New Zealand-born Holly Mathieson is an award-winning conductor, regularly working with opera houses, ballet companies, and orchestras in Europe, Australasia, and North America. She is the Music Director of Symphony Nova Scotia and Co-Artistic Director of the Nevis Ensemble with Jon Hargreaves. She frequently records for BBC Radio, and her first major commercial recording with Decca, a collaboration with Isata Kanneh-Mason and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, reached No. 1 on the U.K. classical charts. Her work has seen her travel to nearly every continent on the planet, and perform for audiences spanning from the British Royal Family and Europe’s political elites to Scotland’s homeless and refugee communities. In addition to her conducting work, Holly is on the Board of Directors for the London-based opera company formidAbility, an opera company pioneering the commissioning and producing of opera with accessibility at the foundation of the creative process.
A passionate communicator with crystalline technique and a collaborative approach, Holly has won plaudits in all forms of music direction from opera, ballet, and family concerts to full-scale symphonic programmes. In recent seasons, she conducted the London Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, most of the BBC Orchestras, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, and Scottish Chamber Orchestra. In the theatre, she has worked with Opera North, Scottish Ballet, Scottish Opera, and English Touring Opera. Recording and broadcasting credits include the Philharmonia Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, and Opera North. Despite significant cancellations during the pandemic, the 2020/21 season will nevertheless retain debuts with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, and Danish National Ballet, alongside return visits to long-term performing partners and the beginning of her Music Director post at Symphony Nova Scotia.
2018 saw the inaugural tour of the innovative Nevis Ensemble, of which she is Co-Artistic Director with husband Jon Hargreaves, a project founded on the maxim that “music is for everyone, everywhere”, and aims to take music out of the concert hall and into isolated and marginalized communities. In two years, the orchestra has given 170 free performances to around 25,500 people all across Scotland, from farming communities in the Scottish Borders to the summit of Ben Nevis in the Highlands, and including the most comprehensive tour of the Outer Hebrides by an orchestra, which even saw the ensemble perform on Hirta, in the remote archipelago of St. Kilda.
She held several significant early career positions, including the Leverhulme Fellowship in Conducting at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Assistant Conductor of both the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestras, and Resident Conductor within the National Youth Orchestras of Scotland. Prior to that, she was chosen as one of only four young conductors from around the world to participate in the Interaktion Dirigentenwerkstatt des Kritischen Orchesters with players from the Berlin Philharmonic and other top-tiered German orchestras. She enjoyed a critically acclaimed London debut with Opera Holland Park as part of the 2015 Christine Collins Young Artist Programme, and was a conducting fellow at Dartington International Summer School and Taki Alsop Conducting Fellowship Prizewinner in 2013. She holds a PhD in Music Iconography, during which she was awarded the global Sylff Fellowship, and in 2016, Zonta New Zealand named her one of New Zealand’s Top 50 Women of Achievement.
She currently lives in Glasgow, and is regularly invited to be a guest teacher at institutions like the Royal College of Music, the University of Manchester, the University of Glasgow, and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. She is a frequent contributor and guest speaker for various industry podcasts and blogs, writes about music, and in summer 2019 launched her own podcast called Scordatura.
Get to know Holly!
Have you ever tried a donair? Who is your favourite living conductor? How do you go about learning a piece you’re going to conduct? Holly answers these questions and more as we get to know what makes our Music Director tick!