Described by BBC Radio 3 as ‘the saviour of contemporary classical music’, respected English conductor George Vass studied at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and the Royal Academy of Music, London. He was appointed Artistic Director of the internationally renowned Presteigne Festival in 1992, having served the Hampstead and Highgate Festival in a similar capacity from 2004 until 2009. Vass made his professional conducting debut at St John’s Smith Square in 1979 and, as Artistic Director of the Regent Sinfonia of London and later Orchestra Nova, has appeared at many of the UK’s major concert halls and festivals.
As a guest conductor he has worked with ensembles including 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. He has broadcast for BBC Radio 3 and Channel 4 television.
Vass has made over thirty commercial recordings for Dutton, Champs Hill, Guild, Lyrita, Naxos, Resonus Classics, SOMM and Toccata Classics. His discography encompasses the music of Alwyn, Rodney Bennett, James Francis Brown, Elgar, Delius, Dodgson, Handel, Holbrooke, Holst, Hurd, Thomas Hyde, John Joubert, Leighton, Maconchy, Mathias, David Matthews, McCabe, Cecilia McDowall, Stephen McNeff, Paul Patterson, Joseph Phibbs, Purcell, Tovey, Sibelius, Vaughan Williams and Warlock.
“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
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 the last thirty years he has commissioned and premiered new work from such eminent composers as Sally Beamish, Martin Butler, Gabriel Jackson, Paweł Łukaszewski, David Matthews, John McCabe, Cecilia McDowall, Paul Patterson, Joseph Phibbs, Robert Saxton, Peter Sculthorpe, Huw Watkins and Hugh Wood; in 2017 he was given a BASCA Gold Badge Award marking his support for the UK songwriting 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, the Sibelius Violin Concerto with Fenella Humphreys, a disc of ‘Presteigne Premieres’ with the Presteigne Festival Orchestra and a CD of Joseph Phibbs’ chamber opera Juliana.
George Vass is an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music, was chair of the British Arts Festivals Association from 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.