Julien Benichou, Conductor
"Julien Benichou is one of the most interesting and accomplished conductors of his generation. He is an uplifting presence on the podium, and his interpretations are flexible, elegant and spontaneous. He is also very clear and his musicianship and approach have led to memorable collaborations that I have tremendously enjoyed, as concertmaster and soloist alike."
Kurt Nikkanen, Concertmaster, New York City Ballet Orchestra.
Hailed as “one of the most interesting and accomplished conductors of his generation,” Julien Benichou is noted for his blend of flexibility and control, inspiring musicality and incredibly infectious energy. Benichou currently serves as Music Director for the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra (MSO), and was recently appointed Principal Conductor of the Washington Opera Society. He is also the Music Director of the Chesapeake Youth Symphony Orchestra (CYSO) and the Southern Maryland Youth Symphony Orchestra (SMYOC). Last December, he made his debut with the New York City Ballet (NYCB), in Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, and returned to Carnegie Hall, in a concert that featured Robert Redford and Vice-President Al Gore.
As Music Director of the MSO for the last 12 seasons, Benichou has greatly raised the profile of the ensemble, attracting premier artists, as well as expanding the orchestra’s season. This past year, he collaborated with Stefan Jackiw, Virgil Boutellis-Taft, Kurt Nikkanen, Brandie Sutton, Vincent Beer-Demander and Leon Fleisher. Previous seasons have included concerts with such noted artists as Kevin Short, Lester Lynch, Arnaud Sussmann and Tine Thing Helseth. While on faculty at the Juilliard School, he also collaborated with violinist Itzhak Perlman.
Served by a keen attention to detail and an ability to bring forth a wealth of expression from singers, Benichou has also found success conducting operatic productions. Most recently, as principal conductor of Washington Opera Society, he conducted Carmen at the Maison Francaise in Washington, DC, featuring Lisa Chavez as Carmen and Jonathan Tetelman as Don José. He has conducted, to great critical acclaim, fully staged performances of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess with the Morgan State University Choir and Opera Workshop. In September of 2016 he conducted the premiere performance of James Lee’s Mother’s Lament with the Morgan State University Choir.
Benichou has also garnered acclaim as guest conductor at the Annapolis Symphony, Newark Symphony, Ballet Theatre Maryland, Baltimore Concert Opera, Baltimore Symphony/Mobtown Modern Synchronicity projects, Orquestra Sinfonica do Parana in Curitaba, Brazil, the St. Petersburg State Symphony in Russia, the Maison Symphonique de Montreal in Canada, and the Siberian State Symphony in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, where he will return this season. In addition, he will guest conduct the Esart Castelo Branco Orchestra in Portugal. Other return engagements will include a collaboration with Tim Janis at Carnegie Hall.
An avid supporter of new music, Benichou collaborated with many composers and was the Principal Conductor of the Towson New Music Ensemble for ten seasons. He also served as principal conductor for the Mobtown Modern Ensemble. Also a composer, Benichou has received commissions for theater, film and concert music; most recently from the Siberian State Symphony Orchestra. He has also initiated commissions from many composers, most recently a violin concerto from American composer Stephanie Boyd, to be premiered by NYCB Concertmaster Kurt Nikkanen. This past summer, he conducted the world premiere of Lalo Schifrin’s Mandolin Concerto with mandolinist Vincent Beer-Demander.
Benichou has taken the Chesapeake Youth Orchestra on six different European tours, performing side-by-side concerts with the Orchestre des Jeunes de Montréal and the St. Petersburg State Symphony. He also brought the orchestra to prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall. The orchestra has been invited by several festivals in France, including a tour this past summer where they premiered Lalo Schifrin’s Mandolin Concerto with Vincent Beer-Demander.
Julien Benichou also enjoys crossover and pops concerts, and has worked with The US Army Blues Big Band, the Army Strings, the Irish band Lunasa, and such artists as Warren Wolf, Mairead Nesbitt, Loreena McKennitt, Sarah McLachlan, Matthew Morrison, and Jessica Karpov.
Benichou received a Graduate Performance Diploma from The Peabody Institute and earned a Master’s Degree from Northwestern University. He also pursued graduate studies at Yale University. In master classes he has worked with Leonard Slatkin, Yuri Temirkanov, Marin Alsop, Michael Tilson Thomas and JoAnn Falletta. His main teachers have been Victor Yampolsky, Gustav Meier and Jorma Panula.
Before coming to the United States, he trained in France, with Roland Hayrabedian and Pol Mule at the Marseille Conservatory and Jean Sébastien Bereau at the Rueil-Malmaison Conservatory, as well as privately with Yves Cohen. He also studied harmony and counterpoint with Pierre Doury at the Schola Cantorum in Paris.