Bo Holten

b. 1948



Bo Holten is known for his work as both composer and conductor. He is especially acknowledged as an expert in early vocal polyphony and his list of works comprises more than 100 pieces.

Bo Holten is extrovert both as conductor and composer. At a time when experimental composition strategies and a new material consciousness pervade the new music, Bo Holten stubbornly insists on the tonal and the musical practice and creates from these a music of major importance and great integrity.

As composer, Bo Holten has expressed himself successfully across the genre spectrum, however, he seems particularly interested in opera and vocal music. His operas, including The Royal Physician’s Visit (2008) and Gesualdo - Shadows (2014) are some of the most acclaimed and performed Danish operas of recent times.

Critical Acclaim
...Composer/conductor Bo Holten is a significant figure in contemporary choral music. With his founding of the vocal ensemble Ars Nova in 1979, he brought both renaissance and modern music to the attention of new audiences, while with his own music he showed how you can create vital new sounds without resorting to the latest avant-garde music or clever compositional gimmick - Classics Today

... [Bo Holten] entertains with simple dramaturgy and grabs the audience with clean melodic lines - Henrik Friis, Politiken

...Bo Holten is one the hardest-working composers and conductors in Danish music culture – to me it seems almost incomprehensible that he is self-taught in both areas – Peter Dürrfeld, Kristeligt Dagblad


After Studies in Musicology at the university of Copenhagen and bassoon at the Royal Academy of Music Bo Holten worked some years as music teacher and as critic at various newspapers in Copenhagen. He established the vocal group Ars Nova in 1979 with whom he since then made app 450 concerts; the works performed include almost 120 world premieres. Bo Holten and Ars Nova have recorded 15 CDs with both contemporary and early music. 

Apart from conducting Ars Nova Bo Holten has conducted most Danish professional symphony orchestras in both own and other composers' works and he was appointed Guest conductor of the BBC Singers of London in 1991. Recently Bo Holten and Ars Nova have parted and Holten has established a new outstanding vocal group, Musica Ficta, who already have proved to be a dominant factor in Danish musical life. 

Bo Holten has composed more than 100 works of which 2 symphonies, 5 solo concertos, several works for chorus and orchestra, 2 operas and 2 musicals deserve a mention. Furthermore a number of works for chamber ensemble, 3 song cycles and some pieces for percussion ensemble. Besides music to several films, TV-series, jingles etc. The works for chorus with or without instruments have a dominant position in his production. 

As composer and musician Bo Holten is thoroughly extrovert and it is important to him that the music is understandable and has an influence on people, and according to him musical composition is always an activity which is part of concrete musical practice. 

Bo Holten was a member of the State's Music Council 1979-83 and chairman of the music committee of the State's Arts Council 1990-93 and has received several distinguished awards including the Herman Sandby Prize 1980, Rostrum of Composers, Paris 1982, Danish Composers Association's Anniversary Grant 1983, The Art Council's Production Reward 1984 and the Mogens Wöldike Prize 1984.



25th July 2024

Nordisk Kammermusikfestival Blæserkvintet; Nordisk Kammermusikfestival Ensemble
Bo Holten
Hillerød, Denmark