An artist of international renown and an accomplished teacher, Paul Agnew, who was born in Glasgow, received his earliest musical education with Birmingham Cathedral Choir. He afterwards went to Magdalen College, Oxford, before joining the Consort of Musicke, with which he performed music from both the Italian and the English Renaissances. He was auditioned by William Christie in 1992 and subsequently became the performer of choice for the high-tenor roles of the French Baroque repertory. He was acclaimed in major roles in operas by Rameau and also in Charpentier, Handel and Purcell.
While he continued to sing with prestigious conductors in the leading international venues, his career took a new turn in 2007 when he began conducting certain projects for Les Arts Florissants. His first programme as guest conductor featured Vivaldi’s Vespers. This was followed by, among others, Handel’s Odes and Anthems and, the following year, Lamentazione, a concert devoted to Italian-Baroque polyphony, which was to be Paul Agnew’s first recording as Associate Conductor of Les Arts Florissants.
In 2010, he conducted the ensemble again in Purcell’s The Indian Queen before undertaking the complete cycle of Monteverdi’s madrigals, a project for which he had conducted over 100 concerts by the end of 2015, and recording an anthology drawn from all eight books of madrigals and released in three volumes: Cremona (2015), Mantova (2014) and Venezia (for release in autumn 2016).
During the 2013/14 season, he was appointed Associate Musical Director of Les Arts Florissants, which he has since conducted regularly in France and abroad.
Paul Agnew is also co-director of Le Jardin des Voix, the academy of Les Arts Florissants for young singers. His interest in training new generations of musicians has led him to conduct the Orchestre Français des Jeunes Baroque on many occasions, and also the European Union Baroque Orchestra. He has also conducted several concerts with orchestras using modern instruments, among them the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, the St Paul Chamber Orchestra (Minnesota) and Music of the Baroque (Chicago). "Fabulous pile-ups of dissonances and a polychoral lushness characterise most of the music, sung with exemplary clarity and expression by Les Arts Florissants under the British tenor, Paul Agnew. The astringency of the upper voices gives more bite to those spine-shivering discords.” (The Times, October 2011)
Text: courtesy of harmonia mundi Photos: © Oscar Ortega for harmonia mundi