Celso Antunes


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OSESP-Concert 18 September 2014 The concert last Thursday by OSESP, conducted by Celso Antunes, was excellent... Exceptionally dizzying readings of two Mozart symphonies, KV 318 and KV 425: Antunes took the best advantage of historically informed interpretation, commanding 36 musicians wielding modern instruments - with faster tempos than the conventional ones and all playing strictly “senza vibrato”. A triumph, simply stunning!

The performance of the Piano Concerto Nr. 5 by Villa-Lobos, with the young Fabio Martino as a soloist, a chaotic and delightful mix of Hollywood and Rachmaninov, written in 1954 by the great Brazilian composer, was also absolutely fantastic... Sidney Molina, Folha de São Paulo, March 25 2014

CD Review: WDR/Wittener Tage für Neue Kammermusik 2013 ...and Seventeen Thoughts on a Chamber Concerto by the turkish composer Emre Sihan Kaleli was performed by the Nieuw Ensemble under Celso Antunes to a great effect. Also cosmigimmicks, a thrilling "pantomime for seven players" by Unsuk Chin, performed by this dutch ensemble directed by Antunes was in the best hands. Egbert Hiller, Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, Nr. 05/2014

OSESP Choir sparkles in contemporary concert Conducted by Celso Antunes, choir and instrumentalists find the right weight for each musical line. The descending phrase at the end of "Noneto" - with the voices leaving only a resonance in space - was an extraordinary effect! Sidney Molina, Folha de São Paulo, March 25 2014

The modernity of Igor Stravinsky:
Late works by Russian composer were the highlight of the OSESP concert, directed by Celso Antunes.
Canticum Sacrum (1955) and Requiem Canticles (1966) are masterpieces, directed by Celso Antunes with broad gestures and clarity. The Canticum, with its refined and dark instrumentation for strings, and the Requiem, provocative and innovative, with the OSESP Choir in yet another memorable performance... João Marcos Coelho, Estado de São Paulo, March 29 2014

Nieuw Ensemble / Celso Antunes: Works by Ondrej Adamek and Unsuk Chin. Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik 2013 „Unsuk Chin’s cosmigimmicks demonstrates her unerring sense of musical expression in a confined musical space. The Nieuw Ensemble, under the direction of Antunes, delivered with relish, a finely detailed performance of her "pantomime for seven players".“ Egbert Hiller, Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, 2013/3

RTE National Symphony Orchestra / Celso Antunes: Works by Franck, Honneger and Poulenc, Dublin, May 2013
„The playing Antunes secured was first rate, and he brought real rough-hewn bite to Honneger's Rugby, a work that sets out to depict what the composer called "the savage, brusque, untidy and desperate rythym" of the game. Poulenc's Gloria, with Tynan radiant and the Philharmonic Choir in fine voice, was a blaze of glory.“ Michael Dervan, Irish Times, 8 May 2013


CD-Recording of Richard Rijnvos: "Uptown|Downtown - an urban panorama in six movements", featuring John Snijders (piano), the Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic, the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, Cond. Celso Antunes
"The musicians of the Netherlands Radio Orchestra and the Radio Kamer Filharmonie, firmly conducted by Celso Antunes, turn this CD into a feast of perfect cooperation." Barend Linders, KlassiekeZaken, September 29 2012

"Uptown Downtown, completed in 2008 is "an urban panorama in six movements" that celebrates life in New York. It's joyous and infectious, a real treat." Andrew Clements, The Guardian, August 2 2012

"Celso Antunes conducts...fascinating, swinging and remarkable music, with a dollop of humor too, always dazzling and ingeniously composed." Peter van der Lint, Trouw, June 26 2012

"The performances under Celso Antunes are as playful as they are formidable." Jan van Laar, Elsevier, June 23 2012

CD-Recording of „Xavier Montsalvatge: Canciones & Conciertos", featuring Jenny Lin (piano), Rachel Barton Pine (violin), Lucia Duchonová (mezzo-soprano), NDR Radiophilharmonie, Cond. Celso Antunes
„... Indeed, Antunes and his forces make a distinguished contribution to the whole disc ... This disc is a perfect introduction to the music of a 20th-century Spanish master.

