Jonathan Berman

Conductor

“The orchestra couldn’t have hoped for a more committed interpreter than Berman”

Cleveland Classical, Peter Feher, Aug 2022 on Berman’s debut with the Cleveland Orchestra

BIOGRAPHY

Jonathan Berman’s open-minded approach to music making is reflected in his impressively broad repertoire. Whether on stage, in front of cameras, writing a script or curating a concert programme, Jonathan derives his energy from his ability to engage with audiences. For him, unlocking the imagination is the key.

A fearless advocate of contemporary and new music, Jonathan is equally well versed in the classical and Romantic periods. A recent champion of the works of Franz Schmidt, Jonathan launched The Franz Schmidt Project and has performed the symphonies across Europe, with the Cleveland Orchestra and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales (BBCNOW) with whom he has recorded the complete symphonies for Accentus Music for Schmidt’s 150th anniversary in 2024.

Whilst music is central to all his interests, Jonathan’s deep engagement with literature, visual art, theatre and film leads to constant questioning of the boundaries of classical music and feeds into the unique and creative ways in which he connects to his audiences. Jonathan is recognised for his thoughtfulness and insight, creating performances which are known for their sensitivity, structure, and flexibility.

During the Pandemic, Jonathan launched Stand Together Music which promoted conscious streaming of music, reflecting the UK’s cancelled concerts, with over 1000 hours of curated Spotify playlists and generating vital income for artists. Also whilst live music was off the agenda, Jonathan also taught himself film-making, building on his experiences in 2015 at the Southbank Centre’s Changing Britain Festival. He has now directed nine films including a documentary series Postcards from Vienna, winning the Silver Medal Award for Outstanding Achievement at the Global Music Awards 2021, and Official Selection for Best Music Video at 2021 Venice Shorts Film Festival.

Jonathan Berman grew up in a musical family playing piano, cello and singing from an early age. From the very outset of his career, Jonathan was supported by Oliver Knussen, Stanisław Skrowaczewski and Jac van Steen with whom he studied at The Hague. Knussen became a life-long friend and mentor, introducing Jonathan at the Tanglewood Festival and share his concert at the 2016 BBC Proms.

In 2014 Jonathan was the first British musician and the first conductor to win the prestigious Kempinski Art Programme Fellowship, enabling him to work with Franz Welser-Möst and the Cleveland Orchestra, and Michael Tilson Thomas and the New World Symphony. In the 2014-15 he became Assistant Conductor to Vladimir Jurowski at the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the LPO now amongst several orchestras and organisations with whom he has developed long-term relationships including BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Southbank Sinfonia, London Sinfonietta and Aldeburgh Festival.

In recent years, Jonathan has conducted the Philharmonia Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, Royal Academy of Music, London Mozart Players, City of London Sinfonia, Nash Ensemble, BCMG, Crash Ensemble Dublin, and the Britten Pears Ensemble in the UK; as well as the Cleveland Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Filharmonica ‘George’ Enescu’, Sinfonietta Riga, Lithuanian National Philharmonic Orchestra, City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong, the Orchestre de Picardie, Orchestra di Padova e Veneto, Hagen Philharmonic Orchestra, Bilkent Symphony Orchestra, Turku Philharmonic Orchestra, Ensemble Modern and New European Ensemble abroad.

Additionally, he has conducted over 40 operas including productions for the Nationale Reis Opera, English Touring Opera, Aldeburgh Festival, Grachten Festival, Anghiari Festival, Dartington International Festival, Jerwood Opera Course, Opera Studio Netherlands, Dutch National Opera Academy, Mahogany Opera, Centre for Opera Studies in Italy.

Alongside performances, Jonathan has given masterclasses in both conducting and composition at Dartington International Summer Festival, Birmingham Contemporary Music Festival and at is Co-director of the Britten-Pears Composition and Performance Courses at the Aldeburgh Festival.

Mar 2024

Jonathan Berman is represented worldwide by LoganArts Management Ltd.

For more information, please contact Andrew Logan, Director at +44 (0) 7841 582 851 or at  info@loganartsmanagement.com

More also at www.jonathanberman.co.uk

PRESS QUOTES

Jonathan Berman

BBC National Orchestra of Wales

Franz Schmidt – The Symphonies

Accentus Music GmbH ACC80544

Release date : 1.12.2023

www.jonathanberman.co.uk/

“This is perhaps the most convincing approach to the composer’s musical universe.”

