Dubbed ‘‘The Indiana Jones of Early Music’’ by BBC Radio 3, Julian Perkins brings a dynamic and adventurous spirit to all his music-making. In December 2022 he succeeded Monica Huggett as Artistic Director of the Portland Baroque Orchestra in Oregon, USA. Based in the UK, he is also Artistic Director of Cambridge Handel Opera and the period-instrument ensemble Sounds Baroque, while enjoying a busy and varied career as a conductor/director, chamber musician and solo keyboard player.
Shortlisted for the 2021 Gramophone Award for his recording of Eccles’s Semele with the Academy of Ancient Music and Cambridge Handel Opera, Julian Perkins 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 Perkins has directed many acclaimed performances with such singers as Anna Dennis, Rebecca Evans, Dame Emma Kirkby, Mark Padmore, Christopher Purves, Ashley Riches and Carolyn Sampson. He has directed numerous instrumental groups ranging from the Academy of Ancient Music and Portland Baroque Orchestra to the Northern Chamber Orchestra and Orchestra of Welsh National Opera, and has worked closely with conductors including Ivor Bolton, Christopher Hogwood, Vladimir Jurowski and Trevor Pinnock. He has led over twenty Baroque projects with Southbank Sinfonia and conducted staged opera productions for Bampton Classical Opera, Buxton International Festival, Cambridge Handel Opera, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Kings Place, Netherlands Opera Academy, New Chamber Opera, New Kent Opera and Snape Maltings. 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 Perkins 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 or fortepianist for the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and Welsh National Opera, among others. He features 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. An avid recitalist, Julian often breaks new ground at international festivals by giving solo clavichord concerts, with programmes that have included complete performances of J. S. Bach’s two books of Das wohltemperierte Klavier. He has also premièred many works and co-commissioned pieces by Stephen Dodgson, Iain Farrington and Héloïse Werner. Duo recitals include appearances for the Mozart Society of America, the Oxford Lieder Festival and the Royal Opera House with a wide range of distinguished singers and instrumentalists.
Julian Perkins 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.