The founding director of the Hilliard Ensemble and Theatre of Voices, Paul Hillier is regarded as one of the most versatile artists. His career has embraced singing, conducting, composing, and writing about music.
His recordings, over a hundred and fifty CDs including seven solo recitals for harmonia mundi, Dacapo Records, Ondine among others have earned worldwide acclaim and won numerous prizes. In 2007 he was awarded a Grammy for Best Choral Recording of Arvo Pärt’s Da Pacem, followed by his second Grammy with David Lang's The Little Match Girl Passion with Theatre of Voices in 2010.
The British early music icon was Principal Conductor of the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir from 2001 to 2007 and holds this position with Ars Nova Copenhagen since 2003. In 2008 he became Chief Conductor of Chamber Choir Ireland and was appointed artistic director of Coro Casa da Musica in Porto.
Hillier regularly collaborates with the leading chamber choirs as the Danish National Radio Choir, NDR Rundfunkchor, Rundfunkchor Berlin, ChorWerk Ruhr, Houston Chamber Choir and orchestras as London Sinfonietta, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Concerto Copenhagen, Athelas Sinfonietta, Irish Baroque Orchestra, Ensemble Remix, Concerto Palatino, Copenhagen Philharmonic, South Denmark Philharmonic, Taiwan Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, Orquestra Sinfónica do Porto among others.
Engagements have led him to festivals such as the Bergen International Festival, RheinVokal Festival, Musikfest Berlin, Niedersächsische Musiktage, BBC Proms, Edinburgh, Kilkenny Arts and Hong Kong Arts Festival etc.
Paul Hillier enjoyed close collaborations with many composers and has led numerous first performances by Arvo Pärt, Steve Reich, Terry Riley, John Cage, Ingram Marshall, John Adams, David Lang, Michael Gordon, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Heiner Goebbels, Kaija Saariaho, Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, Helena Tulve, Sunleif Rasmussen, Jóhann Jóhannsson and many more.
In addition, he is closely working with the Kronos Quartet, Peter Sellars, Bobbie McFarren, Tim Rushton and Richard Alston.
Paul Hillier was born in Dorchester and studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. He has taught at the University of California and from 1996-2003 was Director of the Early Music Institute at Indiana University. During 2009 he was Artist-in-Residence at Yale University’s Institute for Sacred Music.
His books about Arvo Pärt and Steve Reich are published by Oxford University Press. In 2008 he also created his own music publishing company, Theatre of Voices Edition (www.tov-edition.com).
In 2013 Paul Hillier was made Knight of Dannebrog (the Danish knighthood) by Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II of Denmark. For his services to choral music he was awarded the Order of the White Star of Estonia in 2007 and the Order of the British Empire in 2006.
Season 2019/20Read more
Paul Hillier conducts the Hungarian Radio Choir in Budapest on 30 April with the programme "500 years of British Sacred Music".
Paul Hillier conducts Ars Nova Copenhagen and Theatre of Voices joined by special guests to celebrate his 70th birthday in a concert in Copenhagen on 9 February. The ensembles perform music by Maxwell Davies, Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, MacMillan, Cage, Strawinsky among others.
Paul Hilllier conducts the Coro Casa da Musica in a programme with Gabrieli, Gesualdo, Ockeghem, Ortiz and Ligeti's Three phantasies in Porto on 23 September.
Paul Hillier conducts the Chamber Choir Ireland at Kilkenny Arts Festival on 18 August with a programme of music by Palestrina, Isaac, Brahms, J.S. Bach among others.
Paul Hillier conducts the Chamber Choir Ireland in Kilkenny and Dublin on 8 and 9 December presenting Hugo Distler's The Christmas Story and works by Gerald Barry, Rhona Clarke, Eric Sweeney, Eoghan Desmond and Frank Corcoran.
Paul Hillier is on the rostrum of the Osnabrück Symphony and ChorWerk Ruhr in two concerts at Niedersächsische Musiktage in Osnabrück and Verden on 2 and 4 September conducting works by Arvo Pärt, Thomas Tallis, J.S. Bach, György Ligeti and Peteris Vasks.
Paul Hillier leads J.S.Bach's Matthew Passion with the Finnish Baroque Orchestra, Suomen Laulu Choir and six soloists (Else Torp, Iris Oja, Mati Turi among others) in Helsinki on 13 April.
