Peter Leonard, until recently Artistic Director of the Volkstheater Rostock and the North German Philharmonic, enjoys an international career known for viscerally exciting and musically probing performances of both the symphonic and operatic repertoire.
Recent guest conducting appearances have included collaborations with Montserrat Caballe, Marcelo Alvarez, Ute Lemper and others. His performance of Viennese favorites at the Classic Open Air festival in Berlin’s Gendarmenmarkt was met with huge acclaim. Appearances at the Berlin Konzerthaus with the venerable Berliner Singakademie featured the monumental Mendelssohn oratorio Elijah.
As General Music Director and Chief Conductor of the North German Philharmonic and the Volkstheater Rostock, he increased concert ticket sales by over 20,000 in one year. One of the many new projects he started there was “Wagner on the Baltic,” dedicated to the advancement of the art of singing this most demanding repertoire. He secured major corporate funding from AIDA Cruises (Germany’s largest cruise line) in order to realize his dream of concertizing for an under-served age group through a new series of “Concerts for Teens.” Through a range of stimulating crossover collaborations, Leonard raised the visibility as well as the stylistic flexibility of his orchestra.
Peter Leonard has guest conducted orchestras throughout North America, including the New York Philharmonic and the orchestras of Alabama, Dayton, Edmonton, Florida, Jackson, Nashville, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Spokane, Tucson, West Virginia and Winnipeg. He has guest conducted many German orchestras, including those in Aachen, Augsburg, Bremerhaven, Dessau, Frankfurt, Hagen, Heidelberg, Herford, Hof, Kaiserslautern, Karlsruhe, Konstanz, Lübeck, Rostock, Siegen, Solingen and Suhl. Other international appearances have included Mexico City’s famed Orquesta Filarmonica de la UNAM, the Belgrade Philharmonic and the Pusan Philharmonic.
An active opera conductor, Peter Leonard has led a particularly broad range of repertoire. The success of his Augsburg Ring led to an invitation to lead that work in Stuttgart at Germany’s “Opera House of the Year” (Opernwelt). His insightful interpretation of the core German repertoire has led to similar engagements, conducting works from Mozart to Weber to Richard Strauss to Hindemith and Berg. His love for singing and singers informs every moment of his work, so that his interpretations of the Italian masters (especially Verdi and Donizetti) have been particularly prized. To great critical acclaim, he also led the world premiere of the complete version of Bohuslav Martinu’s pathbreaking “film opera” Les trois souhaits.
Among the many composers whose music Mr. Leonard has premiered are Copland, Crumb, Egk, Finney, Holst, Hovhaness, Korn, Martinu, Maw, Pasatieri, Rorem, Thomas, Thorne, Wilder and Zwilich.
At the close of the 2001-2002 season, Peter Leonard completed a distinguished seven-year tenure as General Music Director of the City of Augsburg, Germany. During this time, he presided over world and German premieres of both opera and symphonic repertoire, highlighted by a path-breaking new production of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen.
A gifted speaker, Peter Leonard also offers insights on serious business and life issues, viewed through the lens of fine art. As Music Director of The International Forum, a prestigious business consulting firm, he has presented courses in “Leadership Through Music,” a hands-on experience focused on the relevance of great music to everyday life. Fluent in the German language, he has spoken on this subject at Baden-Württemberg’s Hochschule für Wirtschaft und Umwelt, as well as at Dartmouth College’s Tuck Executive Education program and for Toronto’s Verity.
At Washington’s Kennedy Center, audiences welcomed Peter Leonard’s last-minute appearance with the touring Westdeutsche Sinfonia. Mr. Leonard conducted this orchestra’s important Washington debut with only a few hours’ notice, substituting for the ensemble’s ailing music director. The Washington Post noted that “the musicians had as much fun as the audience” during an “evening of polished performances.”
Peter Leonard led the New York Philharmonic as the first honoree to receive the American Symphony Orchestra League’s Conductor’s Program Award. Bravo Cable Network and Ovation Magazine have honored him with commendations for outstanding contributions to American musical life, and Stereo Review named one of his discs a “Recording of Special Merit.”
When appointed Music Director of the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra - an acclaimed tenure that would last 11 seasons, Peter Leonard held a concurrent post as Music Director of the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra, continuing as Music Advisor there through 1986. He was also Conductor-in-Residence of The Louisville Orchestra from 1979 to 1981, during which time he led more than half of the orchestra’s programs, appearing concurrently as Principal Conductor of the Super Pops series. He also revitalized The Louisville Orchestra’s reputation in contemporary music through new commissions and the institution of a Festival of New Music. During his leadership, The Louisville Orchestra won the coveted ASCAP Award for programming excellence.
As Music Director in Shreveport, Peter Leonard introduced a new dance/live music subscription series, a weekly series of public radio broadcasts, an expanded chamber orchestra series, a concert preview series and increased area touring as well as frequent collaborations with other groups in the region. Recognizing these accomplishments in artistic leadership, the city of Shreveport named April 6, 1989 “Peter Leonard Day.” Mr. Leonard has also received a National Arts Associate Award from Sigma Alpha Iota sorority for his musical achievements.
Peter Leonard has recorded for Albany, CRI, Opus One, Painted Smiles, Premiere Recordings and The Louisville Orchestra’s First Edition Records. These disks include several premiere recordings, including Air Music, a Pulitzer Prize-winning work by Ned Rorem. Born and raised in the Boston area, Peter Leonard moved to New York to study at The Juilliard School, earning both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. He was chosen by the celebrated Jean Morel for the school’s highly selective conducting program. He has been given fellowship awards for a variety of performance and recording projects, and he has been the recipient of prestigious awards for advanced study at the Aspen Music Festival, Salzburg’s Mozarteum, Tanglewood and Bayreuth.