Music Director 2018 – present
German Conductor Alexander Mickelthwate is the newly appointed Music Director of the Oklahoma City Philharmonic and Music Director Emeritus of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra in Canada.
Since starting his Winnipeg tenure in 2006 he played a pivotal role in the rejuvenation and turnaround of the Winnipeg Symphony which culminated in a highly successful and critically acclaimed performance at Carnegie Hall in May 2014. The New York Times noted the performance was “conducted expertly,” and the New York Classical review stated “under music director Alexander Mickelthwate, they play with excellent intonation and such a fine overall blend and balance of sound that, on their own terms, they may be the best orchestra to appear in the week’s worth of concerts.”
Deeply rooted in his German heritage, Norman Lebrecht wrote about Mickelthwate’s interpretation of Mahler’s 10th Symphony with the Winnipeg Symphony: “Both Mahler 10 performances were intense and engaging. Every twist and turn in the score was fresh and surprising to my ears.”
And his interpretation of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 prompted the pianist Anton Kuerti to write a letter to the newspaper saying, “I would like to call attention to the stunning performance heard after the intermission. To play Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 with the passion, profundity, emotional intensity, subtlety and degree of perfection achieved by conductor Alexander Mickelthwate and the Winnipeg Symphony can only be called miraculous.”
In North America Alexander has guest conducted the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Houston Symphony, Vancouver Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Saint Luke’s, Milwaukee Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic and Toronto Symphony, among others.
His European debut was with the Hamburg Symphony. He also conducted the BBC London, Stuttgart Radio Orchestra, Royal Scottish, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen and NDR Hannover. Other notable performances include the Sao Paulo Symphony and the Simon Bolivar Orchestra in Venezuela. He made his Australia debut with the Adelaide Symphony and the Tasmania Orchestra where he recorded the Mozart piano concerti Nos. 7 and 10 with the Silber Garburg Duo.
Alexander Mickelthwate has worked several times with Dame Evelyn Glennie conducting the world premiere of two new percussion concerti by Vincent Ho. He also worked with Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell, Yuja Wang, Dawn Upshaw, Plácido Domingo, Ben Heppner, Horatio Gutiérrez, Emanuel Ax, Leonidas Kavakos and Sarah Chang, among many others, and he worked very closely with a wide range of composers including Phil Glass, Steve Reich, Sofia Gubaidulina, Kaija Saariaho, John Adams, John Luther Adams and Mason Bates.
After guest conducting the Simon Bolivar Orchestra and experiencing the life-changing power of the El Sistema program in Venezuela for underprivileged children, Alexander played an instrumental part in creating Sistema Winnipeg.
For three years Alexander created a critically acclaimed Indigenous Festival in Winnipeg. Passionate to connect with all cultures, he created artistic collaborations between First Nations and western cultures that culminated in the performances of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and Revueltas’ Les Noches de los Mayas with new choreographies of contemporary and First Nations dance.
The Winnipeg New Music Festival is an international institution. Alexander broadened the repertoire and created many new collaborations connecting with different audiences. Because of the programming of the festival the WSO was chosen to perform at the Spring for Music Festival at Carnegie Hall in 2014.
A few of the most creative projects of the festival for Alexander were the performance of movie director Guy Maddin’s Brand Upon a Brain with narration by actress Isabella Rossellini, the workshopping of a new opera Tesla by movie director Jim Jarmusch and composer Phil Klein, and a production of Gavin Bryar’s The Sinking of the Titanic at PanAm Pool.
Alexander has conducted for President Jimmy Carter and the Queen of England, and he received the Queen Diamond Jubilee Medal and the Key to the City of Winnipeg.
Born and raised in Frankfurt Germany to a musical family, Alexander received his degree from the Peabody Institute of Music. He studied conducting under Fredric Prausnitz and Gustav Meier as well as with Seiji Ozawa, Andre Previn, Daniel Barenboim and Robert Spano at Tanglewood. Following his tenure as Assistant Conductor with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, which he completed in 2004, Alexander was Associate Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic for three years, under the direction of EsaPekka Salonen.
He is married to fashion designer Abigail Mickelthwate and has two sons.