NICHOLAS CLEOBURY is one of Britain’s most experienced and respected conductors. An orchestra and operatic interpreter of flair and imagination, he is also an expert choral conductor, has a passionate commitment to contemporary music and is a brilliant communicator as teacher and lecturer.

“….among this country’s most dynamic and versatile conductors.”

Nicholas Cleobury is Principal Conductor and Founder Director of Sounds New and Principal Conductor of the Oxford Bach Choir. He is Founder Laureate of the Britten Sinfonia.

Nicholas Cleobury has conducted all the major UK orchestras and widely in Europe, Scandinavia, Singapore, South Africa and beyond. He works regularly for the BBC and Classicfm, has appeared at most British Music Festivals, often at the Proms and made many recordings (see DISCOGRAPHY).

He has conducted opera companies from ENO, Glyndebourne and Opera North to Canadian Opera, Chicago Opera Theatre, the Royal Opera Stockholm and extensively for Zurich Opera. He has been Principal Opera Conductor at the Royal Academy of Music and Music Director of Broomhill Opera.

He has made an enormous contribution to the performance and fostering of contemporary music, having worked with many leading ensembles and composers, most notably Michael Tippett, given countless premieres and promoted many young composers. In 1997 he founded Sounds New.

Nicholas Cleobury brings special expertise to choral work, having been Assistant Director at the BBC Singers. He has worked with choirs all over the world, from the Swedish and Danish Radio Choirs, the Berkshire Choral Festival (UK and USA) and numerous major choirs in the UK, including the Royal and Huddersfield Choral Societies.

He has a particular gift and flair for working with young people and students, as conductor, lecturer and teacher, working at most of the UK music colleges, with the Southbank Sinfonia and British Youth Opera.

He is an Honorary RAM and Fellow of Christ Church University Canterbury.




Nicholas Cleobury’s experience with orchestras is vast. In the UK he has conducted: all the BBC Orchestras; Bournemouth Symphony; Brighton Philharmonic; Britten Sinfonia (Founder Laureate); City of Birmingham Symphony; City of London Sinfonia; English Chamber Orchestra; English String Orchestra; Guildford Philharmonic; Halle Orchestra; London Mozart Players; London Philharmonic; London Symphony; Orchestra of the Swan (Associate Director); Oxford Philomusica; Northern Sinfonia; Philharmonia; Royal Liverpool Philharmonic; Royal Philharmonic; Royal Scottish National Orchestra; Scottish Chamber Orchestra; SouthBank Sinfonia; Ulster Orchestra.

Nicholas Cleobury’s work with the Orchestra of the Swan as Associate Director for three years included appearances at many British Festivals, an Arts Council tour celebrating the work of Michael Tippett and first performances of works by Jo Cutler, Tansy Davis, Joe Duddell, Dobrinka Tabakova and Errollyn Wallen.

“This concert marked the first appearance of Nicholas Cleobury as Associate Director…given Cleobury’s affinity with English music and the ensemble’s in depth exploration of Tippett, it seemed to auger well for the players. Cleobury elicited a vibrant sound and a real spring to the rhythm.”

Founder Artistic Director in 1992 of the Britten Sinfonia, Nicholas Cleobury’s dedication to this fine ensemble contributed to its international success. Under his direction, Britten Sinfonia performed many outstanding well-received concerts all over East Anglia and throughout the UK, including the BBC Proms.

“The romance (Finzi) revealed Cleobury and the Britten Sinfonia at their sensitive best.”

Nicholas Cleobury has made many critically acclaimed CDs, including first recordings of Richard Rodney Bennett and Frank Bridge. His Strauss recording with David Pyatt won a Gramophone Award and his Britten Song Cycles with John Mark Ainsley won critical acclaim. The Mozart Clarinet Concerto was voted classicfm’s Number 1 Easter Choice. Since 2004 he has held the title of Founder Laureate.

“High praise is due to Cleobury who seems to have found even more nuances in the orchestral parts of all three works than his predecessors.”

“This was music (Beethoven 8th Symphony Queen Elizabeth Hall) of iron sinew, in Cleobury’s hands, fearsomely strong but nimble.”

“Cleobury stamped his mark on Stravinsky’s Symphony in C in a memorable performance. Where some conductors make this neo-classical masterpiece sound dry, Cleobury found the wit and textural clarity and delivered the outer movements with blistering bite.”



