Hugh Keelan has conducted throughout the world, from the Residentie Orchestra (conducted by Toscanini) in The Hague, Holland, to the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (in pioneering recordings of seminal American symphonies by Roy Harris and William Schuman), the Saint Louis Symphony (with a world premier), and the Windham Orchestra (creating excellence, transcendence and inclusion in community). He has collaborated with the great artists of our times, including Solti, Haitink, Sir Colin Davis, Shura Cherkassky, Maurice Sendak, Tom Stoppard. In the future with TUNDI will be the opera Boudica, composed and written with Jenna Rae, in which audiences will learn Celtic war cries, and from their seats participate in battle scenes with the Roman occupiers; and with the Windham Orchestra, Martinů's Viola Rhapsody-Concerto, Duparc's complete works for orchestra: Lénore and Aux étoiles,Shostakovich Symphony No.8, Strauss' Vier letzte Lieder, Mahler Symphony No. 8, Hindemith Nobilissima visione, and Mendelssohn 'Scottish' Symphony, and Die Zauberflöte.
For Maestro, 'Life' and 'Art' are not distinct, just different words for a committed exploration of beauty and transcendence.
Born on Kingston-upon-Thames in England, Hugh Keelan has been a pianist since age 8, later also a violist. At the age of 16 Maestro Keelan conducted Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory. He went on to study Music at Cambridge with his primary mentor Robin Holloway, graduating with a Double First, the Hughes Prize ‘for outstanding excellence’, and the award of a coveted Harkness Fellowship (comparable to a Rhodes Scholarship) that allowed him to study conducting at Indiana University and Mannes College. Remaining in New York for private study with Vladimir Kin (from the Leningrad school of Mravinsky and Rabinovich,) he worked at the American Opera Center at the Juilliard School.
Amongst many Guest Conducting engagements, highlights have been with the Saint Louis Symphony, La Fenice in Venice, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and the Residentie Orchestra of The Hague. In the opera house (Covent Garden, Glyndebourne, Metropolitan Opera) Maestro Keelan has worked with such luminaries as Sir Georg Solti, Sir Bernard Haitink and Sir Colin Davis, Sir Peter Hall, Andre Serban, Maurice Sendak and Tom Stoppard.
Maestro Hugh Keelan performed as piano soloist in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.4 with the Erie Philharmonic in addition to conducting Die Meistersinger Prelude, Till Eulenspiegel and the Afternoon of a Faun. These performances capped Maestro Keelan’s tenure as Music Director of the Erie Philharmonic, following a 15-year appointment as Music Director of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic, an orchestra of extraordinarily high quality calling on the finest players from New York and Philadelphia. More recently he played and conducted from the keyboard Rhapsody in Blue with the Windham Orchestra, with whom he has also played as piano soloist in Jacob Mashak's Piano Concerto (premiered in 2014), and Brahms' Piano Concerto No.1 (2018).
Maestro Keelan is known and admired for his ability to connect very deeply with the performers with whom he works, and through them communicating an extraordinary power and enthusiasm to the audience. His major influences are the great conductors of the mid-20th century (Beecham, Klemperer, De Sabata amongst others) and in our own times Carlos Kleiber and Celibidache.
Maestro Keelan is admired as a composer and arranger, having performed his own orchestration of Szymanowski’s Romance op.23 with the Erie Philharmonic. Generating particular interest are his series of orchestrations of Harry Burleigh’s Spirituals for solo voice and orchestra. Commissioned by The Burleigh Society, these are esteemed for being true to the original unadorned power of the spirituals and the deep sensitivity of Burleigh’s own arrangements while channelling the urgency of our own times. They connect with communities of all and any sort, whether related to the Underground Railroad, music born in the condition of slavery, religion, children and family, racial harmony and reconciliation...people are deeply moved by the shared experience ofSpirituals. Once moved, people’s connection to the music and performers grows vastly, and the musicians can become a centerpiece of the community at a greater-than-musical level. Spirituals are available along with other arrangements and orchestrations, ranging from a Christmas/Hannukah/Holiday Medley to orchestrations of Beethoven’s Hammerklavier Sonata, and Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder for non-conventional ensemble, and Das Lied von der Erde. Most recently the great avant-garde electronic and computer music pioneer Charles Dodge requested Maestro to orchestrate and perform his Elegy for Viola as a joint commission.
Maestro Keelan's repertoire encompasses the body of the standard orchestral, concerto and operatic repertoire. Complete cycles of Beethoven and Brahms are complemented by an impressive array of premiers (World, American, European) by such composers as William Alexander, Keith Amos, Bruce Broughton, Derrik Jordan, Robin Holloway, Jacob Mashak, Jiri Pauer, Bernard Rands, Eric Tanguy, Reza Vali and Richard Wernick, Charles Dodge, Etan Nasreddin-Longo.
A glimpse of the extent of Maestro’s experience, prestige and repertoire can be seen from a sampling of some of the world-class soloists with whom he has collaborated: Corey Cerovsek, Stephanie Chase, Shura Cherkassky, Victor Danchenko, Mischa Dichter, Eugene Friesen, Horacio Guttierez, Andreas Haefliger, Hilary Hahn, Elizabeth Harwood, Lorin Hollander, Dick Hyman, Dylana Jenson, Jeffrey Kahane, Ani Kavafian, Soovin Kim, Anton Kuerti, Ruth Laredo, Allesandra Marc, Barbara Nissman, Ursula Oppens, Christopher O’Riley, Mark Peskanov, Santiago Rodriguez, Russell Sherman, Livia Sohn, Willy Stargell, Richard Stoltzman, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Alisa Weilerstein, Bob Wilbur, Michael Finckel, Jenna Rae, Mark Duffin.
In all, Maestro has conducted well over 600 major works.