Laurence Cummings

Conductor

"Cummings has emerged as one of his generation's leading baroque-era specialists, at home in both opera house and concert hall"

Larry Fuchsberg, Star Tribune

"Conductor Laurence Cummings sets about every number with almost breathless enthusiasm"

Richard Fairman, Financial Times

"Laurence Cummings's conducting is witty and compassionate..."

Tim Ashley, The Guardian

"Laurence Cummings turns even the rawest musical material into gold"

Berta Joncus, BBC Music Magazine

"Vivaciously conducted by Laurence Cummings. The performance had the infectious advocacy of Cummings and his orchestra"

Andrew Clark, Financial Times

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Music Director Academy of Ancient Music
Musical Director London Handel Festival
Music Director Orquestra Barroca Casa da Musica

Laurence Cummings
is one of Britain's most exciting and versatile exponents of historical performance both as a conductor and a harpsichord player. He is currently Music Director of the Academy of Ancient Music, Musical Director of the London Handel Festival and Music Director of Orquestra Barroca Casa da Música in Porto. He was Artistic Director of the Internationale Händel-Festpiele Göttingen from 2011 - 2021. A noted authority on Handel, the Guardian has written of him “he now ranks as one of the composer’s best advocates in the world. Self-effacing on the podium, faithful above all to the score, he matches Handel’s energy and invention with unmistakable lyricism, generosity and dignity.”

Frequently praised for his stylish and compelling performances in the opera house, his career has taken him across Europe where he has conducted productions at houses including Opernhaus Zurich (Belshazzar, King Arthur), Theater an der Wien (Saul), Gothenburg Opera (Orfeo ed Euridice, Giulio Cesare, Alcina and Idomeneo). Théâtre du Châtelet (Saul) and Opera de Lyon (Messiah). In the UK he has been a regular at English National Opera (Radamisto, L’Incoronazione di Poppea, Semele, Messiah, Orfeo and The Indian Queen), Glyndebourne Festival Opera (Saul, Giulio Cesare and The Fairy Queen) and Garsington Opera (Vivaldi cycle: L’Incoronazione di Dario, L’Olympiade and La Verita in Cimento, Orfeo), as well as conducting at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Theatre (Berenice and Alceste), Opera North (L’Incoronazione di Poppea and Orfeo in a version for both western and Indian classical musicians), and for Opera GlassWorks (The Rake’s Progress).

Equally at home on the concert platform, he is regularly invited to conduct both period and modern instrument orchestras worldwide, including Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, The English Concert, Handel and Haydn Society Boston, Croatian Baroque Orchestra, La Scintilla Zurich, Juilliard415, Zurich Chamber Orchestra, Musikcollegium Winterthur, St Paul Chamber Orchestra, Basel Chamber Orchestra, Wroclaw Baroque Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Washington National Symphony Orchestra, St Louis Symphony, Kansas City Symphony, Frankfurt Radio Symphony, Jerusalem Symphony and in the UK with Royal Northern Sinfonia, Hallé Orchestra, Bournemouth Symphony, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Ulster Orchestra and Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

His recordings include discs with Emma Kirkby and Royal Academy of Music on BIS, Angelika Kirschlager and the Basel Chamber Orchestra for Sony BMG, Maurice Steger and The English Concert for Harmonia Mundi and Ruby Hughes and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment on Chandos, as well as a series of live opera and concert performances recorded at the Göttingen International Handel Festival and released on Accent. He has also released numerous solo harpsichord recital and chamber music recordings for Naxos.

As well as his regular commitments his future plans include productions for Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Theater Basel, Glyndebourne Festival Opera and at Dutch National Opera.

He was an organ scholar at Christ Church Oxford where he graduated with first class honours. Until 2012 he was Head of Historical Performance at the Royal Academy of Music which led to both baroque and classical orchestras forming part of the established curriculum. He is now the William Crotch Professor of Historical Performance.

This biography is for information only and should not be reproduced.

Handel: Giulio Cesare

Glyndebourne, June 2024

with a first-class cast, the Handelian Laurence Cummings conducting a work he knows inside out, and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment excelling in the pit.