Nicholas Cleobury has worked widely in the opera house and was Principal Conductor at the Royal Academy of Music and Music Director of Broomhill Opera. He has conducted with many opera companies and festivals including: Aldeburgh Festival; Arcal (Paris); British Youth Opera; Camden Festival; Canadian Opera; Chelsea Opera Group; Chicago Opera Theater; English Bach Festival; English National Opera; Flanders Opera; Glyndebourne Festival Opera; Gothenburg Opera; Hamburg Opera; Kent Opera; Malmo Opera; Opera 80; Orkney Festival; Stockholm Royal Opera; Two Moors Festival; Welsh National Opera.

He has also conducted extensively at Zurich Opera, where his productions have included: Die Entfuhrung; Le Grand Macabre; Harley (World Premiere); Leonora; Le Vin Herbe; Peter Grimes; Where the wild things are; Die Zauberflote. He has also conducted numerous ballets, including works by Berg, von Bose (World Premiere), Debussy, Glass, Ligeti, Prokofiev and Stravinsky.

“In the pit Briton Nicholas Cleobury, with a refined ear and sensitive hand-playing of complete transparency and partnership with the joys on stage.”

“Harley succeeded thanks to the magisterial direction of the contemporary music specialist Nicholas Cleobury, leading the Orchestra of Zurich Opera in top form.”



Nicholas Cleobury brings a number of special gifts to contemporary music, both as conductor and communicator. He has worked with composers around the world and given countless premieres (see REPERTOIRE). In particular, he has worked closely with Richard Rodney Bennett, George Benjamin, Harrison Birtwistle, Jonathan Dove, Jonathan Harvey, Hans Werner Henze, Robin Holloway, Georgy Ligeti, James Macmillan, Colin Matthews, David Matthews, Peter Maxwell Davies, Paul Patterson, Poul Ruders, Giles Swayne, John Tavener, Mark Antony Turnage, John Woolrich and numerous young composers. He recently worked with Pierre Boulez at the Birmingham Conservatoire, conducting works by Messiaen, Stockhausen and student composers.

"The authoritative playing of the Aquarius Ensemble (Birtwistle “Punch and Judy” at Wien Modern) under Nicholas Cleobury…surely the discovery of Wien Modern."

He has conducted numerous leading contemporary music ensembles including: Aquarius (Founder Conductor); all the BBC Orchestras; Birmingham Contemporary Music Group; Britten Sinfonia; Die Reihe/Vienna; Guildhall School of Music; London Sinfonietta; Manson Ensemble – Royal Academy of Music; Opera Nova/Zurich.

SOUNDS NEW – Founded by Nicholas Cleobury in 1997.
With his worldwide experience as a conductor championing contemporary scores, Nicholas Cleobury often encounters bewilderment, misunderstanding and even hostility to new music. Sounds New brings this wealth of new music to people in an approachable and understandable manner. It has had great success with people of all ages, reaching over 5,000 school children across a broad spectrum of creative projects and bringing older students and adults to music they thought was “not for them”.

Nicholas Cleobury and Sounds New have hosted extensive residencies with many leading composers, including Richard Rodney Bennett, Harrison Birtwistle, Peter Maxwell Davies, Jonathan Harvey, Magnus Lindberg, James Macmillan, David Matthews, John McCabe, Paul Patterson, Poul Ruders, Robert Saxton, John Tavener and Mark-Anthony Turnage, and nurtured countless young composers too.

Soloists have included: Django Bates; James Bowman; Paul Crossley; Evelyn Glennie; John Harle; Rolf Hind; Joanna MacGregor and Rafael Wallfisch. Ensembles have included: the BBC Singers; Britten Sinfonia; Fretwork; the Maggini Quartet; Onyx Brass; Orchestra of the Swan; the Scottish Ensemble; the Southbank Sinfonia and the Wallace Collection.

Many youth groups have also enjoyed participating in Sounds New, notably: Dance Warehouse; Guildhall School of Music & Drama; Kent Music School; Live Music Now; the Orpheus Centre for young disabled artists; Royal Academy of Music Manson Ensemble; the Royal School for Deaf Children (Margate); as well as numerous school ensembles.

Nicholas Cleobury is now Founder and Principal Conductor of Sounds New, continuing his work with the Festival he founded, conducting the opening and closing concerts in 2007 in Canterbury Cathedral.

“…Nicholas Cleobury (with the Southbank Sinfonia) was an informative and passionate compere and exceptional conductor.”



“A highly sympathetic reading (Durufle Requiem – BBC Concert Orchestra & BBC Singers), taking full advantage of the resonant cathedral acoustic.”

Nicholas Cleobury has conducted a wealth of choirs and choruses including the BBC Singers, City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus and Glyndebourne Festival Chorus, in repertoire ranging from early music to some of today’s most challenging and notable contemporary vocal scores.

