Peter Whelan

Peter Whelan

Conductor • Bassoon

Biography

With parallel careers as a conductor, bassoonist, and keyboardist, Peter Whelan is one of the most versatile and original performers on the historical performance scene. He is also a noted educator and ensemble leader.

Whelan was born in Dublin in 1978. His initial training was as a keyboardist, but he switched to the bassoon after realizing that he preferred to perform with other musicians. He also saw a commonality between the two instruments, which are both often part of the Baroque continuo group. He studied at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, Trinity College in Dublin, and the Musik-Akademie der Stadt, Basel, in Switzerland. Whelan plays both modern and Baroque bassoon, and beginning in 2008 he served as principal bassoonist of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. As a soloist he has played bassoon recitals at Wigmore Hall. Whelan also became co-principal bassoonist of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and since then his efforts have concentrated on the field of Baroque music. He was founding director (and bassoonist) of Ensemble Marsyas, which has toured internationally and recorded chamber music of Zelenka, among others, and he has performed with the Xacona ensemble, which won two prizes at the Brugge International Competition in 2007. With Ensemble Marsyas he also became interested in Irish Baroque music, which he recorded on his 2014 album Proud Bassoon. Whelan has performed as a concerto soloist with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the Irish Baroque Orchestra, and other groups. The desire to explore unfamiliar ensemble material led him to take up conducting. He told the Irish Times that he wanted to perform "music that I felt passionate about but that wouldn’t get done anywhere else." In 2018 he was named conductor of the Irish Baroque Orchestra, Ireland's only professional period-instrument ensemble, and he led the group on a U.S. tour in 2019. That year, he led the Irish Baroque Orchestra on Welcome Home, Mr. Dubourg, a recording of music by the neglected Irish composer Matthew Dubourg.

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