Dubbed ‘‘The Indiana Jones of Early Music’’ by BBC Radio 3, Julian Perkins brings a dynamic and adventurous spirit to all his music-making. Based in the UK and of dual British-Italian citizenship, he enjoys a busy and varied career as a conductor/director, chamber musician and solo keyboard player. He is Artistic Director of the Portland Baroque Orchestra in Oregon, USA, Artistic Director of Cambridge Handel Opera and Founder Director of the period-instrument ensemble Sounds Baroque.
Julian was shortlisted for the 2021 Gramophone Award for his recording of Eccles’s Semele with the Academy of Ancient Music and Cambridge Handel Opera, and in August 2023 his latest solo disc, Handel's Attick, was Instrumental Choice in BBC Music Magazine. He has been praised in print as both conductor and keyboard soloist for his ‘‘demonic intensity’’ (BBC Music Magazine Recording of the Month), ‘‘fluid and natural pacing’’ (Gramophone Editor's Choice) and ‘‘verve and suavity’’ (Classical Music), conducting ‘‘as if every bar means the world to him’’ (Opera Disc of the Month), and giving ‘‘performances that reach to the heart of the music’’ (International Record Review).
With Sounds Baroque, Julian has directed many acclaimed performances with such singers as Anna Dennis, Rebecca Evans, Dame Emma Kirkby, Mark Padmore, Christopher Purves, Ashley Riches, Carolyn Sampson and Lawrence Zazzo. He has directed numerous instrumental groups and choirs ranging from the Academy of Ancient Music, Portland Baroque Orchestra and New London Singers to the Northern Chamber Orchestra, Orchestra of Welsh National Opera and St Paul's Sinfonia, and has worked closely with conductors including Ivor Bolton, Christopher Hogwood, Vladimir Jurowski and Trevor Pinnock. He has also led over twenty Baroque projects with Southbank Sinfonia and conducted a wide range of successful staged opera productions. His frequent appearances directing Sounds Baroque include ground-breaking performances of newly-minted pasticcio operas, co-created with librettist Stephen Pettitt, which tell cogent stories, challenging notions of “authenticity”.
As a keyboard player, Julian performs regularly at the Salzburg Festival and has given concerto performances with ensembles including the Royal Northern Sinfonia, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Florilegium and Orchestra of The Sixteen. Passionate about singing, he has appeared as solo harpsichordist/fortepianist with the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and Welsh National Opera, among others. He broadcasts regularly on BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show and In Tune and has performed as a soloist at many prestigious venues such as London’s Wigmore Hall, New York’s Lincoln Center and Sydney Opera House. Active as a recitalist, Julian often performs with renowned instrumentalists and singers, and regularly breaks new ground at international festivals by giving solo clavichord concerts. In addition to numerous Baroque and Classical works, his wide-ranging discography includes world-première recordings of modern pieces by composers such as Stephen Dodgson, Iain Farrington, Nicola Lefanu, Peter Maxwell Davies, Rhian Samuel and Héloïse Werner.
Julian read music at Cambridge University before pursuing advanced studies at the Schola Cantorum, Basle, the Royal Academy of Music, London, and privately with conductor David Parry and harpsichordist Trevor Pinnock. An advocate of what he terms ‘‘Historically Inspired Performance’’, he enjoys giving masterclasses both at music colleges and universities in the UK and abroad and at the National Opera Studio in London. He has also written a variety of published articles on performance practice and devised Handel’s Green Room, a series of online discussions, with Cambridge Handel Opera and the scholar Dr Ruth Smith.