Fiona Maddocks, The Guardian

It was significant that on the first night the most ecstatic cheer was not for a singer but for the conductor Laurence Cummings, the undisputed king of Baroque opera, who steered a perfectly assured path through Handel’s ravishing musical landscape.

Michael Church, iNews

A whole chapter could be written on the collaborative glories from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment under the vintage guidance of Laurence Cummings. Every introduction and rounding-off teem with personality; singing, perfectly phrasing violins are underpinned by a thunderous bass line where needed. This, too, is where proper rehearsal time pays off in the dialogues of instruments and voices.

David Nice, The Arts Desk

Thankfully, there was not a single weak link in Glyndebourne’s crack cast – all new to this production – who, under Laurence Cummings’ vivid direction, attacked their roles brilliantly, including plenty of da capo ornamentation.

Mark Pullinger, OperaNow

Aci by the River

London Handel Festival, April 2024

Throughout, Laurence Cummings’s musical direction provides the necessary élan to excavate the exquisite as well as the terrible from this troubling tale of single-minded desire.

Rachel Halliburton, The Times

Still, this detracts little from the vigorous playing of the London Handel Orchestra, conducted from the harpsichord by Laurence Cummings. This is Cummings’s 25th and final season as the LHF’s musical director, and he’s going out on a high.

Erica Jeal, The Guardian

Laurence Cummings, as ever, drew a sumptuous palette of Handelian colours from the players.

Boyd Tonkin, The Arts Desk

Meanwhile, under the inspiring direction of Laurence Cummings, the London Handel Orchestra demonstrates what a fabulous work this seldom-performed piece is.

Michael Church, iNews

Monteverdi’s L'Incoronazione di Poppea

Theater Basel, March 2024

Finally, let us highlight the excellent work accomplished by the instrumentalists of La Cetra, placed under the scrupulous direction of Laurence Cummings (who twice makes his beautiful tenor voice heard in subtle replies).

Bach Brandenburg Concertos

Academy of Ancient Music, January 2024

Its high point rightly came when Laurence Cummings, directing the whole show from the harpsichord, delivered the famous first-movement cadenza not as the feverish clatter of prestissimo passagework one usually hears but as one imagines Bach himself might have done — with pauses for emphasis and subtle variations in speed.

Richard Morrison, The Times

In The Realms Of Sorrow, London Handel Festival

Stone Nest / February 2023

Led by harpsichordist Laurence Cummings, the one-to-a-part orchestra was all grit, and even the more lyrical lines were extravagantly shaped. [Héloïse] Werner’s musical “dissolves” at the start and end of each cantata were breathtaking: unfamiliar harmonies spooled out of a Handelian cadence; the double bass became a percussion instrument amid guttural squawks from the oboes.

Flora Willson, The Guardian

It was part of the inspired musical innovation of the evening that the cantatas were interspersed with musical passages by Héloïse Werner, introducing a whispering atonality that subtly heightened the sense of subversion and tortured emotion. This helped the cantatas flow into one another to create a plaintive meditation on disappointed love; once Il delirio amoroso had finished we were plunged straight into Armida abbandonata HWV 105, which kicked off unforgettably with the lyrics “Ungrateful bastard – How dare you…”


Throughout, Cummings – the festival director – kept a tight rein on the evening’s stampede of emotions with his elegant direction from the harpsichord. There was much to savour in the musicians’ individual performances, not least Jonas Nordberg’s lively theorbo accompaniment and Rosie Moon’s vigorous bass, which at one point doubled up as a drum.

Rachael Halliburton, The Arts Desk

Alexander's Feast, London Handel Festival

St George's Hannover Square, February 2023

Laurence Cummings [is] a conductor steeped in Handelian style, and the ornamentation, particularly by the fiddles and oboes of the London Handel Orchestra, was profuse and precise. But he is also alive to the spirit of the music and isn’t afraid to deploy big dynamics to bring it to life. The passages when the excellent London Handel Chorus let rip must have made strong lampposts quiver well north of Oxford Circus.

Richard Morrison, The Times

Under Cummings’s direction, the joint forces of the London Handel Orchestra, the London Handel Singers and National Youth Choirs of Great Britain Fellows gave a rollicking performance in St George’s, Hanover Square.

