Energy, attention to detail, stylistically informed interpretation and charisma, are the attributes that best convey the essence of Celso Antunes as a conductor. He is a man of great integrity, charm and personal discipline.
“Antunes showed he knows that rarest of arts: how to make the contributions in a perspective that always makes musical sense… He secured performances that were high on illumination, getting inside the music, as it were…“
Born 1959 in São Paulo, Brazil, Celso Antunes studied conducting at the Musikhochschule Köln in Germany. From 1994 until 1998 he was Chief Conductor of the Neues Rheinisches Kammerorchester in Cologne and of the Belgian contemporary music ensemble Champ d'Action (1994 – 1997), with whom he directed numerous world premieres. As Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the National Chamber Choir of Ireland, his influence on its development from 2002 onward was exceptional. In 2007 the Irish Times regretted his departure with the words: ‘…this period will have to be seen in the future as a golden age for professional choral singing in Ireland’. Following this, from August 2008 to March 2012, Antunes was Chief Conductor of the Groot Omroepkoor (Netherlands Radio Choir).
From 2012 to 2016 Celso Antunes was Associate Conductor with the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra (OSESP) for whom he conducted at least two different programmes with the symphony orchestra (6 – 8 concerts) and one programme with the Choir each season. He is currently Chief Conductor of Camerata Fukuda, Brazil and Professor of Choral Conducting at the distinguished Haute École de Musique de Genève.
Flexibility is the key to Celso Antunes’ conducting expertise, with a repertoire that spans from Renaissance choral music, through orchestral works from the 18th and 19th century to contemporary music, of which he is a devoted advocate. This advocacy has led to engagements to direct numerous renowned contemporary music ensembles such as the Nieuw Ensemble, the Ensemble Modern. He has conducted many world premieres including works by Michael Tippett, Wolfgang Rihm, Jonathan Harvey, Hans Zender, Brice Pauset, Unsuk Chin and Lera Auerbach.
Celso Antunes is regularly invited as a guest conductor by leading orchestras, such as the Netherlands Radio Filharmonisch Orkest, the NDR Radiophilharmonie, the Brussels Philharmonic, the Ulster Orchestra, Manchester Camerata, the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and the Philharmonia Orchestra. He frequently works with a number of prestigious choirs, including the SWR Stuttgart Vocal Ensemble, the BBC Singers in London, Choeur de Radio France and the Vlaamse Radio Koor in Brussels. For many years Celso Antunes has been an active figure on the European concert scene: engagements have included the City of London Festival, Salzburger Festival, Berliner Festspiele, the Flanders Festival and the Musikbienale München.
Antunes’ CD recordings have achieved high critical acclaim, and multiple award nominations. In 2010 a CD of works by Joaquin Turina with the NDR Radiophilharmonie for hänssler classic was nominated for a Grammy award. His 2010 recording of Sun Dogs by James MacMillan with the Netherlands Radio Choir, on the BIS label, was shortlisted for a Gramophone Classical Music Award. In 2011 Antunes recorded works by Xavier Montsalvatge, again with the NDR Radiophilharmonie for hänssler classic. In the same year, he recorded a CD of works by Richard Rijnvos, Uptown|Downtown, featuring both the Netherlands Radio Filharmonisch Orkest and the Netherlands Radio Kamer Filharmonie, released May 2012. The recording led the composer to describe Celso Antunes’ leadership of the two orchestras as ‘inspiring’. In 2013 he recorded a CD of works by the Brazilian composer Almeida Prado with OSESP, released November 2013.
Franck, Honneger, Poulenc, RTE National Symphony Orchestra, Dublin, 3 May 2013
Antunes is an individualist, engineering frequent adjustments of mood .... the playing he secured was first rate, and he brought real rough-hewn bite to Honneger's Rugby, a work the composer called "the savage, brusque, untidy and desperate rythym " of the game.Poulenc's Gloria, with Tynan radiant and the Philharmonic Choir in fine voice, was a blaze of glory.
