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Gardiner's early musical experience came largely through singing with his family and in a local church choir. A self-taught musician who also played the violin, he began to study conducting at the age of 15. He was educated at Bryanston School, then studied history, Arabic, and medieval Spanish at King's College, Cambridge. While at Cambridge he conducted the Oxford and Cambridge Singers on a concert tour of the Middle East and founded his first musical ensemble, the Monteverdi Choir, with whom he made his conducting debut at the Wigmore Hall in London in 1966.
After graduating with a master's degree in history, Gardiner continued his musical studies at King's College London under Thurston Dart and in Paris with Nadia Boulanger, whose music had been a very early influence. In 1968 he founded the Monteverdi Orchestra. Upon changing from modern instruments to period instruments in 1977, the orchestra changed its name to the English Baroque Soloists. In 1969 Gardiner made his opera debut with a performance of Mozart's The Magic Flute at the English National Opera. Four years later, in 1973, he made his first appearance at the Covent Garden conducting Gluck's Iphigénie en Tauride. The English Baroque Soloists made their opera debut with him in the 1977 Innsbruck Festival of Early Music, performing Handel's Acis and Galatea on period instruments. His American debut came in 1979 when he conducted the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. He then became the lead conductor of Canada's CBC Vancouver Orchestra from 1980 to 1983.
After his period with the CBC Vancouver Orchestra, Gardiner went to France. From 1983 to 1988 he was Music Director of the Opéra National de Lyon. During his period with the Opéra he founded an entirely new orchestra. During his time with the Opéra National de Lyon Gardiner was also Artistic Director of the Göttingen Handel Festival (1981 until 1990). In 1989 the Monteverdi Choir had its 25th anniversary, touring the world giving performances of Handel's oratorio "Israel in Egypt" and Bach's "Magnificat" among other works. In 1990, Gardiner formed a new period-instrument orchestra, the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, to perform music of the 19th century. From 1991 until 1995 he was principal conductor of the North German Radio Symphony Orchestra.
From the 1990s onwards he undertook more world tours with his ensembles, including:
He founded the Monteverdi Choir (1964), the English Baroque Soloists (1975) and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique (1989). Gardiner has recorded over 250 albums with these and other musical ensembles, most of which have been published by Deutsche Grammophon and Philips Classics. Gardiner is most famous for his interpretations of Baroque music on period instruments with the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists, but his repertoire and discography are not limited to early music. With the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique Gardiner has performed a wide range of Classical and Romantic music, including many works of Hector Berlioz and all of Beethoven's symphonies. A recording of the third symphony of the latter was used in a dramatisation by the BBC of Beethoven's writing of that symphony. Gardiner has served as chief conductor of the North German Radio Symphony Orchestra and has appeared as guest conductor with such major orchestras as the Berlin Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and Vienna Philharmonic.
Gardiner has received a variety of honours and awards. In particular:
Gardiner is the son of the British rural revivalist Rolf Gardiner, and the grandson of the Egyptologist Alan Henderson Gardiner. He was married to violinist Elizabeth Wilcock from 1981 to 1997; they have three daughters. In 2001 he married Isabella de Sabata, granddaughter of conductor Victor de Sabata. In his spare time, Gardiner runs an organic farm at Springhead in North Dorset, which was set up by his great uncle, composer Henry Balfour Gardiner.
|Music Director, Opéra National de Lyon|
|Chief Conductor, North German Radio Symphony Orchestra|