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William Boughton was born into a musical family: his grandfather (Rutland Boughton) was a composer, his father a professional viola player, and his mother a singer. After cello studies at the New England Conservatory (Boston), Guildhall School of Music (London), and Prague Academy, he entered the profession in London, playing with the Royal Philharmonic, BBS, and London Sinfonietta.
The experience of playing in orchestras led to a passion to pursue a career in conducting and he decided to return to studies first with George Hurst and then with Sir Colin Davis. In 1980, he formed the English Symphony Orchestra (ESO) and developed the ESO’s repertoire through the Baroque period to Viennese classics and into contemporary music. During his time with the ESO, he commissioned more than 20 works from such composers as Peter Sculthorpe, John Joubert, Anthony Powers, Michael Berkeley, John Metcalf, Stephen Roberts, and Adrian Williams. The depth of his partnership with the ESO was epitomized in 1985 when, as Artistic Director of the Malvern Festival, he collaborated with Sir Michael Tippett in presenting a musical celebration of the composer’s eightieth birthday, which became the subject of a BBC “Omnibus” documentary.
With the ESO on Nimbus Records, he built a significant discography of internationally acclaimed recordings—predominantly of English music—a number of which reached the Top Ten on US charts.
During his final years with the ESO, Boughton successfully launched the first ESO Elgar Festival in Malvern and Worcester, and also celebrated the orchestra’s 25th Anniversary performing a complete Beethoven symphony cycle, in which he created a new series of pre-concert performances of British contemporary music, including works by Birtwistle, Knussen, Watkins, Woolrich, Holloway, and Turnage. He has participated in a number of high-profile arts programs for BBC Television, a radio program about Elgar that was broadcast in New York, Chicago, Washington, and Boston in 2006, and a series entitled 1st Eleven for Classic FM, during the 2006 Soccer World Cup. He has guest conducted major orchestras around the world, including the San Francisco, London, and Helsinki Symphony Orchestras.
In July 2007, he became the tenth Music Director of the NHSO, with whom he has instituted a Composer-in-Residence program and undertaken a major recording project of the works of William Walton; the first recording—Walton’s Violin Concerto and First Symphony—was released by Nimbus in 2010 and selected as a Critic’s Choice for 2010 by prestigious Gramophone Magazine. Under Mr. Boughton’s leadership, the NHSO was awarded an ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming in 2010. He resides in Guilford with his family and is in demand as a guest speaker and conductor.