Joseph Swensen is Artistic Director of the NFM Leopoldinum Orchestra (Wroclaw), Conductor Emeritus of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Principal Guest Conductor of the Orquesta Ciudad de Granada. He has previously served as Principal Guest Conductor & Artistic Adviser of the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris (2009-2012), Principal Conductor of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (1996-2005) and Principal Conductor of Malmö Opera (2005-2011). Recognized for forging solid bonds with orchestras, 2019-20 also includes returns to Swensen’s closest guest-conducting partners, the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse and Orquestra Sinfónica do Porto Casa da Música, as well as re-invitations from BBC National Orchestra of Wales and Orquesta Sinfónica de Navarra.
During his nine-year tenure with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Swensen and the orchestra toured extensively in the US, UK, Europe and the Far East. They performed together at the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York, Tanglewood and Ravinia Festivals, the BBC Proms, the Barbican and the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. As Principal Conductor of the Malmö Opera in Sweden, Swensen conducted several highly acclaimed productions of rarely-staged works.
Before launching his conducting career in the mid-1990s, Swensen enjoyed a highly successful career as a violin soloist appearing with the world’s major orchestras and conductors, and making a number of notable recordings including the Beethoven violin concerto with André Prévin and the Royal Philharmonic and the Sibelius violin concerto with Jukka Pekka Saraste and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, both on BMG Classics. With a special interest in exploring and developing the art of play-direct he created, with the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris, the first ‘Paris Play-Direct Academy’ in 2011. Swensen has extended the play-direct repertoire far beyond the classical period to include concertos by composers such as Brahms, Barber and Prokofiev. His series of recordings for Linn Records featuring Brahms, Mendelssohn and Prokofiev’s second concerto, with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra were internationally acclaimed and recently republished as a boxset.
A multifaceted musician, Joseph Swensen is an active composer and orchestrator. His orchestration of Prokofiev’s Five Songs Without Words (1920) is published by Boosey and Hawkes and Signum recorded Sinfonia in B (2007), an orchestration of the rarely performed 1854 version of Brahms' Trio Op. 8. His work also includes orchestrations of Nielsen G minor quartet, Four Movements for Orchestra (1888) as well as arrangements for string orchestras of Beethoven String Quartet op.131 and Debussy String Quartet, which he recorded with the NFM Leopoldinum. His most notable compositions include a trilogy Sinfonietta #1 (Requiem for Shizue) (2001) for solo shakuhachi and orchestra, Sinfonietta #2 (Langeland Reveries) (2017) for strings and synthesizer and Sinfonietta #3 (Mahler in Manhattan) (2020) for Solo Horn, violin and orchestra. Isolated in Vermont (USA) during the Corona Crisis lockdown of 2020, Joseph Swensen completed a cello concerto SAGA “A Tribute to the Heroes of the Corona Pandemic”.
An American of Norwegian and Japanese descent, Joseph Swensen was born in Hoboken, New Jersey and grew up in Harlem, New York City. A sought-after pedagogue, he teaches conducting, violin and chamber music at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow.