Simon Murphy is an award-winning orchestral conductor and violist with a special focus on music of the 18th and early 19th centuries. He is the founding music director of The Hague’s Baroque orchestra, The New Dutch Academy (NDA).
From a musical family, Murphy started learning violin at the age of four, changing to the viola at age 11. He completed his undergraduate degree in music performance, musicology and fine arts at the University of Sydney, studying the viola with Leonid Volovelsky and early music performance with Hans-Dieter Michatz and Geoffrey Lancaster. Murphy moved to the Netherlands in 1996, where he furthered his education with the leading lights of the Dutch early music movement. He studied Baroque viola with Alda Stuurop and took masterclasses with Lucy van Dael and Sigiswald Kuijken. He has performed extensively with legendary figures including Frans Brüggen and Gustav Leonhardt, in major European authentic instrument ensembles such as The Orchestra of the 18th Century, and between 2000 and 2005 was the violist of The Amsterdam String Quartet.
Performing at the world’s most renowned concert halls and festivals, Murphy has attracted praise from the international media, as well as major industry awards, including the Netherlands’ Edison Music Award, for his fresh and engaging musical approach. Dutch Radio 4 nicknamed him “The Indiana Jones of the Baroque”, while France’s music magazine Diapason reported, “The repertoire-refresher, conductor Simon Murphy radiates joie de vivre. His interpretation distinguishes itself by its enthusiasm and his approach possesses a classic élan, displaying delicate sensitivity.”
Heralded as “a musician with guts: a conductor with the passion and conviction of a born missionary” by the Netherlands’ De Volkskrant, Murphy has won recognition for his dynamic and insightful performances of established orchestral repertoire, as well as for his pioneering work in bringing rediscovered masterworks to life on the concert platform and on disc. Working with both specialist Baroque and modern symphony orchestras, Murphy has established an international reputation for his invigorating conducting and orchestral leadership, described by the BBC Music Magazine as “the best of both worlds”. He has successfully put previously neglected composers, including those of the highly cosmopolitan 18th-century Dutch Symphonic School, firmly back on the international map.
An authority on the early classical symphony, Murphy’s discography includes world première presentations of works by 18th-century symphonists Stamitz, Richter, Abel, Reichardt, Schmitt (“The Dutch Haydn”), Schwindl, Graaf and Zappa (PENTATONE). His live concert performances of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven symphonies have been identified as season highlights and celebrated in a series of live releases by Dutch radio. His ground-breaking recording of Corelli’s Concerti Grossi (PENTATONE) was voted as one of the top five highlights in the history of the Holland Festival of Early Music Utrecht.
Launched at The Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Murphy’s most recent album, JET SET!, sees him in the double role of conductor and soloist in Zelter’s Viola Concerto in E-flat, with Australia’s Limelight Magazine describing the album as “an imaginatively conceived and beautifully executed project”, the UK’s Gramophone singling out Murphy’s violism in the concerto as a “real highlight”, and the Netherlands’ Luister appraising the project as “sparkling and brilliant … an expressive, adventurous, refined and irrefutably radiant recording which succeeds in illuminating 18th-century music from a different point of view.”
Concert touring has taken Murphy through Europe, the US, Canada, Russia, Asia and Australia, with concerts transmitted by the national broadcasters. Together with the NDA, his European festival highlights have included productions for the Händel Festspiele Halle, Bachfest Leipzig, Thüringer Bachwochen, Musikfestspiele Potsdam Sanssouci, Istanbul Music Festival, Roma Europa Festival and the Festivals van Vlaanderen. As a guest conductor, his engagements have ranged from Bach’s B Minor Mass with the State Choir of Latvia in Riga, Handel’s The Water Music with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, to early classical symphonies with the Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra.
Murphy is highly regarded for his creative and practical approach to concert and festival programming. Innovative concert productions include Black Magic, a programme exploring the late 18th-century obsession with the supernatural, and the new stage production Mrs Cornelys’ Entertainments. Currently in development are Murphy’s large-scale, multidisciplinary Garden of Eden and Gothic projects. At the request of the Dutch and Australian governments, Murphy has programmed and performed music for state visits and other major multilateral celebrations, including in The Hague, Brussels, Rome, New York, Ankara, Beijing and Sydney. Between 2012 and 2019, Murphy was curator of the Classical and Jazz Stage at The Hague’s Embassy Festival. Under his watch, the brand-new festival won international acclaim for the quality and diversity of its programming, including receiving the EU’s prestigious EFFE Award multiple times. Murphy is music advisor to a number of organisations including the Netherlands’ Prinsjesfestival.
As a sought-after mentor and educator, Murphy regularly gives masterclasses, workshops and lecture-recitals on topics including historically informed performance. Invitations have included The Royal Conservatorium of Music The Hague, The Royal College of Music Stockholm, Beijing Central Conservatory and The Getty Center Los Angeles.