BIOGRAPHY

Respected English conductor George Vass studied at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and the Royal Academy of Music, London. Artistic Director of the renowned Presteigne Festival since 1992, Vass served the Hampstead & Highgate Festival in a similar capacity (2004-09). He made his professional debut at St John’s Smith Square in 1979 and, as Artistic Director of the Regent Sinfonia of London and Orchestra Nova, has appeared at many of the UK’s major concert halls and leading festivals.

As a guest conductor he has worked with ensembles including the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the Bournemouth Symphony, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Royal Scottish National and Ulster orchestras, Amsterdams Promenade Orkest, Konzertensemble Salzburg, London Mozart Players, Malmö Opera Orchestra, Bath Camerata, the choirs of Royal Holloway, Kings College London, Merton College Oxford and Schola Cantorum Oxford. His many recordings for Dutton, Guild, Lyrita, Naxos, Resonus Classics, SOMM and Toccata Classics have garnered excellent reviews, and he has broadcast for BBC Radio 3 and Channel 4 television.

“Under the alert and responsive direction of conductor George Vass, to whom the score is dedicated, the Nova Music Opera Ensemble brought out the melodic and rhythmic felicities of the score. Virtuosic elements were never underplayed, yet the emotional arc of the opera’s 13 unbroken scenes was of paramount importance, cogently presented in a polished yet spontaneous-sounding reading.” (Nova Music Opera, Cheltenham Festival, 2018) – Opera Magazine

“Yet there was another stand-out moment … the ecstatic Goddess (2009), by the composer-in-residence Edward Gregson. It was fabulously played by the solo violist Rachel Roberts, the Presteigne Festival Orchestra and Vass” (Presteigne Festival 2017) – The Times

‘One of the most luminous scores in twentieth-century music [Copland: Appalachian Spring – complete ballet], Vass shaped the work as if in one single, unbroken paragraph of inexhaustible melody, crowned at the centre with the ubiquitous Shaker hymn […] It was a hugely affecting account, beautifully played by the 19 musicians on stage and expertly balanced by George Vass. It concluded a wonderful concert and resounded in my memory for days afterwards’. Guy Rickards, Music and Musicians Quarterly

Founder Artistic Director of Nova Music Opera, he premiered Thomas Hyde’s That Man Stephen Ward (Hampstead and Highgate Festival, 2008; revival for Nova Music Opera, 2015) and, for Nova Music Opera, Sally Beamish Hagar in the Wilderness (2013), Stephen McNeff Prometheus Drown’d (2014), Cecilia McDowall Airborne (2014), Charlotte Bray Entanglement (2015), Joseph Phibbs Juliana (2018), Britten/Luke Styles Awakening Shadow (2021) and Julian Philips Looking West (2022). He has also conducted Britten Curlew River (Hampstead and Highgate Springfest, 2009; Nova Music, 2013) and Holst Savitri (Nova Music, English Music Festival, 2010).

Over many years, he has commissioned and premiered a vast amount of new work from a wide range of eminent composers and, in 2017, was presented with a BASCA Gold Badge Award marking his support for the UK song writing and composing community.

A great advocate of community music-making, Vass is music director of Bushey Symphony Orchestra and St Albans Choral Society, also enjoying relationships with the Blaze Ensemble and the Royal Tunbridge Wells Symphony Orchestra, he has conducted at the Dartington International Summer School.

Recent recordings include Edmund Rubbra’s early Piano Concerto accompanying Simon Callaghan with the BBC NOW (Lyrita) and, for Resonus, a disc of music by Huw Watkins with Orchestra Nova. Future plans include recordings of works for piano and orchestra by Britten, Tippett and Walton with Clare Hammond and the BBC Symphony Orchestra for BIS, a CD of Cecilia McDowall’s choral music with the Choir of Royal Holloway and Orchestra Nova and concertante works by Dutch composer Henriëtte Bosmans with Gemma Rosefield, Benjamin Nabarro and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.

George Vass is an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music, was chair of the British Arts Festivals Association (2014-18), being presented with the 2018 BAFA Exceptional Service Award for outstanding contribution to the festival sector, was 2023 recipient of the Welsh Music Guild’s ‘John Edwards Memorial Award’ for services to Welsh Music and serves the Royal Society of Musicians of Great Britain as a governor.