Eric Jacobsen, Conductor
Hailed by the New York Times as “an interpretive dynamo,” conductor and cellist Eric Jacobsen has built a reputation for engaging audiences with innovative and collaborative programming.
Jacobsen is Co-Artistic Director and conductor of The Knights, and also serves as the Music Director for the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra and the Greater Bridgeport Symphony. Jacobsen founded the adventurous orchestra The Knights with his brother, violinist Colin Jacobsen, to foster the intimacy and camaraderie of chamber music on the orchestral stage. As conductor, Jacobsen has led the “consistently inventive, infectiously engaged indie ensemble” (New York Times) at Central Park’s Naumburg Orchestral Concerts, Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival, (Le) Poisson Rouge, the 92nd Street Y, Carnegie Hall, and Lincoln Center, at major summer festivals such as Tanglewood, Ravinia, and Ojai, and on tour nationally and internationally, including at the Cologne Philharmonie, Düsseldorf Tonhalle, Hamburg Elbphilharmonie, Salzburg Großes Festspielhaus, Vienna Musikverein, National Gallery of Dublin, and the Dresden Musikfestspiele. Recent collaborators include violinists Itzhak Perlman and Gil Shaham, singers Dawn Upshaw, Susan Graham, and Nicholas Phan, and pianists Emanuel Ax and Jean-Yves Thibaudet. Also in demand as a guest conductor, Jacobsen has led the symphony orchestras of Baltimore, Detroit, Virginia, Alabama, the New World, Naples, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra, and the Deutsche Philharmonie Merck.
The Knight’s current season features appearances at Tanglewood and at the Ravinia Festival, including a fully-staged centennial production of Bernstein’s Candide directed by Alison Moritz, as well as a Florida tour with Gil Shaham, with whom Jacobsen and The Knights are recording the Beethoven and Brahms violin concertos. Jacobsen and The Knights also perform in Madison, WI; Montreal; and in their annual concerts at Washington’s Dumbarton Oaks. With the Bridgeport Symphony, Jacobsen will perform and record with the renowned kamancheh player Kayhan Kalhor. Jacobsen will also guest conduct the Arkansas Symphony and the Juilliard Pre-College Orchestra, of which he is an alumnus. He has been re-engaged to conduct the Virginia Symphony and the Detroit Symphony, where Jacobsen will perform Gabriel Kahane’s emergency shelter intake form, which he will also conduct in Orlando with Kahane as composer-in-residence there. The 2019-20 season in Orlando also includes two new initiatives: Inside the Score, in which Jacobsen leads the audience on a guided exploration of Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, and Resonate, which features a unique blend of old and new orchestral and chamber works, performed in standard and more intimate concert formats.
During the 2018-19 season, Jacobsen undertook a 15-concert European tour with The Knights and mandolin virtuoso Avi Avital, including performances at Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie and Vienna’s Musikverein. In New York, Jacobsen and The Knights performed at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall; with groundbreaking countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo at National Sawdust in music of Handel and Philip Glass; and at the Park Avenue Armory, where they helped create the music for William Kentridge’s The Head and the Load. With the Bridgeport Symphony, Jacobsen performed with Gil Shaham, with star pianist Yuja Wang, and with his brother Colin, with whom he recorded a video of Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending that was featured on London’s Classic FM and The Violin Channel. Guest conducting engagements included the New World Symphony, the Knoxville Symphony, Santa Fe Pro Musica, the Deutsche Philharmonie Merck and the Tonkunstler Orchestra, with whom Jacobsen appeared at Vienna’s legendary Musikverein.
At the close of a successful fourth season with the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, Jacobsen has continued to pioneer the orchestra’s programming and community engagement in new and exciting directions. The 2018-19 season featured Puerto Rican-born composer and multi-instrumentalist Angélica Negrón as composer-in-residence, and included appearances by Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Rhiannon Giddens and internationally acclaimed cello virtuoso Jan Vogler.
Under Jacobsen’s baton, The Knights have developed an extensive recording collection, which includes the critically acclaimed albums Azul, with longtime collaborator Yo-Yo Ma, as well as the Prokofiev Concerto in the Grammy-nominated Gil Shaham album 1930s Violin Concertos. The Knights issued three albums for Sony Classical including Jan Vogler and The Knights Experience: Live from New York; New Worlds, and an all-Beethoven album, as well as the “smartly programmed” (National Public Radio) A Second in Silence on the Ancalagon label. Jacobsen’s first release on Warner Classics was the ground beneath our feet. We Are The Knights, a documentary film produced by Thirteen/WNET, premiered in September 2011.
A dedicated chamber musician, Jacobsen is a member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, participating in residencies and performances at the Hollywood Bowl, Carnegie Hall, and across the U.S., Central Asia, Middle East, Far East, and Europe. In addition, as a founding member of the string quartet Brooklyn Rider – dubbed “one of the wonders of contemporary music” (Los Angeles Times) – he has taken part in a wealth of world premieres and toured extensively in North America, Europe, and Asia, and is credited with helping to ensure “the future of classical music in America” (Los Angeles Times).
In December 2012, Jacobsen and his brother Colin were selected from among the nation’s top visual, performing, media, and literary artists to receive a prestigious United States Artists Fellowship. Eric splits his time between New York and Orlando with his wife, singer-songwriter Aoife O’Donovan, and their daughter.