Michael Dervan - Irish Times 8 May 2013
Unsuk Chin, nieuw ensemble – Wittner Tage für Neue Kammermusik
Unsuk Chin’s cosmigimmicks demonstrates her unerring sense of musical expression in a confined musical space. The Nieuw Ensemble, under the direction of Antunes, delivered with relish, a finely detailed performance of her pantomime for seven players.
Egbert Hiller, Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, April 2013
Borodin Symphony No. 2, Orquestra Sinfonica do Estado de Sao Paulo, 7 March 2013
Brazilian newspaper Estadao features a full page interview with conductor Celso Antunes and reviews a recent performance of Borodin's second symphony.
Extract from the review:
On the podium, Celso Antunes demonstrated security and full mastery of his craft. In spite of his origins linking him to choral conducting, it is time that Antunes devotes himself exclusively to conducting symphonic works - and the best example of this is the way in which he built an engaging reading of the second symphony of Borodin.
João Marcos Coelho, Estadao
Extract from the interview:
“You have no idea how many times I've heard agents say: Celso, you need to decide – do you want to be a symphonic conductor or a choir conductor? But up until now I have managed to escape, I'm slippery, like soap. And one thing helps the other. Monteverdi is a lesson in how to play Borodin, and vice versa. Whatever I have learned from conducting choirs I have been able to apply to conducting orchestras. There are two worlds which people divide, but they are really the same thing.”
Read the full article here
“The violin parts are almost always lyrical throughout, while the orchestral accompaniment alternates between surging climaxes and cheeky, rhythmic comments from the woodwinds... Antunes and his forces make a distinguished contribution to the whole disc.”
“More than the sum of its parts, this disc is a perfect introduction to the music of a 20th-century Spanish master. The recording quality is top-class, the performances terrific, and the music itself is well worth getting to know.”
Philllip Scott, Fanfare, 04.08.12
„Both orchestras perform under the inspiring leadership of Brazilian maestro Celso Antunes"
„Celso Antunes...is credited with extremely competent handling of the piano concerto as well as 'The Manhattan Square Dances', where the forces of the Dutch Radio Philharmonic Orchestra are split into two orchestras of the same size... 'Times Square Dance' and 'Washington Square Dance' burst with sheer vitality as well as the up-beat music of the 'Union Square Dance', in which 'leggiero' passages and wild pulsation-counterpoint, hoquetus-like, are intertwined“
Helmut Rohmas, BRKlassik, 11.06.2012
„The performances (under Celso Antunes, we might add...) are as playful as they are formidable“
Jan van Laar, Elsevier, 23.06.2012
„Celso Antunes conducts...fascinating, swinging and effective music, with a dollop of humour too, always dazzingly and ingeniously composed“
Peter van der Lint, Trouw, 26.06.2012
“… The musicians of the NDR, led by the Brazilian conductor Celso Antunes realize Turina’s Idiom magnificently.”
Ekkehard Pluta, klassik-heute.de, 03.09.10
“The Canto contains as much orchestral as vocal music … Celso Antunes and the orchestra do a fine job throughout, and the engineering is excellent. Given the fact that the music is entirely gorgeous, this is quite recommendable.”
David Hurwitz, classicstoday.com
“Truly international Turina - Sensitively performed and beautifully-recorded”
“A truly international approach to Turina this, with Slovakian mezzo Lucia Duchonová and the NDR Radiophilharmonie under Brazilian conductor Celso Antunes. … Finest of all is the performance of Saeta en forma de Salve, a too-little known jewel, which finds all the performers on top form.”
