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René Jacobs in Salzburg 2011
Early years, countertenor
Born in Ghent, Jacobs began his musical career as a boy chorister at the Cathedral. Later he studied classical philology at the University of Ghent while continuing to sing in Brussels and in The Hague.
The Kuijken brothers, Gustav Leonhardt and Alfred Deller all encouraged him to pursue a career as a countertenor, and he quickly became known as one of the best of his time. He recorded a large amount of less-known Baroque music by such composers as Antonio Cesti, d'India, Ferrari, Marenzio, Lambert, Guédron, William Lawes and others. He also sang in much-acclaimed recordings of the major works of Bach (such as the St Matthew Passion led by Gustav Leonhardt and Philippe Herreweghe).
Jacobs as conductor
More recently, as a conductor, Jacobs has recorded numerous operas and sacred and secular works of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. His recording of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro is especially renowned, having won such awards as Gramophone 's Record of the Year for 2004, Le Monde de la musique 's Choc of the Year for 2004, a Grammy Award for "Best Opera recording of 2005", and two Midem Classical Awards in 2004. Other award-winning recordings include George Frideric Handel’s Rinaldo (Cannes Classical Award, 2004), and Joseph Haydn’s Die Jahreszeiten (Diapason d’Or of 2005). The partial discography below lists some of the many other awards won by Jacobs' recordings. His recordings and work have won numerous awards, including the Grammy Award for "Best Opera", Gramophone 's "Record of the Year", the "III Premio Traetta 2011", and numerous European awards. His recording of Mozart's Magic Flute was Record of the Year at the inaugural International Classical Music Awards in April 2011.
He is particularly noted as a singer's conductor, and for his handling of recitative.
Jacobs regularly conducts such orchestras and ensembles as the Concerto Köln, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, Freiburger Barockorchester, Nederlands Kamerkoor and RIAS Kammerchor for recordings and concert tours. In 1992, the Berlin State Opera invited Jacobs to conduct there.
From 1991 to 2009, Jacobs was the artistic director of opera programs at Innsbruck's Festwochen der Alten Musik (Innsbruck Festival of Early Music). He also teaches interpretation and Baroque singing style at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis.
Partial discography as a conductor
- Bach - Mass in B minor
- Bach - Christmas Oratorio (Choc du Monde de la Musique; ClassicsToday.com)
- Bach - The Motets (award: Diapason d'or)
- Bach - Secular cantatas
- Blow - Venus and Adonis
- Buxtehude - Membra Jesu Nostri
- Caldara - Maddalena ai piedi di Cristo (awards: Gramophone Award; Diapason d'or)
- Cavalli - La Calisto (awards: Cannes Classical Award; Diapason d'or)
- Cavalli - Giasone (1988)
- Cavalli - Xerxes - (awards: Choc du Monde de la Musique; Diapason d'or; Un événement Télérama (ffff))
- Cesti - Cantatas
- Charpentier - Leçons de Ténèbres du Jeudy Sainct
- Charpentier - Salve Regina
- Couperin - Leçons de Ténèbres
- Gluck - Orfeo ed Euridice (awards: Cannes Classical Awards)
- Grandi - Vulnerasti cor meum and other sacred music
- Handel - Giulio Cesare
- Handel- Messiah
- Handel - Rinaldo ((awards: Cannes Classical Award)
- Handel- Saul ((awards: Editor's choice Gramophone; Choc du Monde de la musique; BBC Music Magazine Disc of the Month (October 2005))
- Haydn - Die Jahreszeiten (awards: Choc du Monde de la Musique; Edison Classical Music Award; Gramophone Award)
- Haydn - Die Schöpfung
- Haydn - Symphonies 91 and 92 (awards: Choc du Monde de la Musique; Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik; Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik)
- Keiser - Croesus (awards: Edison Classical Music Award; Diapaison d'or)
- Monteverdi - L'Orfeo (awards: Choc 2006)
- Monteverdi - Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria (Diapason d'or; Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik)
- Monteverdi - L'incoronazione di Poppea
- Monteverdi - Vespro della beata Vergine
- Monteverdi - Madrigals
- Mozart - Così fan tutte (Cannes Classical Awards; Diapason d'or; Edison Classical Music Award)
- Mozart - Le nozze di Figaro (awards: 47th Grammy Award; Choc du Monde de la Musique; Edison Classical Music Award; Gramophone Record of the Year 2004; Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik
- Mozart - La clemenza di Tito (awards: Critics award at the Brits Classics 2007; 10 de Classica-Répertoire; Jahrespreis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik; Un événement Télérama (ffff)
- Mozart - Don Giovanni (awards: Gramophone Record of the Month, October 2007; Classics Today 10/10)
- Mozart - Symphonies Nos. 38 and 41 (awards: 10 de Classica-Répertoire; Diapason d'Or Arte)
- Mozart - Idomeneo (awards: Scherzo, Choc de Classica, Un événement Télérama (ffff)
- Pergolesi - Stabat Mater
- Purcell - Dido and Aeneas; (awards: Editor's choice Gramophone; Un événement Télérama (ffff)
- Scarlatti - Il primo omicidio (overo caïn) (awards: Diapason d'or; Editor's choice Gramophone; Gramophone Award; Le Timbre de Platine
- Scarlatti - Griselda (awards: 10 de Répertoire; Diapason d'or; Le Timbre de Platine)
- Schubert - Symphonies 1 & 6, Pentatone PTC 5186707 (2018)
- Schutz - Christmas Oratorio (awards: Diapason d'or; Un événement Télérama (ffff))
- Zelenka - Magnificat & Lamenti
- "Harmonia Mundi Biography". Archived from the original on 24 February 2009. Retrieved 15 April 2009.
- International record review 2 2001 "If Rene Jacobs has one overriding talent as a conductor, then it is the ability to coach his singers to breathe life into recitatives. They do so magnificently in both operas, with marvellous performances from Judith Nelson and Isabelle Poulenard"