductor at Germany‘s Göttingen Handel Festival for 20 years (1991-2001), and the Mozart canon as principal guest conductor at Scottish Opera in the 1990s. He was also principal conductor of Sweden’s Drottningholm Court Theatre from 1993-1996.
Best known as a Baroque and Classical specialist, McGegan takes an approach that's intelligent, infused with joy and never dogmatic, along with an ability to engage players and audiences alike. This has made him a pioneer in broadening the reach of historically informed practice beyond the world of period ensembles to conventional symphonic forces. His guest-conducting appearances with major orchestras — including the New York, Los Angeles and Hong Kong philharmonics; the Chicago, Dallas, Milwaukee, Toronto, Sydney and New Zealand symphonies; the Philadelphia Orchestra; the Royal Northern Sinfonia and Scottish Chamber Orchestras, and the Amsterdam Concertgebouw — often feature Baroque repertoire alongside Classical, Romantic, 20th-century and even brand-new works.
He has led performances of Mendelssohn, Sibelius, Britten, Bach and Handel with the Utah Symphony; Poulenc and Mozart with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and the premiere of Stephen Hough’s Missa Mirabilis with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, paired with Haydn, Brahms and Mendelssohn. He collaborates frequently with the Mark Morris Dance Group, including the premiere productions of Rameau’s Platée and Handel’s Acis and Galatea.
Summer festival appearances included his annual visits to Aspen and La Jolla. McGegan began this season with Handel’s Rinaldo at Göttingen in honor of the Handel Festival’s centenary (a victim of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was postponed to the 2021 season).
McGegan’s prolific discography includes more than 100 releases spanning five decades. Having recorded more than 50 albums of Handel, McGegan has explored the depths of the composer’s output with a dozen oratorios and close to 20 of his operas. Since the 1980s, more than 20 of his recordings have been with Hungary’s Capella Savaria on the Hungaroton label, including groundbreaking opera and oratorio recordings of repertoire by Handel, Monteverdi, Scarlatti, Telemann and Vivaldi.
Recently, the collaboration has produced albums of Kraus, Mendelssohn, Schubert, a two-CD set of the complete Mozart violin concertos and Haydn’s symphonies Nos. 79, 80 and 81. McGegan also has released two albums with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra on the BIS label: Josef Mysliveček’s complete music for keyboard with soloist Clare Hammond, and an album of early horn concertos with soloist Alec Frank-Gemmill. His extensive discography with Philharmonia Baroque includes two Grammy nominees, Handel’s Susanna and Haydn’s Symphonies Nos. 104, 88 and 101.
McGegan is committed to the next generation of musicians, frequently conducting and coaching students in residencies and engagements at Yale University, the Juilliard School, Harvard University, the Colburn School, Aspen Music Festival and School, Sarasota Music Festival and the Music Academy of the West. He has been awarded the honorary degree of doctor of music by the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, an honorary professorship at Georg-August University, Göttingen and in 2016, was the Christoph Wolff Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Harvard. McGegan’s fun and informative lectures have delighted audiences at Juilliard, Yale Center for British Arts, American Handel Society and San Francisco Conservatory.
English-born, McGegan was educated at Cambridge and Oxford. He was made an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire “for services to music overseas.” Other awards include the Halle Handel Prize, the Order of Merit of the State of Lower Saxony (Germany), the Medal of Honor of the City of Göttingen and a declaration of Nicholas McGegan Day, by the mayor of San Francisco in recognition of his work with Philharmonia.