Paul Hillier conducts the programme "Nocturne" featuring works by Galina Grigorjeva, Nino Janjgava, Lera Auerbach
and Roxanna Panufnik with the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir in two concerts in Tartu on 24 March and in Tallinn on 25 March.Read more
Paul Hillier conducts the Portuguese first performance of Sir Harrison Birtwistle's „Three Latin Motets“ as well as his own, gripping transcriptions
of John Dowland's „Lachrimae“ and works by John Taverner, Thomas Tallis and John Dunstable with the Coro Casa da Musica Porto in Porto on 22 January.Read more
Paul Hillier conducts the NDR Rundfunkchor Hamburg in two concerts on 20 and 21 December in Hamburg with German, English and Latin Christmas songs, church songs
with old melodies from Sweden and Finland as well as own arrangements. NDR Kultur broadcasts the concert on 25 December from 20:00-22:00 (CET).Read more
The new CD by Paul Hillier, Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and Theatre of Voices with a portrait of Galina Grigorjeva for Ondine Records has been chosen as CD of the week by www.klassik-heute.de.
Paul Hillier conducts the NDR Radio Choir Hamburg in three A cappella concerts with an exciting Nordic programme of works by Askell Masson, Jean Sibelius,
Edvard Grieg, Edward Elgar and Per Norgard. Concert dates: 29 January Lübeck, 30 January Schwerin and 30 January Hamburg.Read more
Paul Hillier conducts the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Tallinn Chamber Orchestra and soloists on 9 September at the Nargen Festival in Tallinn in an entire Arvo Pärt programme: Miserere, Festina lente und Sarah was ninety years old.
Paul Hillier conducts a programme of works of the renowned, Ukrainian composer Galina Grigorjeva in Tallinn on 18 January. The high-level concert brings together two top vocal groups, the Estonian Philharmonic
Chamber Choir and Theatre of Voices as well as the Estonian YXUS Ensemble.
The recording is available on the Estonian Classic Radio archive.Read more
Paul Hillier was invited by the Diaghilev Festival Perm (Artistic Director: Teodor Currentzis) to conduct the Chamber Choir Ireland and the choir of Perm Opera, MusicAeterna. On 28 June he led an a cappella
programme with excerpts of Arvo Pärt's Kanon Pokajanen, motets by J.S. Bach, Brahms and Bruckner as well as contemporary Irish pieces.Read more
Paul Hillier had devised a truly unique evening programme for the Elbphilharmonie debut of the Theatre of Voices. He confronted liturgical chants from the 13th to the 15th century directly with choral works of the 20th and 21st century, and exposed the strange novelty and intriguing audacity of epochs that separated many centuries. [...]Hillier's angelic vocalists unexpectedly turned the hall into a cathedral. [...]The final hit of the exciting evening was provided by the American Michael Gordon, co-founder of the New York composer group "Bang on a can", with his first commissioned work "A Western. […] Well done!
Lutz Lesle, Die Welt Hamburg, 15.01.2019
Buxtehude's own chorale-based trio setting of Jesu, meine Freude is sung and played beautifully. [..] and Hillier's lovely performance is on a par with the very finest that the Buxtehude discography has to offer.
Gramophone, David Vickers, 01.07.2016
There are few artists as well equipped to perform this repertoire than Paul Hillier and his Theatre of Voices ensemble, here consisting of seven vocalists and eight instrumentalists. [..] The singing and playing are superb in every way: technically secure and polished, bold, confident, colorful and expressive.
Fanfare, James A. Altena, 29.07.2016
This new album from the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir reinforces their position as one of the world’s leading vocal ensembles. Paul Hillier directs them through a deeply satisfying survey of music by the Ukrainian-born Estonian composer Galina Grigorjeva (Ondine Records).
www.gramophone.co.uk, Malcom Riley, 01.04.2016
Familiar yet strange, archaic but modern, these deeply felt choral pieces by Galina Grigorjeva are brought radiantly to life in this magnificent recording.If you are unfamiliar with the music of the Estonian composer, these beautiful new recordings will come as a revelation. But then if you did know her music, you’d have bought this album already – it’s that good. With a sound world that in places seems to contemplate the immensity of the cosmos, it’s an engrossing and richly rewarding experience, and it’s brought radiantly to life on this album with fine solo performances and immaculate ensemble work Paul Hillier.
Primephonic, Kevin Painting, 27.04.2016
The NDR Choir blossoms under Paul Hillier on a Nordic theme night and coped effortlessly the most difficult parts. (...). Particularly touching was Jean Sibelius' Rakastava which blossomed gentle and noble under Hilliers hands.
Die Welt, Lutz Lesle, 02.02.2016
Choral works with the title "Northern Lights" assigned to the northern European culture were performed by the NDR Choir. The three pieces by Edward Elgar were presented with exemplary articulation and slender tone. The basic feature of the evening was the round tone of the choir (...). The suggestive power that can be gained, not least from the literal meaning, was stunning. The audience thanked the NDR Choir for its virtuosic mastery.
Lübecker Nachrichten, Dieter Kroll, 31.01.2016
Paul Hillier is an acknowledged expert of Arvo Pärt on the podium. (…) Arvo Pärt’s sound creations are spiritually motivated, the texts which he creates are deeply religious. The prayer “Salve nos” raises from gentle pleading to urgent calls - with choral sounds beautifully unfold. (…) The eight singers, vocally well equipped, articulate consistently comprehensible, whether they sing Spanish, English, Latin, German or Church Slavic. Their interpretations of music sound clear and pure – dissolving in pleasing harmonies from striking dissonances.
Gmünder Tagespost, Beate Krannich, 03.08.2015
This "Scandinavian Cantatas" disc by Dietrich Buxtehude is an outstanding success. It offers an adventurous programme of lovely music, most beautifully performed and recorded. The six singers of the Theatre of Voices are all excellent and form an exceptionally fine-sounding ensemble, and the small period-instrument TOV Band are just as good. They are directed by Paul Hillier with admirable style and commitment.
Stephen Midgley, 10/2013
Under artistic director Paul Hillier the formidable ensemble Theatre of Voices display a harmonious and pleasant evening. With tonal variety, versatility and energetic power, Theatre of Voices made the music radiate brightly and billiantly.
Potsdamer Neueste Nachrichten, 24.06.2013
Paul Hillier's experience shows particularly in his unobtrusively natural pacing of the music… That balance is struck perfectly in Hillier's interpretation, which is gripping from start to finish …..This is, in short, a performance of the highest calibre
Under the direction of Paul Hillier, who already conducted the New York premiere in 2007, the Pulitzer-Preis award winning composition clearly intoned by the Rundfunkchor Berlin left a strong impact.
Neue Musikzeitung, 01.10.2012
Choral master Paul Hillier knows the music of Arvo Pärt as well as anyone, having been for the composer's early ECM recordings, written one of the few books on him and, lately, led a series of excellent Pärt surveys for Harmonia Mundi. Here, Hillier offers an intimate collection of vocal and instrumental chamber pieces that range across the Estonian's career, anchored by the Stabat Mater of 1985 – a contemporary classic that stands with the greatest works devoted to the "grieving mother", from Josquin to Poulenc, beautifully sung and recorded.
Paul Hillier's selection of works by Arvo Pärt is featuring several instrumental works alongside chamber scale as choral works. The artists' glorious singing will elicit shivers of delight. The string quartet work Solfeggio fascinates as an example of Pärt's earlier style. As an introduction to Pärt's world, this could hardly be bettered.
The Arts Desk, 05/2012
This recording leaves the listener speechless with admiration. Hillier achieves great work with his two ensembles Theatre of Voices and Ars Nova Copenhagen: This music sounds so transparent in its polyphony, in its intonation so immediate and in its often little deviations so delicate. Hillier conveys a suggestive way of letting music sound simple and natural. His choir's voices hold a core that even in a most gentle way does never sound smugly at all. In the end the music fades like sounds of a bell. This recording offers new and familiar facets as well as festive and devout elements. An a-capella choir seldom appears with such a successful combination of dedication and tonal beauty, of meditative power and unintrusive inner refulgence.
wdr3.de TonArt, Christoph Vratz, 06.12.2011
Für das elbphilharmonische Debüt des Theatre of Voices hatte Paul Hillier ein wahrhaft unikales Abendprogramm ersonnen. Indem er liturgische Gesänge des 13. bis 15. Jahrhunderts unmittelbar mit Chorwerken des 20./21. Jahrhunderts konfrontierte, legte er die befremdliche Neuheit und faszinierende Kühnheit von Epochen bloß, die viele Jahrhunderte voneinander trennen.[…] Hilliers engelstimmige Vokalisten verwandelten den Saal unversehens in eine Kathedrale. […] Den finalen Knüller des aufregenden Abends lieferte der anwesende Amerikaner Michael Gordon, Mitbegründer der New Yorker Komponistengruppe „Bang on a can“, mit seinem uraufgeführten Auftragswerk „A Western. […] Well done!
Lutz Lesle, Die Welt Hamburg, 15.01.2019
Ars Nova Copenhagen
Carl Nielsen, Niels W. Gade, Wilhelm Stenhammar, Vagn Holmboe, Line Tjørnhøj
Dacapo records (2017)
Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Theatre of Voices, YXUS Quartet
Paul Hillier (conductor)