Dr Jonathan Williams - Director of Music 2008-2020
Dr Jonathan Williams was our Director of Music
from 2008 to 2020. He is now a Vice President of the Society.
He lives in Oxford where he is the Director of College Music at St Hilda's College, Orchestration Tutor at the Faculty of Music, and where he read for his doctorate on the operas of Jean-Philippe Rameau.
Jonathan enjoys a varied freelance career working at the highest level as an orchestrator, conductor and teacher. Currently the Director of College Music at St Hilda’s College, Oxford, Jonathan has worked with some of the UK's finest musicians and has developed a wide experience and an enviable reputation making music both live and in the recording studio. He has worked with such groups as Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, BBC Concert Orchestra, English National Ballet, the London Mozart Players, English Sinfonia, Sinfonia Britannica, Sinfonia Charivari Agréable Simfonie, English National Ballet and the University of London Choir and Orchestra, as well as numerous choral societies and amateur orchestras.
Born in Wales, Jonathan began conducting while studying music at Manchester University. On moving to Oxford to read for the M.Phil and D.Phil on the French Baroque composer Jean-Philippe Rameau, he conducted the first staged run on period instruments in Britain of Mozart’s Idomeneo (with a young Ian Bostridge covering the title role) and a performance of Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex which was described in Opera magazine as ‘simply one of the best Oedipus’ I have seen’. The success of these has led to many other productions including those of Actéon, La bohème, Count Ory, Eugene Onegin, Magic Flute, Pigmalion, The tales of Hoffmann and Zaïde.
However, it is with large-scale choral and orchestral music that Jonathan has been most busy, working with numerous choirs and orchestras and performing much of the repertoire from Bach to Britten, Mozart to Whitacre.
On a different note, Jonathan is involved in world-class work in music for the moving image for film, TV and videogames. As Orchestral Director of Nimrod Productions, the UK’s leading producer of music for video games, his work as composer, orchestrator and conductor can be heard on the orchestral soundtracks of internationally best-selling titles with combined sales of over 50 million copies. Most notable is the score for Sony’s flagship PS3 title Killzone 2, which he recorded at Abbey Road Studio 1 and which was awarded the first ever Ivor Novello award for video games music last year. Other projects include those with Emmy award-winner Sean Callery, Oscar winner Gabriel Yared’s original soundtrack for Troy, the BBC’s Andes to Amazon with Bafta award-winner Nick Hooper, and on new music for BBC NOW and ENB. Most recently he orchestrated and conducted the soundtracks for Sony’s Killzone 3 and for the BBC’s Filthy Cities documentary with the BBC Concert Orchestra. His contribution to the rise in standards of live orchestral music in the videogame industry has been recognised in articles in such magazines as Sound on Sound, Develop, Edge, and MUSO.
An important part of Jonathan approach is the combination of scholarship with performance, and performance with education. He collaborates with scholars to create innovative programming (for example, ‘An Imaginary Pilgrimage’ with Consort Iridiana). He has taught Orchestration at Oxford University since 1992 and he is working on a book on Orchestration for OUP. He was a professor at the GSMD for nine years and he gives guest lectures at the Academy of Contemporary Music, Guildford.His doctoral research has been published by Bärenreiter as part of their Rameau complete edition. His doctoral work has come to fruition with the Rameau Project, a major research venture seeking to advance our understanding of Rameau's stage works. This collaboration between Oxford University, the OAE and Rameau scholars, musicians and dancers worldwide, began with the modern premiere of Anacréon (1754) in Oxford in 2012. Thanks to research fellowships from the Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH) and the University's John Fell Fund, it has continued during 2014 (Rameau's anniversary year) with the recording of Anacréon (the first studio recording of a Rameau opera in the UK for over 30 years) and the British premiere of Zaïs at the QEH.
Most recently Jonathan has stood in for Sir Simon Rattle rehearsing Bruckner 6 with the OAE, and has composed vocal music for Sony’s forthcoming Horizon: Zero Dawn. In March 2017 he conducted a fully staged production of Rameau’s Les fêtes d’Hébé at the Paris Opéra and at the Royal College of Music in London. He also conducted Rameau’s Dardanus in October and November 2017 with the English Touring Opera.