Scherzo Nov 2023

Nominated for the 2024 Preis Der Deutschen Schallplatten Kritik

____________________

Radio reviews, features & interviews : 

·       MDR Klassik, DE

·       ORF Ö1, DE

·       Gramophone ‘video of the day’, UK

·       BremenZwei „Klassikwelt“, DE

·       BBC Radio 3 Record Review, UK

·       RSI, Swiss

·       SWR Kultur, DE

·       NDR Kultur, DE

Reviews

„A Discovery.  Bravo!“

“What really makes this new recording so enticing is the sheer energy and enthusiasm … the power and optimism …”

Stretto, Michel Dutrieue, Dec 2023

“… sumptuously designed and luxuriantly recorded …”

“… orchestra … share Berman’s commitment and enthusiasm, delivering playing of sensitivity and technical brilliance …”

Performance 4 Star | Recording 5 Star

BBC Music Magazine, Erik Levi, Feb 2024

“… You must not play this music with too much pathos. That would give it too much sultriness and weight. In order for its harmonic characteristics to remain recognisable, it must sound transparent and be well balanced. This is precisely the approach taken by BBC Now and Jonathan Berman. […] In this recording, Jonathan Berman leads us confidently through the different regions of sound, especially in the opulent middle movement with its ten variations. […] The slow movement [of the 4th Symphony] is particularly oppressive […] . In this new recording, Jonathan Berman demonstrates a keen sense of proportions, progressions and arcs of tension. The BBC NOW follows him with great dedication – never cloying in the lyrical passages, never overly expressive in the dramatic sections.”

NDR Kultur, Christoph Vratz. Dec 2023

The Briton is an absolute specialist in the music of Franz Schmidt. Just in time for his 150th birthday this year, he has now completed his major project with an absolutely convincing complete recording of the four symphonies.

BremenZwei „Klassikwelt“, Wilfried Schäper, 14.01.2024

“More than Notre Dame”

“beautifully interpreted […] clever booklet text. […] The interpretation is characterised by taste and transparency. Taste and transparency also apply to the graphic arrangement and surroundings of this album.”

Listen Here : www.oe1.orf.at/Mehr-als-Notre-Dame

ORF Ö1, Irene Suchy, 31.01.2024

“… Jonathan Berman’s version is of interest to us, without a doubt: with his detail and sensitivity he enriches the catalogue of Franz Schmidt with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.”

sonograma, Carme Miró, 29 Jan 2024

Persistance de Vienne

“…a keen understanding of this music that this is probably the most relevant cycle devoted to this quartet of masterpieces, and what a bittersweet Fourth Symphony, what a coda in the Finale of the Second, what science in the Variations, what inspiration throughout the Langsam and Adagios, what a fiery gesture in the First! …  here you have the whole Schmidt universe, ambivalent, solar, funereal, mysterious and immortal.”

Artalinna,  Jean-Charles Hoffelé 29 Janvier 2024

“And this is where the remarkably light-hearted, almost musical interpretation by Jonathan Berman comes into play, who does not cover the scores with the pale glamour of a declining or already vanished aristocratic era, but realises them in an astonishingly fresh, in many parts even light-hearted way.”

Neue Musikzeitung, Michael Kube, 22.01.2024

Hoffmeisters Empfehlungen | Hoffmeister’s Recommendations

Martin Hoffmeister in interview with conductor Jonathan Berman

LISTEN HERE (from 14:25 to 29:06)

“A top-class addition to the catalogue, which contains comparatively few recordings of these works.”

MDR Klassik, “Hoffmeisters Empfehlungen”, Martin Hoffmeister, 2nd December 2023

“Mahler called Schmidt the most musical man in Vienna … but there is more to it than that …  … why aren’t these excellent, beautifully crafted, musically engaging and original late romantic symphonies better known and appreciated  … despite the advocacy on record from the likes of Kirill Petrenko, Franz Welser-Möst, Neeme Järvi and his son Paavo …  don’t be diverted from trying these excellent performances from Jonathan Berman.”

BBC Radio 3 Record Review, Andrew McGregor, Dec 2023

“Berman’s performance conveys the sense of emptiness, loss and forbearance in the music [of the 4th Symphony]. […] a very successful release.”

Gramophone, Christian Hoskins, January 2024

“Franz Schmidt’s music can be addictive. … Berman aims for a transparent sound and reveals the structures of this music. This opens up new listening experiences that reveal a master of instrumentation and a harmonic border crosser.”

Salzburger Nachrichten, Florian Oberhummer, 27 dec, 2023

“This edition convinces through its stringency […] that Berman minimizes post-romantic sultriness as a sound ideal and instead focuses on transparency.”

Concerti.de, Christoph Vratz, 21. Dec 2023

“Jonathan Berman and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales interpret these works with emotional commitment, gripping and with natural pathos […] and with a fine sense of sound and lyrical feeling in the slow movements.”

Rondo: Recommendation of the Week, Mario-Felix Vogt, 2nd December 2023

“ … undoubtedly a remarkable artistic endeavor.  Jonathan Berman and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales set new standards here, interpreting each work with precision, passion and tonal refinement. … Berman skillfully leads the orchestra and aptly elaborates the dynamic contrasts. … enhanced by the outstanding conducting of Jonathan Berman. “

Der Opernfreund, Dec 2023

“The new recording from the Welsh BBC Hoddinott Hall in Cardiff … is characterised by a clear sound that naturally depicts all instrumental groups. […] A convincing new release in all respects.”

