When Pablo Heras-Casado brings a score to life in performance, he does so through a unique combination of acquired skills, innate wisdom and open-hearted passion. The Spanish artist, hailed by the New York Times as “the thinking person’s idea of a hotshot young conductor”, has achieved remarkable success in repertoire ranging from renaissance polyphony and 19th-century grand opera to works by Pierre Boulez, Peter Eötvös and George Benjamin. Heras-Casado’s lifelong commitment to early music and historically informed performance was recognised in 2013 when he was named as an Archiv Ambassador by Deutsche Grammophon’s Archiv label. The new relationship will be launched in May 2014 with the release of an album of works associated with the legendary castrato Farinelli, recorded in company with the countertenor Bejun Mehta and Concerto Köln. The conductor’s work in all repertoires is informed by deep knowledge of performance practice traditions and of the vital spiritual connection between performers and their audiences.
Pablo Heras-Casado was born in Granada on 21 November 1977, the son of a policeman and a housewife. His remarkable artistic journey began seven years later when, encouraged by his parents, he joined his elementary school choir; soon after he began piano lessons and progressed to study music at the Granada Conservatory. In addition, he studied Art History and took a postgraduate acting course at the University of Granada, gained invaluable practical experience as a member of a street theatre company in his home city, and made his mark as a composer for contemporary dance.
Heras-Casado, inspired during childhood by the sounds of 16th-century sacred polyphony, discovered his passion for early music as a member of vocal groups of all sizes. In 1994 he founded Capella Exaudi, a chamber choir devoted to renaissance repertoire, and broadened its musical horizons with the addition of a group of period instrument players. The young musician’s research into neglected Andalusian baroque music led to the first performances in modern times of many fine compositions and fuelled his desire to search beneath the surface of compositions to discover their essential meaning. He received conducting lessons from Harry Christophers, founder of The Sixteen, in the mid-1990s. Heras-Casado developed his skills as a conductor of contemporary and avant-garde music at the University of Alcalá near Madrid and in Granada with his own ensemble, SONÓORA, and also studied with Christopher Hogwood.
Heras-Casado’s broad education established secure foundations for the launch of a strikingly versatile professional career. In the early 2000s he made acclaimed debuts with leading Spanish orchestras, the Spanish National Radio Symphony and Orquesta Ciudad de Granada among them, and in 2002 founded the Orquesta Barroca de Granada. In 2004 he worked with Daniel Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan Orchestra and the following year was appointed principal conductor of the Orquesta de Girona; he also served as assistant conductor at the Deutsche Oper Berlin and the Opéra de Paris. Heras-Casado co-founded the period instrument orchestra Compañía Teatro del Principe in 2007 to explore and revive music written for the 18th-century Spanish royal court. Meanwhile, he received guidance from Pierre Boulez at the 2007 Lucerne Festival Academy and won the Lucerne Festival Conductors’ Competition with his performance of Stockhausen’s Gruppen.
Heras-Casado’s international breakthrough came in June 2008 when he conducted the recently formed Ensemble ACJW at New York’s Carnegie Hall. He made his UK debut soon after with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and gave his first concerts with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Orchestra National de Lyon. Orchestra managements worldwide took note of reports of the conductor’s eloquent musicianship, intense focus and desire to develop powerful interpretations in partnership with his fellow performers. Heras-Casado made his debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker in 2011, enhancing an already long and prestigious list of guest engagements: Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Berlin
Staatskapelle, the Dresden Staatskapelle, Münchner Philharmoniker, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra and San Francisco Symphony.
In December 2011 Heras-Casado was appointed Principal Conductor of the Orchestra of St Luke’s and made his debut with them on Carnegie Hall’s main stage in 2013. 2013-14 Season highlights included debuts with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Philharmonia Orchestra and London Symphony Orchestra as well as performances of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte with Freiburger Barockorchester at the Aix-en-Provence Festival. He also continued his regular collaboration with Ensemble Intercontemporain.
Opera has come to occupy an increasingly important place in Heras-Casado’s busy schedule. He served notice of his extraordinary empathy for the artform in 2008 when Compañía Teatro del Principe staged and made the world premiere recording of Boccherini’s La Clementina. His meteoric progress continued in 2010 with critically acclaimed debuts at English National Opera, Welsh National Opera and the Teatro Real Madrid, and has gathered momentum since with productions of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore at the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, Verdi’s Rigoletto and Les vêpres siciliennes respectively at the Deutsche Oper Berlin and Frankfurt Opera, Falla’s La vida breve, Ravel’s L’heure espagnole and Bizet’s Carmen at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg, John Adams’s Nixon in China for the Canadian Opera Company. In 2013 he conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic in the West Coast premiere of Eötvös’s Angels in America and made his debut at New York’s Metropolitan Opera with Rigoletto, where he will also conduct Carmen in September 2014.
In December 2013 Musical America named Heras-Casado as its Conductor of the Year, noting the charismatic maestro’s ‘infectious vitality’ and wide-ranging repertoire choice. He also received Choc de Classica awards for his recordings of Schubert’s Symphonies Nos. 3 and 4 with Freiburger Barockorchester and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No.2 ‘Lobgesang’ with the Symphonieorchester und Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks, adding to a list of accolades that includes the Council of Granada’s Golden Medal of Merit, a Diapason d’Or award for his 2011 DVD recording of Weill’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny and inclusion in Crain’s New York Business influential “40 under Forty” Class of 2012 list.