Philip Hesketh is Musical Director of Opéra de Baugé, Opera Vera, London Children’s Ballet, the West London Sinfonia, and the Norfolk Symphony Orchestra and makes regular guest appearances in Britain and abroad. He has a vast knowledge of the repertoire and gives concerts with many orchestras including the Belgrade Philharmonic, The Yuri Bashmet Orchestra, the National Philharmonic of Moldova, the Orchestra Della Svizzera Italiana in Lugano, the Orchestra of the Wiener Volksoper and the Wiener Residenz Orchester in Vienna, the and the Olsztyn State Philharmonic Orchestra in Poland.
In 2001 Philip made his debut at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, replacing the great Russian conductor Evgenii Svetlanov in the Royal Ballet’s season of The Nutcracker. Further invitations followed, in particular to the Royal Swedish Ballet to conduct their revival of Onegin. Philip has a talent for accompanying dance that is considered rare amongst conductors and has worked very successfully with directors, choreographers, and dancers including Sir Peter Wright, Wayne Sleep, Madeleine Onne, Harold King, William Tuckett, Cathy Marston, Christine Sundt, Matthew Hart, Morgann Runacre-Temple and David Fielding. In 2003 he collaborated with Irek Mukhamedov on a new ballet of The Prince and the Pauper for the London Children’s Ballet.
In 2004 Philip conducted a production of Flotow’s Martha for the festival Opéra de Baugé. This was followed, in 2005, by Handel’s Rodelinde and Dibdin’s The Widow of Ephasus and, as a result of these, he was invited to act as Musical Director of the festival from the 2006 season. Since then he has conducted Don Giovanni, Carmen, Idomeneo, Eugene Onegin, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Rigoletto, Fidelio, Tosca, Romeo et Juliette and Aida. The forthcoming season will see him performing Madame Butterfly. In 2013 he also conducted Don Giovanni in Opera Vera’s inaugural season. Philip is becoming highly sought after amongst singers as a performance coach.
Philip is very keen to break down the traditional barriers between performers and audiences and, where appropriate, will give spoken introductions to his concerts. As a result, he has become much in demand as a communicator on all aspects of classical music, developing a name as a witty, entertaining and informative speaker. He also teaches and coaches amateurs, students and professionals in all aspects of musical performance, appreciation and theory. He is enthusiastically involved in the more “popular” side of music making. Over several years he developed a close working relationship with the Salon Orchestra of the Wiener Volksoper, the home of Viennese Operetta. Performing with them in Vienna ‘s Kursalon he introduced and conducted many concerts, both in Summer and at New Year, of music by the Strauss Family and other popular Viennese composers. In Britain, he has arranged and conducted open-air “Promenade” concerts for large audiences and both of the orchestras of which he is Musical Director perform children’s concerts regularly.
Philip has a great commitment to bringing contemporary composers and audiences closer together and, whenever possible, he seeks to champion the work of today’s composers. In July 1999 he conducted the Swedish Premiere production of Thomas Ades’ opera Powder Her Face for Ystad Festival Opera and every year conducts a new full length ballet score for the London Children’s Ballet. He has given the first performances of works by many composers including Artem Vassiliev, Vilem Tausky, Elizabeth Lane, Raymond Warren, Lucy Mulgan and John Webb. In May 2012 he gave the World Premieres of Floreat Oriana by Cecilia MacDowell and a Violin/Viola Concerto by Ian Schofield.
For a full list of performed repertoire please go to the Repertoire page.
Philip was born in 1959 in Walkden, near Manchester, but after four years moving around Lancashire and Yorkshire the family settled in Cheltenham where he stayed until he was thirteen. From the age of four he was fascinated by people playing the piano and was encouraged by his parents to take lessons, which duly started at the age of seven. Shortly afterwards he was beneficiary of the, then, fairly recent revolution in school music when the nice Mr. Wilkins, Music Teacher at Charlton Kings Primary School, asked him if he wanted to play the cello. Given that he had no idea what a cello was the only possible answer was yes.
He took part in school and youth music which was an unexceptional experience until the family moved, in 1973, to Bedford. Bedford Modern School had a thriving music department under the inspirational guidance of Fred Rawlins, supported by the Headmaster, Brian Kemble-Cook. Also, Michael Rose was creating, based on the Bedfordshire Youth Orchestra, one of the most extraordinarily successful county music organisations in the country and between these two powerhouses Philip’s musical life blossomed. He was very active in all levels of music-making in the county so by the time he left school he had performed, often as principal cello, almost all the central orchestral and choral repertoire and a large amount of chamber music as well. He had also worked with many great musicians including Aaron Copland, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Pierre Fournier, Shura Cherkassky, Rudolph Schwarz and many others. In the mid-seventies he played in a series of unforgettable concerts with the Bedfordshire Youth Chamber Orchestra conducted by a strange, intense young man with a mop of curly hair and an enthusiastic attitude to the exuberant social life of the young players. This conductor’s name was Simon Rattle.
From the age of 14 he studied the cello in London with Lily Phillips, doyenne of the great cello school at the Royal Academy of Music. However, in 1978, having once rebelled against what he saw as the path laid out for him into medicine or industry he rebelled again, eschewing the ‘establishment’ and entering the Guildhall School of Music and Drama to study with the Bulgarian virtuoso Stefan Popov, who had been a member of Rostropovich’s legendary class in Moscow. In his first year there he played as principal cellist in the Guildhall Symphony Orchestra, working with such conductors as Simon Rattle (again), Mark Elder and Vilem Tausky. He was also invited to play in a string quartet which took part in the first Portsmouth International Quartet Competition and studied with the Amadeus Quartet in the inaugural season of the Britten-Pears School at Snape Maltings.
In 1983, having won several major cello prizes and been awarded the coveted ‘Premier Prix’ , he left the Guildhall and joined the class of the American cellist and pupil of Casals and Janigro, Michael Flaxman in Switzerland. During this time he was also developing his career in orchestral and chamber music, working frequently with many groups including the Alberni and Coull Quartets, the Scottish Baroque Ensemble, the London Virtuosi and the City of London Sinfonia. Then, in 1985, he accepted a permanent post in the Orchestra of the Sadlers Wells Royal Ballet (later the Birmingham Royal Ballet), a position he successfully combined with that of Principal Cellist with English Touring Opera (later City of Birmingham Touring Opera).
After some years as a successful professional cellist Philip began to turn his attention to conducting. In 1988, he directed his first concert with an amateur string group and, shortly after, conducted his first concerts with full orchestra, firstly with his old youth chamber orchestra and then with The Thames Sinfonia, an ensemble he created. When, in 1991, he was invited to take the post of Musical Director with the West London Sinfonia he decided to direct his energies solely towards conducting.