Julian Wachner

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Julian Wachner (born 1969) is an American composer, conductor and keyboardist. Since 2011, he has served as the Director of Music and the Arts at Trinity Wall Street, conducting the Choir of Trinity Wall Street, the Trinity Baroque Orchestra and NOVUS NY.[1] Wachner has recorded five albums with these ensembles, primarily for the Musica Omnia label. Since 2008, he has also served as the Director of The Washington Chorus.[2] In March 2018, Wachner was named Artistic Director of the Grand Rapids Bach Festival, an affiliate of the Grand Rapids Symphony, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.[3]

As a guest conductor, he has led ensembles including the Philadelphia Orchestra, Juilliard Opera, and San Francisco Opera, and has participated in festivals including the Spoleto Festival USA, Glimmerglass Festival, Lincoln Center Festival, BAM Next Wave Festival, and the New York Philharmonic Biennial.[4] As a composer, he has published over 60 musical works (see below), many of which are sacred works for chorus.[5] His complete choral works to date were released in two volumes by Naxos Records in 2010 and 2014.


Julian Wachner was born in 1969 in Hollywood, CA into a musical household—his mother, Mary Spire, was a pianist, and his former stepfather, Robert Cole, was a conductor. He began cello and piano lessons at age 4 at the University of Southern California, and from age 9 to 13, Wachner studied composition in New York at the Saint Thomas Choir School under Gerre Hancock.[6][7]

Wachner later attended the Boston University College of Fine Arts, where he studied with Lukas Foss, Theodore Antoniou, David Hoose and Marjorie Merryman.[8] While a student there, he was appointed the University Organist and Choirmaster at Marsh Chapel.[9] He graduated in 1996 with a Doctorate of Musical Arts in composition and orchestral conducting and taught as an Assistant Professor of Sacred Music at BU's School of Theology. From 1999 to 2002, he directed the Young Artists Composition Program at the Tanglewood Institute.[7]

During his tenure at BU, Wachner also headed multiple Boston-area arts institutions. In 1995, he and Peter Watchorn founded the Boston Bach Ensemble, a period instrument orchestra and choir. Their recording of Bach's Christmas Oratorio, released in 2001, helped launch Watchorn's Musica Omnia label in 1998.[10] Wachner also served as Director of the Back Bay Chorale, releasing a CD of works by Benjamin Britten with the ensemble in 2001.[11] From 1996 to 2006, he was Director of the Providence Singers in Providence, RI.[12] In 1999 he conducted the premier performance of The Magdelene Passion, by composer Elaine Bearer,[13] with the Providence Singers,[14] an hour long oratorio with five soloists, chorus, organ and chamber orchestra.

Wachner moved to Montreal in 2001 to become an associate professor at McGill University's Schulich School of Music, a post he held until 2011. As associate professor, Wachner served as the principal conductor of Opera McGill and occasionally conducted the McGill Symphony and Contemporary Music Ensemble. He also founded and directed the Schulich Singers, a chamber choir that performs repertoire spanning all musical periods.[15] While in Montreal, Wachner also founded and directed the Bach-Academie de Montréal (now the Montreal Bach Festival) and served as Director of Music of the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul.[7]

In 2008, Wachner returned to the United States to direct the Washington Chorus.[6] The Chorus released a CD of Christmas carols in 2010, featuring several arrangements by Wachner himself.[16] Under Wachner's direction, the Chorus also performed with the Rolling Stones in the final concert of their "50 and Counting" tour in 2013.[17]

Wachner was appointed Director of Music and the Arts at Trinity Wall Street in 2011, placing him at the podium of both the church's choir and baroque orchestra. In his first season there, he established NOVUS NY, a contemporary music ensemble.[1] His 2012 recording of Handel's Israel in Egypt with the Trinity Choir and Trinity Baroque Orchestra was nominated for a 2013 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance.[18]


Sacred music[edit]

Many of Wachner's earlier published works were liturgical in purpose, written during his tenure as University Organist and Choirmaster at Marsh Chapel in the early 1990s.[19] He first came to public attention with Canticles (1991, revised 1994), a work for chorus and orchestra written as a response to the Gulf War and as a companion piece to Fauré's Requiem. Consisting of five movements, the work features settings of Biblical texts that bookend three poems about the atrocities of war by Shelli Jankowski-Smith.[20]

