“The tireless champion of overlooked works” – Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times (2019)
“I was riveted by the performance Mr. Botstein led at Carnegie Hall” – Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times (2017)
A visionary conductor, who has dedicated his career to discovery of rare repertoire, Leon Botstein is Music Director and Principal Conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra, founder and Music Director of The Orchestra Now, Artistic Director of Bard SummerScape and the Bard Music Festival, and Conductor Laureate of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, where he served as music director from 2003–2011.
As the Music Director of the American Symphony Orchestra and The Orchestra Now, he appears at Carnegie Hall more often than any other conductor of our times.
This summer Leon Bonstein will lead the orchestra and chorus of the Mariinsky Theater in a concert performance of Alexander von Zemlinsky’s opera The Dwarf (Der Zwerg) at the White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg. Last year Maestro Botstein conducted the Mariinsky ensemble in the Russian premiere of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide. A year earlier he led the performance of Taneyev’s opera Oresteia and a concert of American symphonic music. Next season’s guest conducting appearances include the Danish and Estonian national orchestras.
The recent appointment as Artistic Director of Campus Grafenegg in Austria, with the mandate to create and lead the prestigious Austrian festival’s own unique artistic programming, makes Leon Botstein one of the very few Americans in positions of artistic leadership with high-profile European musical institutions. In the inaugural 2018 season his narrative-driven Grafenegg programs attracted star collaborators, including Thomas Hampson and Dennis Russell Davies.
Maestro Botstein’s unique approach to programming gives audiences all over the world opportunities to encounter neglected works, which he performs alongside standard repertoire masterpieces, creating rich musical context and often enhancing the experience with preconcert talks. Like-minded, dynamic ensembles, seeking to broaden the musical horizons of their players and listeners, frequently invite Leon Botstein as a guest conductor. These include Los Angeles Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Aspen Music Festival, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Mariinsky Theatre, Russian National Orchestra in Moscow, the Hessisches Staatstheater Wiesbaden, Taipei Symphony, Simón Bolivar Symphony Orchestra and Sinfónica Juvenil de Caracas in Venezuela.
Over 25,000 people tuned into the Facebook stream of Leon Botstein’s recent Sight & Sound performance with The Orchestra Now from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, exploring the nexus between music and visual arts. Many of Maestro’s live performances with the American Symphony Orchestra are available online, where they have sold more than a quarter of a million downloads in total.
He has also recorded with the London Philharmonic, NDR Orchestra Hamburg, and the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra. The recording of Popov’s First Symphony with the London Symphony Orchestra was nominated for a Grammy Award. Leon Botstein is the editor of The Musical Quarterly and the author of numerous articles and books, including the most recent volume Von Beethoven zu Berg: Das Gedächtnis der Moderne (2013).
For his contributions to music, Maestro has received the American Academy of Arts and Letters and Harvard University’s Centennial Award, as well as the Cross of Honor, First Class from the government of Austria. Maestro’s recent distinctions also include the Bruckner Society’s Julio Kilenyi Medal of Honor for his interpretations of Anton Bruckner’s music, as well as the Leonard Bernstein Award for the Elevation of Music in Society. In 2011 he was inducted into the American Philosophical Society.
Leon Botstein combines his conducting career with his work as the President Bard College, which he has held since 1975. He has initiated the creation of the first liberal education department in Russia – the Smolny College of Liberal Arts and Sciences of the St Petersburg State University.