The recording quality is top-class, the performances are terrific, and the music itself is well worth getting to know.“ Phillip Scott, Fanfare, August 4 2012

Wolfram Goertz about Xavier Montsalvatge: the "insiders' tip" from Spain! "A fine cross-section" of Montsalvatges' work can be heard on a new recording with the NDR Radiophilharmonie Hanover under the direction of Celso Antunes. The suggestive "Cinco canciones negras" and the ingenious "Concerto Breve for piano and orchestra" are the main works of this "colourful program that introduces us to a creator of sumptuous melodies and rhythms". Rheinische Post, May 19 2012

"....This is perhaps the greatest gift made to this composer in the year of his centenary: here we have an ensemble of non-Spanish artists achieving the highest degree of authenticity. This also applies especially to the North-German orchestra under the fiery direction of Brazilian-born and Cologne-trained Celso Antunes." Ekkehard Pluta, klassik heute, January 31 2012

"The secure orchestral conducting and innovative repertoire of the latest CDs by Celso Antunes, make it clear that, at age 52, the Brazilian is at the pinnacle of his career." João Marcos Coelho, O Estado S. Paolo, Feb 22 2012

Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz,
Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart, Cond. Celso Antunes
Bela Bartók: Cantata profana
Carl Orff: Carmina Burana
„...You do not very often listen to this piece (Carmina) performed at such a high level.

Brazilian conductor Celso Antunes brought together the Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz, the Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart, three fantastic soloists and formed an ensemble that showed all those qualities needed for a highly effective performance: rhythmical conciseness and sound awareness, particularly a wonderful feeling for this music's specific inflection, in a piece that sometimes shows drastic changes of mood. Antunes managed it in an exemplary manner...“ Frank Armbruster, Stuttgarter Zeitung, 21.11.2011

„...the Gächinger Kantorei and the Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz under Celso Antunes are simply ideal interpreters for this rhythmically very demanding hymn to the joy of living: magnificent vocal material, perfect articulation, flexibility and effervescence... Both the ensembles and the impressive conductor were in top form – a great evening!“ Waltraud Brunst, Mannheimer Morgen, 19.11.2011

„A rousing sound impact on the first concert of the series Mannheimer Meisterkonzerte at the Rosengarten...The master of the sound masses was Brazilian conductor Celso Antunes...Modelling these sound masses without creating a massive sound – that's where the secret of a successful performance of Orff's Carmina Burana lies...With Bela Bartok's Cantata Profana Antunes provided an impressive foretaste to the abilities of both ensembles: an interpretation with no trace of fear of rhythmic, melodic and harmonic difficulties...Finding the necessary degree of transparency between the rhythmical vitality and the monumentality of the scenes – that's Antunes's recipe for success!“ Markus Pacher, Die Rheinpfalz, 21.11.2011

SWR-Vokalensemble, Cond. Celso Antunes
Works by Claudio Monteverdi, Robert Heppener, Sven-David Sandström and Charlotte Seither
„The SWR-Vokalensemble under Celso Antunes sounded brilliant in the performance of Monteverdi's „Messa da cappella a quattro voci“ at the St. Kastor Church in Koblenz and the choir's legendary instrumental virtuosity was particularly noticeable on the modern repertoire...

The pieces by Heppener, Seither and Sandström sounded as if they had been specially tailored for the SWR-Vokalensemble, simply ideal for Antunes and the choir, both deeply enjoying and mastering the detailed work on finest nuances.“ Rhein-Zeitung, July 9, 2011

„Claudio Monteverdi's hard, unprepared dissonances, always in the service of a sonority aiming at at the expressive content of words: this is one could perfectly hear at the concert of the SWR-Vokalensemble under Celso Antunes at the crowded Gaisburger church in Stuttgart... In the performances of Robert Heppener's „Nachklänge“, Charlotte Seither's „All'aperto“ and particularly in Sven-David Sandströms „Drei Gedichte von Egon Schiele“ the choir under Antunes could show off their strength: homogeneity, perfect intonation, virtuosity – and all this at great ease.“ Stuttgarter Zeitung, July 11, 2011

„The SWR-Vokalensemble divided itself in four groups for the performance of Heppener's „Nachklänge“ and found under their guest conductor Celso Antunes the right measure between calmness and tension... Also for Sven-David Sandström's „Drei Gedichte von Egon Schiele“ could the choir conducted by Celso Antunes develop a soundscape of highest tension and repletion...Monteverdi's musical concept based on and organic sound flow was enhanced by Celso Antunes's strongly emotional approach.“ Stuttgarter Nachrichten, July 12, 2011

„The SWR-Vokalensemble showed a perfect degree of understanding with Celso Antunes, the evening's musical director, presently Chief Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Choir...The ensemble conducted by Antunes performed Sandströms „Drei Gedichten von Egon Schiele“ and its delightfully iridescent colours absolutely convincingly...On Claudio Monteverdi's a cappella mass the performance was based on a clear and cool articulation... On „Nachklänge“ composed by the Dutch Robert Heppener the SWR-Vokalensemble under Antunes developed a meditative, sometimes swirling sea of sound...