Ivan Moody Gramophone 30.11.10
Visitatio Sepulchri and Sun Dogs – James McMillan, BIS
*Shortlisted for a Gramophone Award (Choral Section) in 2011
“It is remarkable that a Dutch choir can offer such strong and polished performances of these two choral works by James Macmillan, readily surmounting any problems over singing the English text of the a cappella writing in Sun-Dogs [conducted by Celso Antunes]...Altogether a fine coupling of two superb works”
Gramophone Magazine, August 2010
“[Sun Dogs] is a tour de force of choral writing, in which Macmillan is always assured and in the layered execution of which the Dutch professional choir [Conductor Celso Antunes] excels, it sets texts by Michael Symmons Roberts...with memorable results...It would be hard to imagine a more fervent performance than this”
BBC Music Magazine, September 2010 *****
Carmina Burana / Cantata Profana
„...You do not very often listen to this piece (Carmina) performed at such a high level. Brazilian conductor Celso Antunes brought together the Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz, the Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart, three fantastic soloists and formed an ensemble that showed all those qualities needed for a highly effective performance: rhythmical conciseness and sound awareness, particularly a wonderful feeling for this music's specific inflection, in a piece that sometimes shows drastic changes of mood. Antunes managed it in an exemplary manner...“
Frank Armbruster, Stuttgarter Zeitung, 21.11.2011
„...the Gächinger Kantorei and the Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz under Celso Antunes are simply ideal interpreters for this rhythmically very demanding hymn to the joy of living: magnificent vocal material, perfect articulation, flexibility and effervescence...Both the ensembles and the impressive conductor were in top form – a great evening!“
Waltraud Brunst, Mannheimer Morgen, 19.11.2011
„A rousing sound impact on the first concert of the series Mannheimer Meisterkonzerte at the Rosengarten...The master of the sound masses was Brazilian conductor Celso Antunes...Modelling these sound masses without creating a massive sound – that's where the secret of a successful performance of Orff's Carmina Burana lies...With Bela Bartok's Cantata Profana Antunes provided an impressive foretaste to the abilities of both ensembles: an interpretation with no trace of fear of rhythmic, melodic and harmonic difficulties...Finding the necessary degree of transparency between the rhythmical vitality and the monumentality of the scenes – that's Antunes's recipe for success!“
Markus Pacher, Die Rheinpfalz, 21.11.2011
Goethe's "Theatralisches Abentheuer", Radio Philharmonie NDR Hannover, 20 February 2009
"The NDR-Radiophilharmonie's playing under conductor Celso Antunes was spirited, with Italianate fieriness and airiness. That's how "lighter" classical music should sound: enormously funny and always at a very high level."
Igor Strawinsky: Symphony of Psalms
Concertgebouw Orkest, Cond. Zubin Mehta
Netherlands Radio Choir, Cond. Celso Antunes
On his second performance with the Concertgebouw Orchestra as guest conductor, 72 year-old maestro Metha generated subtle psalms, accurately shaped [Groet Omroepkoor, Cond. Celso Antunes]. Under his direction, Strawinskis score sounded noble and the performance resembled a spiritual experience.
Also with the Psalm symphony, Metha let music speak entirely for itself: Especially in the last part, when the Concertgebouw Orchestra and the sublime singing Groet Omroepkoor (Cond. Celso Antunes) seemed to melt in heavenly spheres, they created moments of unknown magic.
Hommage to Cathy Berberian, Robert-Schumann-Saal Düsseldorf
The "Tippett Ensemble", eleven excellent instrumentalists who were conducted with precision by Celso Antunes, who is especially committed to contemporary music - presented a crossover-programme that was worthy of Berberian.