These Biblical themes were later expanded upon in his first symphony, titled Incantations and Lamentations, which was commissioned and premiered by the Back Bay Chorale in 2001. Like Canticles, Incantations and Lamentations is a work in five movements for chorus and orchestra. In his program notes, theologian Wesley Wildman writes that the work concerns the "superficial opposition between worship and indictment of God ... and their breathtaking merger in the context of the Biblical story of the Babylonian exile."[21] This analysis is echoed in Matthew Guerrieri's liner notes for the Naxos recording of the Symphony: "It undercuts the confidence of Psalm 103 ('I will praise the Lord as long as I live') with the despair and frustration of Psalm 137 ('by the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept')." Canticles and Symphony No. 1 were later recorded by the Trinity Wall Street Choir and NOVUS NY and included in Complete Choral Works, Vol. 2, released on Naxos in 2014.[22]

Secular music[edit]

Outside of the realm of sacred music, Wachner has also composed secular song cycles, including Sometimes I Feel Alive (1998) and Rilke Songs (2001). The former, which Wachner composed at the Tanglewood Music Center while conducting the BUTI Young Artists Chorus, sets three erotic poems by E. E. Cummings: "there is a moon sole", "as is the sea marvelous" and "somewhere I have never travelled". The latter sets six poems about animals by Rainer Maria Rilke: "Die Gazelle", "Der Panther", "Die Flamingos", "Der Schwan", "Schwarze Katze" and "Das Einhorn". Both works were recorded by the Elora Festival Singers and included in Complete Choral Works, Vol. 1, released on Naxos in 2010.[23][24]

While director of Opera McGill, Wachner premiered Evangeline Revisited, an opera in two acts based on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Evangeline. Written to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the 1755 Expulsion of the Acadians, the opera features a French libretto by Université de Montréal professor Alexis Nouss and blends multiple musical styles, including jazz, blues, Puccini-esque opera, fugue and cabaret.[25] The role of Evangeline is split between two sopranos: one who represents Longfellow's vision, and one who serves as a contemporary commentator.[26] The opera received its US premiere at New York City Opera's VOX Festival in 2010.[27]

Come, My Dark-Eyed One, commissioned and premiered by the Back Bay Chorale in 2009, weaves together poems by John Clare, Emily Dickinson and Sara Teasdale in a libretto compiled by soprano Marie-Ève Munger.[22][28] Originally a companion piece for Brahms's Ein Deutsches Requiem, the work charts the "life and death of two lovers" in eight movements.[29]

In 2012, Wachner collaborated with visual artist Erika Harrsch to create a work for The River to River Festival. The resulting installation, titled Inverted Sky, featured a solo flute score with live electronic processing. This accompanied a collection of kites built from various world currencies that were released into the air in time with the music.[30]


Wachner has described his music as lying "between the Apollonian world of church music and the academy and the Dionysian world of opera and the stage." In the liner notes of his Complete Choral Works, Vol. 1, he writes of this duality:

For me, I always found this a difficult decision to make, and thus found myself living and working in the no-man’s land between pure post-Impressionism and post-Expressionism—composing music that was criticized as "too simple" from one camp and "too complex" from the other. As I have always considered my compositional process and philosophy to be aligned with the assimilators of previous eras, (Bach, Stravinsky and Foss come to mind)—I have found equal inspiration from strict form or unbridled chaos; tonality, modality or post-tonality; and lyricism, pointillism or minimalism—I find it crucial to have as sweeping a palette of creative possibilities at my disposal as possible, believing that this desire is no different from any composer of the past.[24]

Beth Morrison, an opera producer and longtime collaborator of Wachner's, says of his compositional style: "I see his work as very Americana, firmly following in the steps of Copland and Bernstein."[31] His creative output has also been noted for its multifaceted nature, as in Guerrieri's notes: "Wachner's eclecticism is uncommonly deep, a reflection of his multivalent career: a virtuoso organist, an omnivorous conductor, an exploratory composer; a church musician with a dramatic sense of the sacred and a concert-hall veteran with a reverence for the dramatic."[22]


  • 2011 — ASCAP Alice Parker Award for Adventurous Programming (with The Washington Chorus)[32]
  • 2013 — Nominated, Grammy Awards: Best Choral Performance (for Israel in Egypt with the Choir of Trinity Wall Street and Trinity Baroque Orchestra)[18]

List of works by genre[edit]

Solo and chamber[edit]