Also meditative was the performance of „All'aperto“ by Charlotte Seither: a delicate tissue of sounds, which is sometimes clouded by words – the choir's performance under Celso Antunes sounded here very peaceful and beautiful.“ Eßlinger Zeitung, July 11, 2011


Recording of "Joaquin Turina: Canto a Sevilla op. 37" - Lucia Duchonova (soprano), NDR Radiophilharmonie, Cond. Celso Antunes
“... Celso Antunes, being a native Brazilian, is completely at home with the Spanish idiom: he allows Turina's sound world to blaze, achieves astonishing colourful effects only with the use of percussion...” Christoph Zimmermann, Fono Forum, November 2010

Recording of "Sun Dogs" by James Macmillan: Netherlands Radio Choir (Cond. Celso Antunes), Chamber Philharmonic (Cond. James Macmillan)
“It is remarkable that a Dutch choir can offer such strong and polished performances of these two choral works by James Macmillan, readily surmounting any problems over singing the English text of the a cappella writing in Sun-Dogs...Altogether a fine coupling of two superb works, a credit to performers and sound engineers...” Gramophone Magazine, August 2010

“[Sun Dogs] is a tour de force of choral writing, in which Macmillan is always assured and in the layered execuition of which the Dutch professional choir (Cond.: Celso Antunes) excels, it sets texts by Michael Symmons Roberts...with memorable results...It would be hard to imagine a more fervent performance than this” BBC Music Magazine, September 2010

Gustav Mahler: Symphony No 2 in c Minor,
Concertgebouw Orchestra (Cond: Mariss Jansons), Netherlands Radio Choir (Cond: Celso Antunes), Concertgebouw Amsterdam
"The most beautiful Mahler II ever! … The softness and beauty from the first choral entrance ("Aufersteh'n, ja aufersteh'n") was simply to die for …

And when the Groot Omroepkoor (Chief Conductor: Celso Antunes) reached the triumphal coda, here the emotional impact was almost unbearable..." Erik Voermans, Het Parool, December 4 2009

"Has it ever sounded so moving? ...The first soft, mystically whispered entrance of the Groot Omroepkoor (Chief Conductor: Celso Antunes) should resound poignantly until the end of the symphony - and so it was." Mischa Spel, NRC, December 5 2009

"The Groot Omroepkoor (Chief Conductor: Celso Antunes) was simply world class!... The majority of professional choirs performs this symphony's final outburst very well: but so homogenous and concentrated singing as in the hushed passages, and always understandable- match that if you can!" Thiemo Wind, De Telegraaf, December 7 2009

"Magical Mahler under Jansons... An unbelievably inspiring performance by the Concertgebouworkest and the Groot Omroepkoor (Chief Conductor: Celso Antunes)... The choir was unforgettable, particularly in the hushed passages "Aufersteh'n, ja aufersteh'n"..." Anthony Fiumara, Trouw, December 5 2009

"The playing by the Concertgebouworkest and the singing by the Groot Omroepkoor (Chief Conductor: Celso Antunes) were phenomenal... The choir at the end crowned Mariss Janson's unforgettable praise of innocence." Bela Luttmer, Volkskraant, December 5 2009

Contemporary Music from Brazil in Korzo5HOOG, Den Haag and Muziekgebouw aan't IJ, Amsterdam
Nieuw Ensemble, Cond: Celso Antunes
The Nieuw Ensemble under Celso Antunes came to this year's Gaudeamus Week with a very skillfully presented concert featuring seven young Brazilian Composers. Kees Arntzen, Trouw, September 14 2009

The Nieuw Ensemble conducted by Celso Antunes performed yesterday a programme including exclusively Brazilian composers, all of them showing a rich palette of different styles. From pop and free jazz elements on 'Brazilessencia' by Frederick Carrilho to the wonderful subtleties of Sergio Freire's 'Tecendo a manhã': the ensemble played with great assurance through all seven world premieres. Jochem Valkenburg, NRC Handelsblad, September 12 2009

Koorbiennale Haarlem 2009, Works by Einojuhani Rautavaara and Sven-David Sandström
Netherlands Radio Choir, Cond: Celso Antunes
"... on Sandström's pieces, the Groot Omroepkoor under Celso Antunes sounded glorious and warm... Antunes made the choir sound like a huge orchestra or even like a powerful organ... Helped by the acoustics at the St.Bavo Cathedral, Antunes extracted walls of sound from the choir, suddenly changing into subtle dynamic details and exploring special colours...

