The University of Oregon School of Music and Dance has chosen conductor and cellist Eric Jacobsen as a finalist for the artistic director position at the Oregon Bach Festival.
Jacobsen will join previously announced candidates Miguel Harth-Bedoya and Julian Wachner as a featured guest conductor at the festival’s 50th anniversary season this summer, where they will each perform a choral-orchestral masterwork from Bach, as well as a modern chamber concert, as part of the selection process.
“We are thrilled that Eric has chosen to join this elite group of musicians under consideration to become our next artistic leader at the Oregon Bach Festival,” said Sabrina Madison-Cannon, the Phyllis and Andrew Berwick Dean at the School of Music and Dance. “If you love classical music, you should definitely take advantage of this opportunity to see three of the best conductors in the world perform some of the greatest music ever written, as we celebrate this landmark year in the history of our festival.”
Jacobsen has carved out a reputation as one of the classical music world’s most exciting and innovative young conductors, one who combines the best of the traditional canon with cutting-edge collaborations that cut across musical genres and reach diverse audiences in unconventional venues.
He currently serves as music director for the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra and the Greater Bridgeport Symphony. But perhaps Jacobsen’s most creative and celebrated musical undertaking has been his leadership of New York City-based chamber orchestra The Knights.
The orchestra grew out of late-night chamber music reading parties with friends that Jacobsen and his brother Colin, himself a world-class violinist, hosted in their hometown of New York City. Since incorporating in 2007, The Knights have become an international hit, performing with some of the classical music world’s biggest stars, including concert pianist Yuja Wang, violinist Gil Shaham and cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
Under Jacobsen’s leadership, The Knights have performed at some of the world’s most prestigious musical venues, from the Vienna Musikverein to Carnegie Hall. But Jacobsen has also made it a priority for the group to perform for people who don’t typically attend classical music concerts, in places such as parks, plazas, community centers and bars.
“Like each of our excellent final candidates, Eric represents a different path to the future for the Oregon Bach Festival,” said search committee chair Roger Saydack, a nationally recognized expert in music director searches. “He is both an accomplished musician and conductor, as well as a true musical innovator with a passion for sharing music with many audiences.”
Music has always been a family affair for Jacobsen. His father Edmund Jacobsen, a former violinist with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, and his mother Ivy, who was a New York-based flutist, passed on their love of music to their sons. His parents also occupied the concert master and principal flute positions at The New Hampshire Music Festival in summers.
“Those are some of the most beautiful memories I have,” Jacobsen said. “Great music festivals are like never-never land for musicians, community members and cities at large. The relationships that are formed at summer festivals somehow dig deep into our hearts and quickly grow into family.”
Jacobsen went on to study at Julliard and become an accomplished cellist before forming critically acclaimed string quartet Brooklyn Rider with Colin Jacobsen on violin.
Also in demand as a guest conductor, Jacobsen has led the symphony orchestras of Baltimore, Detroit, Virginia, Alabama, the New World and Naples, as well as the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra.
Jacobsen said he was looking forward to conducting the St. John Passion on July 1 at the festival using period instruments, as well as leading his own chamber orchestra concert on modern instruments July 3.
“How special is it to be able to have two orchestras that sound completely different at the same festival?” Jacobsen said. “For a community in the course of three weeks to get to hear performances on baroque instruments and on modern instruments, you can start recognizing similarities and differences, and the beauty that each style holds.”
Tickets for the Oregon Bach Festival go on sale to the general public May 1, with Gold Tickets available now and Friends of the Festival presale March 21-April 24. A special discount package, featuring all six concerts from the artistic director finalists, will be available to the general public at the reduced Friends of the Festival rate, starting May 1.
The full season schedule for the Oregon Bach Festival will be released next week.
Editor’s Note: Previously announced candidate Craig Hella Johnson has withdrawn as a finalist for the Oregon Bach Festival’s artistic director position and will no longer be conducting at the 50th anniversary season this summer. Johnson cited a series of difficult personal losses, culminating with the passing of his mother just a few months ago, as his reason for withdrawing. More details are available in a letter from Phyllis and Andrew Berwick Dean Sabrina Madison-Cannon.
—By Steve Fyffe, School of Music and Dance