  • Piano Sonata (1988)
  • Preludes for solo piano (1988)
  • Dances and Apparitions, for violin, marimba, double bass and piano (1991)
  • Fantasy on "Marsh Chapel" for solo organ (1992)
  • Landscapes, for flute, alto saxophone, marimba, piano and cello (1992)
  • String Quartet No. 1 (1992)
  • Lamentations, for choir and chamber orchestra (1996)
  • Cycles, for clarinet and piano (1997)
  • Enchantment, for flute, bassoon and piano (1998)
  • Cymbale, for solo organ and chamber orchestra (1999)
  • Soliloquies and Transformations, for flute, bass clarinet, trumpet, trombone, violin and cello (2000)
  • Concerning Passion, for horn and piano (2001)
  • Toccata, Adagio and Fugue, for solo organ (2011)
  • Inverted Sky, for flute and electronics (2012)[33]


  • Mobster Lobster (2003)
  • Evangeline Revisited (2005)


  • Canticles (1991)
  • The Stolen Child (1992)
  • Rondo for Piano and Orchestra (1993)
  • Idyllwild Fanfares (1994)
  • Incantations (1999)
  • Regina Coeli (2001)
  • Symphony No. 1 (2001)
  • Concerto for Clarinet (2002)
  • Apollo's Fire (2003)
  • Celebrations (2003)
  • Epilogue: The Sun (2003)
  • The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere (2003)
  • Triptych (2006)
  • Come, My Dark-Eyed One (2009)
  • Lifting the Curse (2011)

Sacred vocal[edit]

  • Missa Brevis (1987)
  • The Way Leads On (1987)
  • Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing (1990)
  • A Festive Gloria (1991)
  • Communion Responses (1991)
  • Nunc Dimittis (1991)
  • Psalm Cycle (1991)
  • Aaronic Benediction (1992)
  • All Creatures of Our God & King (1992)
  • Evening Canticles (1992)
  • Hear My Cry, O Lord (1992)
  • Introit for the Season of Epiphany (1992)
  • Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis (St. Thomas Fifth Avenue) (1992)
  • Introit for All Saints (1993)
  • Alleluias, Intercessions & Remembrances (1995)
  • By the Waters of Babylon (1995)
  • I Lift My Eyes to the Hills (Psalm 121) (1995)
  • Arise, My Love (1998)
  • Three Songs of Isaiah (1998)
  • At the Lighting of the Lamps (1999)
  • Somerville Service (2000)
  • Behold the Tabernacle of God (2003)
  • Psalm Cycle III (2003)
  • Jubilate Deo (2006)
  • Joy to the World (2007)
  • Ave, Dulcissima Maria (2011)
  • Un Flambeau (2011)

Secular vocal[edit]

  • To My Dead Father (1989)
  • Mirrorlight Blue (1991)
  • The Hollow Men (1994)
  • Sometimes I Feel Alive (1998)
  • War Songs (1998)
  • Rilke Songs (2001)
  • Planet X (2003)
  • Four Scenes from the Rubayyat (2006)


This is a list of recordings by Julian Wachner, either as composer or conductor.

Year Title Composer Conductor Artist(s) Label
2000 Julian Wachner: Chamber Music Yes Yes Boston Sinfonietta ARSIS Audio
2000 Julian Wachner: Sacred Music Yes Yes Boston Bach Ensemble ARSIS Audio
2001 J. S. Bach: Weihnachts-Oratorium No Yes Boston Bach Ensemble / Rob Pitcher, evangelist / Anne Harley, soprano / Elizabeth Anker, alto / Thomas Gregg, tenor / Max van Egmond, baritone Musica Omnia
2001 The Company of Heaven: Works by Benjamin Britten No Yes The Back Bay Chorale and Chamber Orchestra / The Marsh Chapel Choir / Cathleen Ellis & Anne Harley, sopranos / William Hite, tenor / Peter Krasinski, organ / Phyllis Hoffman & Peter Watchorn, narrators ARSIS Audio
2002 The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere Yes No Charles Ansbacher, conductor / Moscow Symphony Orchestra / Sen. Edward Kennedy, narrator Landmarks Recordings[34]
2002 Somewhere I Have Never Traveled Yes No David Hodgkins, conductor / Coro Allegro Coro Allegro[35]
2003 Lukas Foss: Griffelkin No No Gil Rose, conductor / Boston Modern Orchestra Project / Julian Wachner, choral director Chandos Records[36]
2010 Christmas with the Washington Chorus No Yes Washington Chorus / Whitman Choir / National Capital Brass and Percussion Ensemble Dorian Recordings
2010 Julian Wachner: Complete Works for Chorus, Vol. 1 Yes No Noel Edison, conductor / Elora Festival Singers Naxos
2011 J. S. Bach: Complete Motets No Yes The Trinity Choir and Trinity Baroque Orchestra Musica Omnia
2012 Handel: Israel in Egypt No Yes Trinity Baroque Orchestra Musica Omnia
2012 Elena Ruehr: Averno No Yes The Trinity Choir with Novus NY / Marguerite Krull, soprano / Stephen Salters, baritone Avie Records[37]
2012 Julian Wachner: Triptych Yes Yes Orchestre Métropolitain ATMA Classique[38]
2014 Julian Wachner: Symphony No. 1 / Incantations and Lamentations Yes Yes Novus NY / The Choir of Trinity Wall Street / Majestic Brass Quintet / Jessica Muirhead, soprano / Chris Burchett, baritone Musica Omnia / Naxos
2014 Ralf Yusuf Gawlick: Missa gentis humanae No Yes Sarah Brailey and Linda Jones, sopranos / Luthien Brackett and Melissa Attebury, altos / Steven Caldicott and Timothy Hodges, tenors / Thomas McCargar and Jonathan Woody, basses Musica Omnia
2015 Paola Prestini: Oceanic Verses No Yes Helga Davis, vocals / Christopher Burchett, baritone / Hila Plitmann, soprano / Claudio Prima, vocals & accordion / The Choir of Trinity Wall Street / Decoda VIA Records[39]