On Rautavaara's Vespers, the Groot Omroepkoor demonstrated the whole palette of choral sound: from jubilant sonorities to whispers, from fortissimos to hissing consonants, from celebratory chords to glissandi...The richly shaded sound of the fantastically singing Groot Omroepkoor breathed the mystique of the Byzantine tradition." Winand van de Kamp, Haarlem Dagblad, July 2 2009

Goethe's "Theatralisches Abentheuer", Radio Philharmonie NDR Hannover, 20 February 2009
"The NDR-Radiophilharmonie's playing under conductor Celso Antunes was spirited, with Italianate fieriness and airiness. That's how "lighter" classical music should sound: enormously funny and always at a very high level." Neue Presse 23 February 2009

Igor Strawinsky: Symphony of Psalms
Concertgebouw Orkest, Cond. Zubin Mehta
Netherlands Radio Choir, Cond. Celso Antunes
On his second performance with the Concertgebouw Orchestra as guest conductor, 72 year-old maestro Metha generated subtle psalms, accurately shaped [Groet Omroepkoor, Cond. Celso Antunes]. Under his direction, Strawinskis score sounded noble and the performance resembled a spiritual experience. Lonneke Regter, De Volkskrant, 19.01.2009

Also with the Psalm symphony, Metha let music speak entirely for itself: Especially in the last part, when the Concertgebouw Orchestra and the sublime singing Groet Omroepkoor (Cond. Celso Antunes) seemed to melt in heavenly spheres, they created moments of unknown magic. Eddie Vetter, De Telegraaf, 16.01.09

2008 and older

Hommage to Cathy Berberian, Robert-Schumann-Saal Düsseldorf
The "Tippett Ensemble", eleven excellent instrumentalists who were conducted with precision by Celso Antunes, who is especially committed to contemporary music - presented a crossover-programme that was worthy of Berberian. Heide Oehmen, Rheinische Post, 30.4.2008

(Philharmonie Berlin, April 08):
"Maurice Ravel's "Daphnis et Chloé" with the Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin at the Philharmonie was a great event… excellent: the Radio Choir Berlin under Celso Antunes…" Volker Hagedorn, Der Tagesspiegel, 17.4.2008

(Philharmonie Essen, Februar 08):
"This music sounds intense and vivid, subtle and never overloaded … Above all, because the Belgian "Het Spectra Ensemble" under Celso Antunes' competent direction were remarkably able to delve deeply into this highly dramatic work…" Christoph Dittmann, Westdeutsche Allgemeine, 08.02.08

"Drama, drama and more drama was the order of the night on Friday as the Ulster Orchestra performed Verdi's Requiem… Conductor Celso Antunes prepared us for fireworks and passion … by the close of the evening, the audience was left most assuredly with the hope that Antunes returns to conduct this or any other work he wants to, again and again. At the risk of using a made-up word, this was a conductorial tour de force: a big lengthy and complex work played with no interval, conducted with no score. Risky? Yes. Worth it? Yes.

In the end, nothing could take away from the control and confidence of conductor Celso Antunes: his pacing was apt and calculated to give the big moments ample weight, even as the more introspective passages had room to breath and resonate." Andrea Rea, Newsletter, 20 November 2007

"It was good to witness an impressive performance in the Waterfront Hall given by the Ulster Orchestra… All credit to conductor Celso Antunes: he was impressive in that he conducted the whole piece from memory, bringing tremendous musicality and colour to the performance. Antunes kept a good balance between singers and the orchestra, despite the wide range of dynamic contrasts in a piece that moves continuously from moods of mystical spirituality to high drama. As well as the thrilling climaxes for which this work is justly famous, not least the Dies Irae, we also got moments of tremendous tenderness and intimacy." Ruth McCartney, Irish News, 19 November 2007

"Conductor Celso Antunes got the combined Belfast Philharmonic and Guinness Choirs off to a wonderfully atmospheric start in his Verdi Requiem with the Ulster Orchestra on Friday. It was good to hear so many of the work's moments of tenderness and warmth conveyed with sensitivity, the eruptions of the Dies Irae notwithstanding. The care with which Antunes sculpted individual choral lines and ensured musically sound balances was commendable, as was his concern never to overpower the vocal soloists!" Michael Dervan, The Irish Times, Nov 19 2007

"…Thanks to the SWR Symphony Orchestra and particularly to the SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart (Cond: Celso Antunes), Rihm’s ‘Cantata hermetica’ receives a rapturous first performance…" Die Rheinpfalz, 10.11.07