RAVEL DAPHNIS ET CHLOÉ, Philharmonie Berlin, April 08
"Maurice Ravel's "Daphnis et Chloé" with the Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin at the Philharmonie was a great event… excellent: the Radio Choir Berlin under Celso Antunes…"
"This music sounds intense and vivid, subtle and never overloaded … Above all, because the Belgian Het Spectra Ensemble under Celso Antunes’ competent direction were remarkably able to delve deeply into this highly dramatic work…"
“Drama, drama and more drama was the order of the night on Friday as the Ulster Orchestra performed Verdi’s Requiem… Conductor Celso Antunes prepared us for fireworks and passion … by the close of the evening, the audience was left most assuredly with the hope that Antunes returns to conduct this or any other work he wants to, again and again. At the risk of using a made-up word, this was a conductorial tour de force: a big lengthy and complex work played with no interval, conducted with no score. Risky? Yes. Worth it? Yes. In the end, nothing could take away from the control and confidence of conductor Celso Antunes: his pacing was apt and calculated to give the big moments ample weight, even as the more introspective passages had room to breath and resonate.”
“Conductor Celso Antunes got the combined Belfast Philharmonic and Guinness Choirs off to a wonderfully atmospheric start in his Verdi Requiem with the Ulster Orchestra on Friday… it was good to hear so many of the work’s moments of tenderness and warmth conveyed with sensitivity. The care with which Antunes sculpted individual choral lines and ensured musically sound balances was commendable, as was his concern not to overpower the vocal soloists.“
"Under Celso Antunes ’direction, all musicians, spread all over the church, could perform with absolute precision: the spatial sound effects were perfectly achieved…"
"The Adhoc Ensemble and the solo singers, all directed by Celso Antunes, collaborated in what was a highly polished and expressive performance…"
"Celso Antunes conducted from the middle of the church, where all instrumental groups were scattered, getting from the players the most sensitive nuances"
"…The Camerata Fukuda and its Chief Conductor, Celso Antunes, started their concert with an impetuous and energetic rendering of C.P.E. Bach’s string symphonies… Under Antunes’s delicate and exhuberant direction, both Elgar’s Serenade and Grieg’s Holberg Suite sounded contagiously beautiful…"
"Brazilian conductor Celso Antunes knows how to get the most out of all dances, including Tangos and Mambos: This is sensational music making, the Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie plays for him with luxurious strings and with a lavish orchestral brass sound..."
"Antunes conducted during the fast three hours of the concert bouncing, curling and knuckling himself, letting his hands speak and extracting the most out of the players... He's certainly made an impact on the musicians, the audience could feel the joy in the playing. Antunes is an effervescent conductor, with a fine feeling for rhythms and long cantabile lines..."
"Antunes, appointed in 2002, transformed the choir from an honourably dull group that rarely lived up to its obvious potential into the most dynamic and forward-looking of performing ensembles that Ireland has ever known. His programming with the NCC has been unrivalled in its scope and daring, the choir regularly attracts the world's leading choral conductors for its concerts. […]The choir's five years under Antunes will be seen as a golden age for professional choral singing in Ireland."
"The Camerata Fukuda under Celso Antunes plays Mozart's "Divertimento in F major" and Shostakovitch's Chamber Symphony opus 110" with brilliant verve and great passion: an absolutely lively and stirring performance!"
"Celso Antunes has presented us with a moving new interpretation of Michael Tippett's oratorio A Child of our Time: with great accuracy, Antunes gets to the core of this emotionally highly charged music."
"Energy and dramatic tension: These are the words that come to one's mind when listening to Celso Antunes' performance of Beethoven's "Eroica" - a performance full of vitality and accuracy!"
"Celso Antunes proved again his masterly powers of evocation and passionate, direct presentation."
"Celso Antunes is one of those conductors who treats the most demanding of modern scores as a challenge to be met as painstakingly as a familiar classic. His Xenakis had that aura of fearlessness, of mastery of the almost but not quite impossible, which this composer's music needs...Antunes treated this music (Morales' Requiem) to a mesmerizing, sonorous, slow unfolding… As ever, Antunes's performances were notable for their fine observation of stylistic differences."
"The conductor Celso Antunes had a dynamic thrust that was at times simply dramatic, his command of the orchestra and chorus was absolutely first-rate!"