Fiona Maddocks, The Guardian

Haydn's The Seasons

Academy of Ancient Music / Barbican / October 2022

‘A slow-burn, glorious performance by the Academy of Ancient Music, conducted by Laurence Cummings. ’

Robert Thicknesse, Opera Now

The Crown - Heroic Arias for Senesino (CD)

Randall Scotting (countertenor) / Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment / Signum Classics SIGCD719

"Continuo realisations are plush, with director Laurence Cummings spinning ravishing melodies from his figured bass"

Berta Joncus, Classical Music Magazine

L'Orfeo

Garsington Opera, Summer 2022

Cummings opts for a beguilingly lush wash of continuo from five different musicians, and splits his instrumental forces effectively on either side of the stage, but his main achievement is ensuring his singers constantly invest their lines with emotional significance as well as stylish ornamentation. It’s all bewitching [...].

Richard Morrison, The Times 5*

The true vocal pillars of this piece are, inescapably, the tenor Ed Lyon in the title role, and the ever active chorus, with its multiple brief solos, including at one point from the conductor Laurence Cummings. [...] Cummings, directing from the harpsichord, and his English Concert musicians, played on stage throughout, sporting similar white and cream clothes to the dancers, and joining the staging at times.

Martin Kettle, The Guardian, 5*

[The staging] allows for the musical freedom Cummings draws without actually conducting [...] With Cummings stepping away from the harpsichord to sing Apollo’s intervention and joining the Monteverdi madrigal sung as an encore, this is an evening of true ensemble work.

John Allison, The Telegraph, 4*

The dynamic and barefoot English Concert is on stage, its players in the heart of the action. Laurence Cummings directing this pulsating score from the keyboard even sings as Orfeo's father in the closing moments.

Claudia Pritchard, Culture Whisper, 5*

Laurence Cummings provided the coup de theatre of the evening by springing to his feet and taking on the role – most convincingly - of Apollo.’

Andrew Green, Opera Now

Handel's La Resurrezione

St-Martin-in-the-Fields, London 18th April 2022

Cummings proved an exacting judge of the sometimes tricky balance between drama and reflection, teasing out instrumental detail as he went – the woodwind that alternately grieve and console, the warmth in the strings, the gleam in the brass that eventually heralds the triumph of light over darkness.

Tim Ashley, The Guardian ****

"Laurence Cummings had rustled up eight violins rather than Handel's 20, but this still sounded meaty and wonderful in the airy acoustic of St Martin in the Fields... The first half has unstoppable energy thanks to Cummings, bouncing with excitement as he urged his musicians on."

Robert Thicknesse, Opera Now 5*

Laurence Cummings Repertoire

ALMEIDA

La Guiditta
La Spinalba

BACH

B Minor Mass
Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 and No. 5
Cantatas 36c & 61
Magnificat
St John Passion
St. Matthew Passion

BRITTEN

St. Nicholas

CAVERLIERI

Rap. di Anima e di Corpo

ECCLES

The Judgement of Paris

GLUCK

Iphigénie en Tauride
Orfeo ed Euridice

HANDEL

Aci, Gallatea e Polifemo
Acis and Galatea
Agrippina
Alceste
Alexander Balus
Arianna
Ariodante
Arminio
Atalanta
Athalia
Belshazzar
Berenice
Brockes Passion
Deborah
Duetti amorosi
Esther
Ezio
Faramondo
Giulio Cesare
Giove in Argo
Gloria
Hercules
Imeneo
Israel in Eqypt
Jephtha
Joshua
Joseph and his Brethren
Judas Maccabaeus
Lotario
Messiah
Occasional Oratorio
Ottone
Poro
Riccardo Primo
Rinaldo
Rodelinda
Rodrigo
Samson
Saul
Semele
Siroe
Solomon
Sorsame
Susanna
Tamerlano
Theodora
Tolomeo

MONTEVERDI

Incoronazione di Poppea
Orfeo
Vespers of 1610

MOZART

Lucio Silla
Idomeneo

PURCELL

King Arthur
The Fairy Queen
The Indian Queen

RAMEAU

Dardanus
Les Palladins (Suite)

STRAVINSKY

The Rake's Progress

VIVALDI

L'incoronazione di Dario
L'Olimpiade
La Verita in Cimento

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