Opera Lounge, Daniel Hauser, 2nd December 2023

“The contrasts are easy to hear in the interpretation by Berman and the orchestra from Wales. While the first movement is still striking and powerful, but never uncontrolled, in the second they offer carefully restrained auditory impressions through to chamber music-like refinement, while also allowing the lyrical aspects to be heard. The musicians develop the third movement from a quiet beginning to the whirling conclusion and show that they can realize the music appropriately, even if the scores are challenging. […] The orchestra under Jonathan Berman brings the personal thoughts expressed in this music to life with an intense and calmly unfolding reading. […] The participants succeed in doing this extraordinarily well with a finely spun musical thread and dedication. The result is a cohesive view of the music of Franz Schmidt.”

Pizzicato, Remy Franck, 2nd December 2023

“[…]None of the [previous recordings] has managed to delve with total success into Schmidt’s elusive universe, so dependent on the Viennese or Wiener Klangstil sound style. […] The excellent young British conductor Jonathan Berman has just released, on Accentus Music, Schmidt’s sixth symphonic integral, conducted by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. This is perhaps the most convincing approach to the composer’s musical universe. Berman compensates for the Cardiff ensemble’s lack of Viennese sound style by diving deeper into the connections that each score makes. This is evident in the vital thrust of the First, the fluidity of the Second’s variations, the elegant contrapuntal warp of the Third (the composer’s favourite) and the emotional catharsis of the Fourth, to which he adds an exquisite showcases the symphonic richness of the opera Notre Dame.”

Scherzo, Pablo L. Rodríguez, 30th November 2023

“Jonathan Berman and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales set new standards here, interpreting each work with precision, passion and tonal refinement. […] The Symphony No. 2 in E flat major is presented by Berman with an equally skilful handling of form and expressiveness. Here, the orchestra is in top form, with the strings, winds and percussion producing tonal splendour in harmonious unison. Particularly striking is the interpretation of the slow movements [of the Second Symphony], in which Berman captures the emotional depth without losing sight of the structural integrity of the music. […] The Symphony No. 3 in A major is performed with great sensitivity and expressiveness by Berman and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. The tonal shadings and contrapuntal elements of Schmidt’s compositions are fully realised. The dynamic transitions are skilfully designed and the orchestral precision makes for an impressive listening experience. […] The darkness of the music [of the 4th Symphony] is sensitively captured by Berman. The menacing sounds and dramatic developments are presented with a harmonious balance between tension and release. The BBC National Orchestra of Wales demonstrates its ability to master even the most demanding passages with impressive precision and emotional commitment. Franz Schmidt’s symphonies are masterpieces of late Romantic orchestral literature that place high demands on the orchestra’s technical and tonal expertise. The BBC National Orchestra of Wales under the direction of Jonathan Berman masters this challenge with flying colours and presents a complete recording that is convincing in every respect.  The orchestral playing is further enhanced by Jonathan Berman’s outstanding conducting. Berman demonstrates a clear and precise interpretation that gives the orchestra room to develop the musical nuances. At the same time, however, he never loses sight of the overall structure of the works, resulting in a balanced and well-conceived performance. Berman’s commitment to the music of Franz Schmidt is palpable, and this passion is transferred to the orchestra. His conducting is nuanced and sensitive, effectively emphasising the emotional depth of Schmidt’s works. The subtle shadings of dynamics, the carefully crafted tempo changes and the skilful balance between the instrumental groups contribute to an interpretation that is as sensitive as it is powerful. Berman knows how to interpret Franz Schmidt’s musical language with sensitivity while maintaining structural clarity.

This complete recording of Franz Schmidt’s symphonies is a valuable addition to the composer’s discography and a rewarding discovery for all lovers of late Romantic music. Jonathan Berman and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales have proved themselves to be outstanding interpreters of Schmidt’s music with this recording and deserve special recognition for this. This recording brings the work of an unjustly neglected composer back into the limelight.”

Online Merker, Dirk Schauß, November 2023

“… landmark release” 

“Jonathan Berman, à propos de Franz Schmidt”

Crescendo Magazine, Jean Pierre Tribot, Nov 2023

“Jonathan Berman, who with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales is able to perform true miracles in this late-Romantic repertoire. […] What is one hundred per cent certain, however, is that Berman and the Welsh orchestra have made an important contribution to the Schmidt discography with this new album.”

Opus Klassiek, Aart van der Wal, November 2023

LIVE

Franz Schmidt Symphony no. 4, Cleveland Orchestra / August 2022

“serious and dedicated performance […] the Cleveland Orchestra gave the Schmidt the honour of exquisite playing”

Seen and Heard International, Mark S. Jordan, 10th August 2022

“The orchestra couldn’t have hoped for a more committed interpreter than Berman”

Cleveland Classical, Peter Feher, 16th August 2022

Franz Schmidt Symphony no. 4, Royal Scottish National Orchestra / September 2022

“[The 4th Symphony of Franz Schmidt] was clearly music that struck a sympathetic chord with conductor Jonathan Berman, a message he imparted through spoken words, but then turned these thoughts into rich, meaningful music.”

Vox Carnyx, Ken Walton, 21st September 2022

End