He has conducted many leading chamber choirs including: BBC Singers (Regular guest and Assistant Director 1977 – 1980); Danish Radio Choir; English Bach Festival Choir; Guildford Camerata; Netherlands Chamber Choir; Netherlands Radio Choir; New Israel Vocal Ensemble; Schola Cantorum of Oxford (Director 1973 – 1977); Swedish Radio Choir.

He has conducted numerous choruses in the UK, including: Belfast Philharmonic; Brighton Philharmonic; Bournemouth Symphony; CBSO; Edinburgh Choral Union; Halle Choir; Huddersfield Choral Society; Leicester Philharmonic; London Choral Society; Northern Sinfonia; Norwich Festival; Royal Choral Society; Royal Liverpool Philharmonic.

He regularly conducts for the Berkshire Choral Festival (USA and UK) and many other choirs including: Malmo; Melbourne Chorale; Odense; Orfeon Donosstiara/San Sebastian; Sonderborg; Soweto and Springs Township Choirs.

“Cleobury inspired the forces to even greater things in a vivid Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast: bright brass, terrific woodwinds, keen strings and a choir in splendid voice. What a performance! What an achievement!”

Nicholas Cleobury has been Principal Conductor of the Oxford Bach Choir since 1997. Under his guidance, the Choir has continued its tradition of performing not only well-known repertoire but also of supporting new music. Among these new works are notably Nicholas Maw’s Hymnus (originally commissioned for performance by the Choir for its centenary in 1996 and later with Nicholas Cleobury recorded for ASV), a performance of David Matthews’ Vespers and the world premiere of Martin Butler’s Two Rivers. Under Nicholas Cleobury they continue to give memorable performances in the Sheldonian Theatre. In 2010 he will give the World Premiere of Bob Chilcott’s Requiem.

"Conductor Nicholas Cleobury loved every bar of this music and his enthusiasm was almost overwhelming as he elicited a non-stop stream of nuance and subtlety from soloists, choir and orchestra."

"The tone for the evening was set with Brahms' Tragic Overture, delivered with immaculate musicality and expressiveness. The Requiem... hard work was instantly obvious in the strong, dramatic opening, and the pure vibrant sound, which they managed to sustain throughout."

“From the very start of the Bach Choir’s performance of Handel’s Messiah, I felt as though I were hearing this music almost for the first time. The whole piece sparkled with clarity and freshness as though it had been taken apart, scrubbed and reassembled. Nicholas Cleobury directed tirelessly, with barely a detail escaping his attention. All performers contributed hugely. The English Chamber Orchestra played with characteristic brilliance. Their phrasing had the clarity and lightness that this style of music requires, but the use of modern instruments gave the sounds warmth and fullness.”



“Nicholas Cleobury’s account of this prodigious orchestral showpiece (Elliott Carter’s Concerto for Orchestra) connected up part to whole at every point and conveyed a sense of the work’s terrific overall sweep (Royal Academy of Music Orchestra).”

Work with student and youth orchestras is an important part of Nicholas Cleobury’s work. He has conducted the Australian Youth Orchestra and the London Schools Symphony Orchestra, the Northern Junior Philharmonic, the Hampshire, Leicester and Merseyside Youth Orchestras and also the Elizabeth College Summer Orchestral Course in Guernsey.

Extending his interest in youth ensembles, he has recently enjoyed collaborations with the Birmingham Conservatoire, Cambridge University Chamber Orchestra, the Guildhall School of Music & Drama New Music Ensemble, the Manson Ensemble of the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal Scottish Academy of music and Drama.

Since 2004 he has enjoyed a special relationship with the Southbank Sinfonia, particularly working with them on classical style and contemporary music, with such composers as Richard Rodney Bennett, Peter Maxwell Davies, James Macmillan and Mark Anthony Turnage.

In 2006 he was Artistic Director of Mozart Now (part of the Salzburg Mozart Ways), a year-long programme of events celebrating the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth and his visit to Canterbury in 1765. Nicholas Cleobury directed several projects, including a major composition course, a contemporary music performance course, events for children, the creative re-finishing of Mozart’s Requiem by young composers and the launch of Mozart Now Ensemble for amateur and professional musicians, culminating in a new version of the Mozart Requiem in Canterbury Cathedral in December 2006.

“...the real achievement was musical (Tippett’s The Knot Garden). Conducted with conspicuous organizational skill by Cleobury, the points of genius in the score were well served by both the orchestra and the cast of young professionals (Royal Academy of Music Orchestra).”