"A brilliant, wildly applauded performance of Rihm’s new piece… Both the SWR Symphony Orchestra and the all times poignant and transparent sounding SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart (Cond: Celso Antunes) act as the score’s deeply involved advocates …" Badische Zeitung, 06.11.07

"The Adhoc Ensemble and the solo singers, all directed by Celso Antunes, collaborated in what was a highly polished and expressive performance." NeueRuhrZeitung, 23 October 2007

"Under Celso Antunes'direction, all musicians, spread all over the church, could perform with absolute precision: the spatial sound effects were perfectly achieved." Westdeutsche Zeitung, 22 October 2007

"Celso Antunes conducted from the middle of the church, where all instrumental groups were scattered, getting from the players the most sensitive nuances" Gerd Zacher, 22 October 2007

"…The Camerata Fukuda and its Chief Conductor, Celso Antunes, started their concert with an impetuous and energetic rendering of C.P.E. Bach's string symphonies… Under Antunes's delicate and exhuberant direction, both Elgar's Serenade and Grieg's Holberg Suite sounded contagiously beautiful…" Lauro Machado Coelho, Estado de São Paulo, September 2007

"Brazilian conductor Celso Antunes knows how to get the most out of all dances, including Tangos and Mambos: This is sensational music making, the Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie plays for him with luxurious strings and with a lavish orchestral brass sound..." Mannheimer Morgen, June 2007

"Antunes conducted during the fast three hours of the concert bouncing, curling and knuckling himself, letting his hands speak and extracting the most out of the players... He's certainly made an impact on the musicians, the audience could feel the joy in the playing. Antunes is an effervescent conductor, with a fine feeling for rhythms and long cantabile lines..." Die Rheinpfalz, June 2007

"Antunes, appointed in 2002, transformed the choir from an honourably dull group that rarely lived up to its obvious potential into the most dynamic and forward-looking of performing ensembles that Ireland has ever known. His programming with the NCC has been unrivalled in its scope and daring, the choir regularly attracts the world's leading choral conductors for its concerts. […]The choir's five years under Antunes will be seen as a golden age for professional choral singing in Ireland." Irish Times, Editorial, February 2007

"The Camerata Fukuda under Celso Antunes plays Mozart's "Divertimento in F major" and Shostakovitch's Chamber Symphony opus 110" with brilliant verve and great passion: an absolutely lively and stirring performance!" O Estado de São Paulo, January 2007

"Celso Antunes has presented us with a moving new interpretation of Michael Tippett's oratorio A Child of our Time: with great accuracy, Antunes gets to the core of this emotionally highly charged music." O Estado de São Paulo, September 2006

"Energy and dramatic tension: These are the words that come to one's mind when listening to Celso Antunes' performance of Beethoven's "Eroica" - a performance full of vitality and accuracy!" O Estado de São Paulo, August 2006

"Celso Antunes proved again his masterly powers of evocation and passionate, direct presentation." Belfast Telegraph, June 2006

"Celso Antunes is one of those conductors who treats the most demanding of modern scores as a challenge to be met as painstakingly as a familiar classic. His Xenakis had that aura of fearlessness, of mastery of the almost but not quite impossible, which this composer's music needs...Antunes treated this music (Morales' Requiem) to a mesmerizing, sonorous, slow unfolding… As ever, Antunes's performances were notable for their fine observation of stylistic differences." Irish Times, July 2005

"The conductor Celso Antunes had a dynamic thrust that was at times simply dramatic, his command of the orchestra and chorus was absolutely first-rate!" Belfast Telegraph, March 2004

"Under the ‚Brazilian-Rheinländer' Celso Antunes the playing of Ensemble Contrasts delivers an always alert and flexible interpretation" Fono Forum, January 2003

"It is all colourful and original music, played by Ensemble Contrats under Celso Antunes with great precision and liveliness: together they competently bring to life nothing less than a musically and choreographically creative major event" Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, March 2003

Quote of the month


The concert last Thursday by OSESP, conducted by Celso Antunes, was excellent... Exceptionally dizzying readings of two Mozart symphonies, KV 318 and KV 425: Antunes took the best advantage of historically informed interpretation, commanding 36 musicians wielding modern instruments - with faster tempos than the conventional ones and all playing strictly "senza vibrato". A triumph, simply stunning! The performance of the Piano Concerto Nr. 5 by Villa-Lobos, with the young Fabio Martino as a soloist, a chaotic and delightful mix of Hollywood and Rachmaninov, written in 1954 by the great Brazilian composer, was also absolutely fantastic... João Marcos Coelho, O Estado de São Paulo, Sept 20/2014

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