  1. ^ a b Trinity Wall Street. "Music & Arts." Accessed July 1, 2015. https://www.trinitywallstreet.org/music
  2. ^ Anne Midgette. "Wachner to Head Washington Chorus." The Washington Post. April 1, 2008. Accessed July 1, 2015. https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/31/AR2008033102466.html
  3. ^ Danielle Nelson. "Bach Festival hires Artistic Director." Grand Rapids Business Journal. March 16, 2018. http://www.grbj.com/articles/90245-bach-festival-hires-artistic-director.html
  4. ^ Sources:
  5. ^ ECS Publishing. "Wachner, Julian." Accessed August 6, 2015. http://ecspublishing.com/composers/w/wachner
  6. ^ a b Midgette. "A polymath in D.C.: The long ascendancy of conductor-composer Julian Wachner." November 14, 2014. Accessed July 2, 2015. https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/music/a-polymath-in-dc-the-long-ascendancy-of-conductor-composer-julian-wachner/2014/11/12/698f1f5e-69ee-11e4-a31c-77759fc1eacc_story.html
  7. ^ a b c Naxos. "Julian Wachner." Accessed July 6, 2015. http://www.naxos.com/person/Julian_Wachner/102506.htm
  8. ^ Boston Bach Ensemble. "The Artists." Accessed July 1, 2015. Archived: http://www.zwieback.com/bbe/arti.html
  9. ^ Boston University Marsh Chapel. "Music." Accessed July 1, 2015. http://www.bu.edu/chapel/music/
  10. ^ Musica Omnia. "Boston Bach Ensemble." Accessed July 1, 2015. http://www.musicaomnia.org/artist/the-boston-bach-ensemble/
  11. ^ Back Bay Chorale. "About Us: The Chorale." Accessed July 6, 2015. http://www.backbaychorale.org/about/
  12. ^ The Providence Singers. "About the Providence Singers." Accessed July 1, 2015. http://www.providencesingers.org/About06/index.php
  13. ^ "Elaine L. Bearer, M.D., Ph.D., FAAAS, FCAP". Department of Pathology. The University of New Mexico. Retrieved 2018-09-10.
  14. ^ "Commissions of the Providence Singers". www.providencesingers.org. Retrieved 2018-09-10.
  15. ^ McGill University. "Schulich Singers." Accessed July 6, 2015. https://www.mcgill.ca/music/ensembles/choral/schulich-singers
  16. ^ Naxos Records. "Christmas with The Washington Chorus." Accessed July 6, 2015. http://www.naxos.com/catalogue/item.asp?item_code=DSL-92117
  17. ^ Rolling Stones. "Verizon Center, Washington DC: June 24 setlist." June 25, 2013. Accessed July 6, 2015. http://www.rollingstones.com/2013/06/25/verizon-center-washington-dc-june-24-setlist/
  18. ^ a b Billboard. "2013 Grammy Awards: Full List of Nominees." Accessed July 1, 2015. http://www.billboard.com/biz/articles/news/1483761/2013-grammy-awards-full-list-of-nominees
  19. ^ Richard Dyer. "Composer, conductor Wachner to exit Boston." The Boston Globe. July 13, 2001. Accessed August 21, 2015. Archived: http://www.julianwachner.com/assets/uploads/press/wachner_to_exit_boston_2001.jpg
  20. ^ Providence Singers. "Through War and Peace." November 8, 2003. Accessed August 21, 2015. http://www.providencesingers.org/Concerts06/Season03-04/Nov03Concert.html
  21. ^ Ellen Pfeifer. "Back Bay Chorale ignites fervor of Wachner's works." The Boston Globe. May 25, 2001. Accessed August 21, 2015. Archived: http://www.julianwachner.com/assets/uploads/press/bbc_ignites_fervor_2001.jpg
  22. ^ a b c Matthew Guerrieri. Wachner: Choral Music, Vol. 2 Naxos. Accessed August 21, 2015. http://www.naxos.com/mainsite/blurbs_reviews.asp?item_code=9.70223-25&catNum=9.70223-25&filetype=About%20this%20Recording&language=English#
