Conductors & Harpsichord

Peter Whelan

Artistic Director, Irish Baroque Orchestra & Marsyas Ensemble
Artistic Partner, Irish National Opera

© Jen Owens


Irish-born Peter Whelan is among the most exciting and versatile exponents of historical performance of his generation, with a remarkable career as a conductor, keyboardist and solo bassoonist. He is Artistic Director of the Irish Baroque Orchestra and founding Artistic Director of Ensemble Marsyas.

As conductor, Peter has a passion for exploring and championing neglected music from the Baroque era. Recent projects funded by The Arts Council (Ireland) and Creative Scotland involved recreating and staging live performances of choral and symphonic music from eighteenth-century Dublin and Edinburgh. This led to his award-winning disc ‘Edinburgh 1742’ for Linn Records and his 2017 reconstruction of the ‘Irish State Musick’ in its original venue of Dublin Castle.

A regular collaborator with Irish National Opera, Peter begins the 2019/20 season with performances of Vivaldi’s Griselda with the Irish Baroque Orchestra, returning in May for Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail with the Irish Chamber Orchestra. Further engagements with the Irish Baroque Orchestra include performances at the National Concert Hall, Dublin, productions of Handel’s Messiah, and an Ireland Tour with mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught. This season also sees Peter making his debut with Netherlands Chamber Orchestra and Stavanger Symphony Orchestra, as well as enjoying a residency at Wigmore Hall with Ensemble Marsyas.

Peter is “as exciting a live wire as Ireland has produced in the world of period performance” (Irish Times). His artistic direction in live performance and the recording studio has been praised for its “stylish verve” (BBC Music Magazine), its “exuberance and elegance” (Irish Examiner), and its “slick tempi, grit and character” (Golden Plec).


  • More info  
    07 Feb 20 'The Trials of Tenducci' Irish Baroque Orchestra & Tara Erraught
    National Gallery of Ireland

    “The fine sound of the ensemble, led by Whelan at the fortepiano, proves an excellent foil for the bloom and even coloratura of Erraught’s voice. […] Eclectic, surprising, and engaging, this lengthy programme is met with warm applause at the end, and the promise of a recording to follow.”

    Michael Lee, Golden Plec, 10 Feb 2020

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    30 Dec 19 Baroque Hogmanay Ensemble Marsyas
    Wigmore Hall

    “Ensemble Marsyas – very possibly this country’s finest period group – perform with wonderful élan, transmitting their total enjoyment. Led by Peter Whelan from one of the two harpsichords the group had on stage at Wigmore Hall, they produce a warm body of sound with a characterful edge where required, and certainly needed in music by Francesco Barsanti.”


    Rupert Christiansen, Ivan Hewett & John Allison, The Telegraph, 31 Dec 19

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    12 Oct 19 Vivaldi: Griselda Irish National Opera & Irish Baroque Orchestra
    Town Hall Theatre, Galway

    “The music is by turns mercurial, sensitive, and brilliant, with Peter Whelan’s leadership drawing fine and natural performances from singers and Irish Baroque Orchestra instrumentalists alike.”

    Michael Lee, Golden Plec, 14 Oct 19

    “A second triumph is the way their singing is so naturally complemented by the conductor Peter Whelan and the Irish Baroque Orchestra: energy, emotion, baroque sound, not once masking voices.”

    Michael Dungan, Irish Times, 14 Oct 19

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    20 May 19 Mozart: The Magic Flute Irish National Opera
    National Opera House, Wexford

    “And the conductor and Baroque specialist Peter Whelan maximised its impact of delight, drawing from the Irish Chamber Orchestra the kind of crisp, zesty energy associated with period performance. It riveted you, and you sat there thinking, This feels like it’s going to be very good. And it was.”


    Michael Duncan, The Irish Times, 20 May 19

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    11 Oct 18 Handel: Radamisto English Touring Opera
    Hackney Empire

    “The vivacious band is spiritedly conducted by Peter Whelan.”


    Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph, 7 Oct 18


    “Under Peter Whelan’s direction the Old Street band gracefully speeds the action.”

    Michael Church, The Independent, 8 Oct 18


    “Peter Whelan conducts with imaginative touches.”


    Richard Morrison, The Times, 9 Oct 18


    “Peter Whelan conducts the Old Street Band with buoyant style.”


    Richard Fairman, Financial Times, 11 Oct 18


    “The band is conducted stylishly from the harpsichord by Peter Whelan […]”


    Barry Millington, Evening Standard, 11 Oct 18

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    24 Jul 18 Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice Irish National Opera
    Galway International Arts Festival

    “Conductor Peter Whelan, consistently attentive to the balance of voices and instruments, brought an intense, crisp energy to the stylish playing of the Irish Baroque Orchestra.”


    Michael Dungan, The Irish Times, 24 July 18


    “The Irish Baroque Orchestra brings out the rich textures in Gluck’s score to cradle Orfeo’s grief. Conductor Peter Whelan’s timing is perfect and has plenty of personality.”

    Katy Hayes, The Independent, 29 July 18

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    22 Apr 18 Mozart: The Marriage of Figaro Irish National Opera
    Gaiety Theatre, Dublin

    “Conductor Peter Whelan’s command is perfectly pitched, with the orchestra’s comic timing occasionally uncannily well-judged, getting laughs all on its own. This is a packed evening’s first-rate entertainment; it runs the full three hours and 20, with every minute well spent.”

    Katy Hayes, The Independent, 22 April 18


    “He was abetted by conductor Peter Whelan, who coaxed fleet playing from the Irish Chamber Orchestra so that the action rarely dragged.”

    Hugh Canning, The Times, 22 April 18