William Boughton is truly a maestro for modern times—at once demonstrating a profound respect for the origins of classical music, an innate sensibility for where musical tastes are going, and a keen ear for composers at the forefront of shaping those tastes.
Born into a musical family, William’s grandfather (Rutland Boughton) was a composer, his father a professional viola player and his mother a singer. After studying at New England Conservatory (Boston), Guildhall School of Music (London) and Prague Academy as a cellist, he played with the Royal Philharmonic, BBC and London Sinfonietta.
Boughton’s orchestral experiences fueled his passion for conducting—a career path which he first pursued by studying with George Hurst and in turn with Sir Colin Davis. In 1980 he formed the English Symphony Orchestra, developing and evolving the ESO’s repertoire from the Baroque to Viennese classics and eventually on to contemporary music. During his time with the Orchestra, Boughton commissioned over 20 works from such diverse composers as Peter Sculthorpe, John Joubert, Anthony Powers, Michael Berkeley, John Metcalf, Stephen Roberts and Adrian Williams. His close partnership with the ESO reached its pinnacle in 1985 when, as Artistic Director of the Malvern Festival, Boughton collaborated with Sir Michael Tippett by presenting a musical celebration of the composer’s eightieth birthday—a seminal event commemorated by a BBC Omnibus documentary.
Over the course of his work with the ESO, Conductor Boughton built a significant discography of internationally acclaimed recordings on the Nimbus Label—predominantly of English music, several of which reached the Top Ten on the Billboard (USA) Classical Music Charts.
From 1986 – 93 Boughton also served as Artistic & Music Director of Finland’s Jyvaskyla Sinfonia. He toured with the Jyvaskyla Sinfonia to Estonia & Sweden and made two recordings with them of music by Jean Sibelius. Through highly innovative and adventurous programming, he entirely overhauled the orchestra during his 8-year tenure—ultimately developing both their technique and sound while growing Jyvaskyla’s audiences by over 60%.
After leaving Jyvaskyla, Bougton guest-conducted with numerous orchestras including the London Symphony; Philharmonia, San Francisco; Royal Philharmonic; Finnish Radio and Mittel Deutsch Radio—while working with such artists as Nigel Kennedy, Leonidas Kavakos, Emmanuel Ax, Radu Lupu and Viktoria Mullova.
In October 1993, William Boughton was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Coventry University for services to British music. In November 1995, he and the ESO presented a weekend of music celebrating the 60th birthday of English composer Nicholas Maw, marking yet another milestone in Boughton’s championing of contemporary English music. In 1996 William Boughton commenced a second term as Artistic Director of the Malvern Festival.
Boughton’s close friendship with Yehudi Menuhin culminated in his conducting the ESO for a June 3, 1999 memorial service performance at Westminster Abbey for the iconic violinist—as well as for a number of memorial concerts around the world with the Sinfonia Varsovia.
William Boughton was invited to become Artistic Director of The Nimbus Foundation, a capacity in which he served from 2002 – 2008—during which he created the Wyastone Summer Series, held at the Concert Hall on the grounds of the Wyastone Estate. He developed this seasonal event into a major attraction, with many of the performances broadcast by the BBC. The extraordinary caliber of artists Boughton brought to the Wyastone Series included Grigori Sokolov, Angela Hewitt, Jordi Savall, Anoushka Shankar, Dame Felicity Lott, Evelyn Glennie, George Benjamin, London Sinfonietta, Kopelman Quartet, John Lill and many more who regularly appear on the world stage.
2003 saw Boughton spending much of the year conducting opera including a new production of Die Piraten von Penzance for the Vienna Volksoper. In June 2004 he successfully launched the first ESO Elgar Festival in Malvern and Worcester including performances of both the Symphonies, Sea Pictures (Monica Groop), Cello Concerto (Natalie Clein), Violin Concerto (Ilya Gringolts), The Dream of Gerontius (Stephen Chaundy, Monica Groop and Robert Pomakov). All performances were sold out—and received with enormous enthusiasm by audiences and critics, alike.
2005/6 was Boughton’s final Season with the ESO in which they celebrated the Orchestra’s 25th Anniversary by performing a ‘Complete Beethoven Symphony Cycle’—and creating a new series of pre-concert performances of British contemporary music, including works by Birtwistle, Knussen, Watkins, Woolrich, Holloway and Turnage.
William Boughton has participated in a number of high profile arts programs for BBC Television including Elgar – Piano Concerto and Omnibus with Sir Michael Tippett, a radio program about Elgar which was also broadcast in New York, Chicago, Washington and Boston during Spring 2006, and The First Eleven—a series for Classic FM during the 2006 Soccer World Cup.
In July 2007 William Boughton became the 10th Music Director & Conductor of the New Haven Symphony Orchestra (NHSO), with whom he has instituted a Composer in Residence program featuring Augusta Read Thomas, and started a major Walton Project including three recordings on the Nimbus Label. As Conductor of the NHSO, he received an ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming (2011) and critical acclaim for The Walton Project, which Edward Greenfield of Gramophone nominated as Record of the Year (2010). Additionally, Boughton created the NHSO Youth Orchestra, and has welcomed guest performers from other musical genres including multi-instrumentalist, Chris Brubeck—son of the late jazz great and a member of The Dave Brubeck Quartet and Hip-Hop violinist Daniel Bernard Roumain.
Complementing his conducting and recording achievements, William Boughton serves on the Faculty of the Yale School of Music as a Lecturer—and is an Honorary Professor at Central China University, Wuhan, China.
In 2017 Boughton founded the Guilford Performing Arts Festival (USA)—showcasing a wide range of musical genres, poetry, dance, theater and more. This (biennial) event engages the surrounding Connecticut Shoreline community, while demonstrating his vision and passion for innovative American performing arts.
Contemporary composers with whom he has worked and considers essential to the evolving musical landscape include Thea Musgrave, Bernard Rands, Hannah Lash, Augusta Read Thomas and Christopher Theofanidis.
William Boughton resides in Connecticut (USA).