"Under the ‚Brazilian-Rheinländer' Celso Antunes the playing of Ensemble Contrasts delivers an always alert and flexible interpretation"
Uptown/Downtown, Richard Rijnvos
Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic
Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
John Snijders - Piano
Celso Antunes - Conductor
Challenge Classics CC72538
Canciones & Conciertos - Xavier Montsalvatge
Jenny Lin - Piano
Lucia Duchoňová - Mezzo Soprano
Rachel Barton Pine - Violin
Celso Antunes - Conductor
Hänssler Classic 098.642.000
Canto a Sevilla - Joaquin Turina
NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover
Lucia Duchonova - Mezzo Soprano
Celso Antunes - Conductor
Sun Dogs - James Mac Millan
Netherlands Radio Choir
Celso Antunes - Conductor
1) TIPPETT ENSEMBLE
Paulo Chagas „Sodoma“, music for voices, instruments and electronic sounds
Tippett Ensemble/Helix Ensemble
Ltg: Celso Antunes
Label: Sub Rosa, Belgien (SubCD 026-48, 1993))
Paulo Chagas „Francis Bacon“, music for voices, instruments and electronic sounds
2) CHAMP D’ ACTION
„Quincunx“, music by Flemish composers
Champ d’Action/ Ltg: Celso Antunes
Label: Megadisc, Belgien (MDC 7869, 1994)
Karel Goeyvaerts „The serial works“
Champ d’Action/ Ltg: Celso Antunes
Label: Megadisc, Belgien (MDC 7845, 1998)
3) NEUES RHEINISCHES KAMMERORCHESTER (NRKO)
„Bilder aus Osten“, Musik für Streichorchester
NRKO / Ltg: Celso Antunes
Label: Paulus, Brasilien (CD 003300, 1997)
„Live in der Kölner Philharmonie“
NRKO / Ltg: Celso Antunes
Label: BME, Deutschland (LC 4852, 1998)
4) CAMERATA FUKUDA
Antonio Vivaldi „Vier Jahreszeiten“
Violine: Elisa Fukuda / Camerata Fukuda
Ltg: Celso Antunes Label: Comep, Brasilien (CD 6614-1, 1992)
Violine: Elisa Fukuda / Camerata Fukuda
Ltg: Celso Antunes Label: Comep, Brasilien (CD 6651-6, 1995)
“Convergences”, Brazilian Music for Strings
Camerata Fukuda / Ltg: Celso Antunes
Label: Paulus, Brasilien (CD 005250, 2001)
“Camerata Fukuda”, Musik für Streicher
Solisten: Elisa Fukuda (Violine) und Fabio Presgrave (Violoncello)
Ltg: Celso Antunes Label: Paulus, Brasilien (CD 008237, 2006)
Kurt Weill “Zaubernacht” (World premiere recording)
Ensemble Contrasts / Ltg: Celso Antunes
Label: Capriccio, Deutschland (LC 08748, 2002)
6) LJO NRW
“Musik auf Burg Langendorf”, Werke bei Respighi, Krek und Mendelssohn
Landesjugendkammerorchester NRW / Ltg: Celso Antunes
Label: LJO NRW/WDR, Deutschland (DDD 2000, 2000)
7) THE NATIONAL CHAMBER CHOIR OF IRELAND
„Ad Multos Annos“, Contemporary Choral Works commissioned by
The National Gallery of Ireland
The National Chamber Choir of Ireland / Ltg: Celso Antunes
Label: NCC/National Gallery, Irland
“Quasi una Musica”, Werke bei Frank Corcoran
Darin: “Quasi Aspects of an Irish Poem”, für Chor und Violine
Violine: Catherine Leonard / NCC / Ltg: Celso Antunes
Label: Composers’ Art Label / zeitklang Musikproduktion, Deutschland (2006)
„Contemporary Music from Ireland“, Volume 5
Darin: Elaine Agnew „Bread“, für Chor a cappella
NCC / Ltg: Celso Antunes
Label: CMC, Irland (CD 05)