  23. ^ Mark J. Estren. "On CD: Julian Wachner." The Washington Post. June 24, 2010. Accessed September 11, 2015. http://voices.washingtonpost.com/the-classical-beat/2010/06/on_cd_julian_wachner.html
  24. ^ a b Julian Wachner. Wachner: Complete Choral Works, Vol. 1. Naxos. Accessed August 21, 2015. http://www.naxos.com/mainsite/blurbs_reviews.asp?item_code=8.559607&catNum=559607&filetype=About%20this%20Recording&language=English#
  25. ^ Arthur Kaptainis. "Julian Wachner." Opera Canada. November 2005. Accessed September 14, 2015. Archived: http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Julian+Wachner.-a0140513486
  26. ^ Richard Dyer. "Wachner's 'Evangeline' is colorful and assured." The Boston Globe. January 6, 2006. Accessed September 1, 2015. Archived: http://www.julianwachner.com/press/P220
  27. ^ Frank J. Oteri. "Julian Wachner: Transcending the Sacred and the Profane." New Music Box. January 21, 2015. Accessed September 1, 2015. http://www.newmusicbox.org/articles/julian-wachner-transcending-the-sacred-and-the-profane/
  28. ^ David Weininger. "Wachner issues Boston-born compositions on CD." The Boston Globe. August 28, 2014. Accessed September 11, 2015. https://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/music/2014/08/28/wachner-issues-boston-born-compositions/2UQii1zxoL9xuDvo5XaC3H/story.html
  29. ^ Julian Wachner. "Notes on Come, My Dark-Eyed One." Wachner: Choral Music, Vol. 2 Naxos. Accessed September 12, 2015. http://www.naxos.com/mainsite/blurbs_reviews.asp?item_code=9.70223-25&catNum=9.70223-25&filetype=About%20this%20Recording&language=English#
  30. ^ VisionIntoArt. "Erika Harrsch's Inverted Sky." VisionIntoArt. Accessed September 12, 2015. http://visionintoart.com/works/erika-harrschs-inverted-sky/
  31. ^ Corinne Ramey. "Trinity Wall Street's Music Director Considers Himself a 'Composer Who Conducts.'" Wall Street Journal. August 11, 2014. Accessed August 21, 2015. https://www.wsj.com/articles/trinity-wall-streets-music-director-julian-wachner-considers-himself-a-composer-who-conducts-1407781427
  32. ^ ASCAP. "ASCAP 'Adventurous Programming' Awards Presented at Chorus America Conference in San Francisco." June 10, 2011. Accessed July 1, 2015. http://www.ascap.com/press/2011/0610_AdventurousProgramming.aspx
  33. ^ VisionIntoArt. "Erika Harsco's Inverted Sky." Accessed August 6, 2015. http://visionintoart.com/works/erika-harrschs-inverted-sky/
  34. ^ Boston Landmarks Orchestra. "Landmarks Recordings." Accessed July 1, 2015. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-06-17. Retrieved 2015-07-01. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link) CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  35. ^ Coro Allegro. "Somewhere I Have Never Traveled." Accessed July 1, 2015. http://www.coroallegro.org/cds/somewhere-i-have-never-travelled/ Archived 2015-08-01 at the Wayback Machine
  36. ^ Chandos. "Foss: Griffelkin." Accessed July 1, 2015. https://www.chandos.net/details06.asp?CNumber=CHAN%2010067
  37. ^ Avie Records. "Averno." Accessed July 1, 2015. http://www.avie-records.com/releases/averno/
  38. ^ ATMA Classique. "Julian Wachner: Triptych." Accessed July 1, 2015. http://www.atmaclassique.com/En/Albums/AlbumInfo.aspx?AlbumID=1439
  39. ^ VisionIntoArt. "Oceanic Verses." Accessed July 1, 2015. http://visionintoart.com/works/oceanic-verses/


External links[edit]