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  Michael Alexander Willens

Die Kölner Akademie is a unique ensemble based in Cologne which performs music of the seventeenth through the twenty first centuries on modern and period instruments with world renowned guest soloists.
The ensemble seeks to bring out the composers' intentions by using historical seating plans, critical editions and the proper instrumentation for each work.

Die Kölner Akademie has received the highest critical acclaim for its outstanding performances at major festivals in Germany, Austria, France, Spain, Holland, Italy, Belgium, Sweden, Norway, Estonia, Turkey, Czech Republic, Iceland, Azerbaijan, South America, Japan, Taiwan and the US. Many of these performances were broadcast live and several were filmed for television.
The orchestra’s first CD, Johan Valentin Meder’s St. Matthew Passion received 5 stars (highest rating) in Fono Forum (Germany), Goldberg (Spain) and the Record Geijsitsu (Japan). It also received excellent reviews in EARLY MUSIC (England) and FANFARE (US).

This has been followed by the highly praised series “Forgotten Treasures” on the ARS Produktion label. This series now stands at eleven recordings of a planned total of fifteen.These include world premiere recordings of works by lesser-known composers including Crusell, Danzi, Kozeluch, Pichl, Vanhal, Wilms, Romberg, Neukomm, Fischer, Kunc, Jeanjean, Petrini, D'Alvimare and Steibelt. The CD of symphonies by Bernhard Romberg received a SUPRSONIC prize. In addition, Die Kölner Akademie has released world premiere recordings of music by Mattheson (which received an Echo Klassik prize) , Ries, Durante, Cherubini, van Bree, Kalliwoda, Neukomm, Graun, Hertel , Telemann and Eberl (nominated for an ICMA prize) for CPO as well as a world premiere recording of the Glöckner/Hellmann reconstruction of J.S. Bach's “St. Mark Passion” for Carus.

In the fall of 2009 the orchestra began recording a complete cycle of the Mozart piano concertos with Ronald Brautigam for the BIS label. All of the CDs have received outstanding reviews internationally, including a 10 rating and editors choice from Luister as well as 5 stars in the BBC music magazine. To date 6 of the planned 11 eleven in the series have been released.

Plans for the 2014-15  season include tours to South America, Mexico and China as well as concerts in Holland, Malta, and Italy. The orchestra will also release 5 recordings of music by Mozart, ETA Hoffmann, Friedrich Witt, Johann Wilhelm Hertel and Johann Agricola.



Michael Alexander Willens, music director of Die Kölner Akademie, studied conducting with John Nelson at the Juilliard School in New York, where he received B.M. and M.M. degrees. He has also studied with Leonard Bernstein at Tanglewood, as well as choral conducting with Paul Vorwerk. Willens’ broad experience has given him an unusual depth of background and familiarity with performance practice styles ranging from baroque, classical and romantic through to contemporary as well as jazz and pop music. 

Mr. Willens has conducted concerts at major concert halls and festivals in Europe, South America, Asia and the United States, receiving the highest critical praise: “The success of the whole owed in large measure to the uncommonly precise, yet never affected gestures of Michael Alexander Willens".

In addition to the standard repertoire, Michael Alexander Willens is dedicated to performing works by lesser-known contemporary American composers and has conducted several world premières, many of which have been broadcast live or filmed for television. He is also keenly interested in re-discovering music from the past and has released over 35 CDs featuring this repertoire. Several of these recordings have been nominated and received awards. They have all received outstanding international reviews, : “Willens achieves an impeccably stylish and enjoyable performance.”  (Gramophone ) ,,...conductor Michael Alexander Willens exploits every bar of the score to fullest expressive effect.  (Fanfare)

In addition to his commitment to Die Kölner Akademie, Michael Alexander Willens has guest conducted orchestras in Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, Brazil and Israel.

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For further information please visit www.koelnerakademie.com