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On Wagner: Siegfried, Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe

“If one wanted to name one constant in the new Karlsruhe Ring, the answer would be very clear: it is the Badische Staatskapelle and its Music Director Justin Brown that impress in the cycle with a well-rounded musical foundation of varied and carefully produced colours that is always very singer-friendly. This bears witness to the great experience the orchestra has with the works of Richard Wagner. Laying it on thick is not Justin Brown’s approach, which is not to say that swelling symphonic dynamics were lacking. Once again in the third part of the Ring he concentrated on achieving fine-grained orchestral playing with enthralling attack, while taking care that the individual instrumental groups were all clearly audible. … Surely very few upper mid-level houses have such a trump card up their sleeve as this orchestra when it comes to performing Wagner on an internationally competitive level.”

-J.M. Wienecke, Das Opernglas, 7.3.17

“The performance was a triumph for Music Director Justin Brown and the Badische Staatskapelle. One has to travel far to hear Wagner of this quality. Everything was in place: the details as well as the overarching structure, the fine judgement of the quiet, introspective passages as well as of the huge, symphonic outbursts, the sensitive accompaniment of the singers as well as the insight into what stands behind the notes.”

– Sigrid Feeser, Die Rheinpfalz, 6.12.17

On Avner Dorman: Wahnfried (World Premiere), Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe

“The music develops an irresistible undertow.  Justin Brown’s totally committed conducting encourages brilliant playing from the Badische Staatskapelle, and achieves a perfect realisation of this virtuosic score.”

Hamburger Abendblatt (dpa), 1.29.17

“The succession of images on the stage is mirrored by the distinctive musical direction of Justin Brown, who manages the constant stylistic shifts to great effect.”

– Gerhard R. Koch, Frankfurter Allgemeiner Zeitung, 1.30.17

“Justin Brown, the Wagner specialist and Karlsruhe’s Music Director, conducted “Wahnfried” as if it were a masterpiece – no, he conducted it simply as a masterpiece, with dedication, burning intensity and perfectly moulded orchestral and choral sound.”

– Hans-Klaus Jungheinrich, Opernwelt, March, 2017

“That Richard Wagner’s name is, despite his status as artistic pioneer, inseparable from racism, hate and intolerance, is shown clearly by the new political opera “Wahnfried”. The project is making an international furore, taken up amongst others by the American media.  Intendant Peter Spuhler and Music Director Justin Brown have succeeded in making the great composer’s ideas, life and works the focus of a no-holds-barred critical take on the history of the period.”

– Elisabeth Meier, Opus Magazin, February, 2017

“Conductor Justin Brown presides over this complex score so compellingly, that the dramaturgy of the piece is at all times convincing.  Without doubt, here stands an expert at the rostrum, as did once his predecessor Hermann Levi, who is present throughout the piece, and whose name has now been given to the square in front of the theatre.”

– Christiane Franke, O-Ton Magazin, 1.28.17

“Justin Brown relishes every crash and bang, but is equally alive to the soft, subtle and subversive elements.  It’s a huge Wagner Opera alright, but mashed up with satirical intelligence.”

– Manuel Brug, Die Welt, 2.3.17

“The Karlsruhe Music Director Justin Brown, involved from the very start with the genesis of the work, presents a thunderous reading of the score, pointed in the melodies, punchy in the often highly charged rhythms.”

– Heinz Koch, Badische Zeitung, 1.31.17

“The top playwriting team of Luz Hübner and Sarah Nemitz wrote the libretto, Israeli composer Avner Dorman set it to music (his first opera), Bayreuth director Keith Warner staged, and Ring-conductor Justin Brown directed.  The performance was such a decisive triumph as to provide a perfect pretext for future “Wahnfried” revivals.”

– Judith von Sternburg, Frankfurter Rundschau, 2.4.17

On Wagner: Die Walküre, Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe

“[Justin Brown] has built a well-deserved reputation as one of today’s leading Wagner conductors.  Together with his Badische Staatskapelle, he offers a flawless “Ring”.  The woodwind soloists with their dark Wagner-colours resound delicately, while strings and brass provide the foundation as well as highly cultivated fortissimo outbursts, never covering the singers.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (dpa), 12.12.16

“It is the excellent conducting which carries the day in this second instalment of the new “Ring.” From the first bar of the opening thunderstorm, Justin Brown’s intention is clear: a taut, rhythmically precise interpretation in which all details are laid bare.  The conductor and his musicians have the necessary stamina for Wagner’s long-breathed soundscapes.  The turning points of the tragedy are trenchantly sculpted, the great dynamic climaxes are approached with care, and the many lyrical scenes are unfurled with patience and much expression.”

– Heinz W. Koch, Opernwelt, February, 2017

 “In the pit, Justin Brown and his Badische Staatskapelle were in great form: pulsatingly tense from the start of the storm-prelude, always sensitive in accompanying the singers, triumphantly ravishing in the blossoming of the Wälsung-bond, beguilingly enraptured in the magical moments of the Todesverkündigung or Wotan’s Farewell.  Justin Brown is in Ring-mode, and the orchestra follows him both in the small details and over the large spans. Bravi!”

– Joachim Lange, Neue Musikzeitung, 12.13.16

“Justin Brown’s conducting is redemptive for its taut freshness. The Badische Staatskapelle plays with crisp attention, the pacing is intelligent and compelling, and the whole rollicks along with a momentum that would otherwise be missing from the evening.”

– Financial Times London, 12.13.16

 “We have already repeatedly praised the high level of the orchestra, heir to a long Wagnerian tradition. The execution of Die Walküre confirms it again, and both the musicians and their incumbent chief Justin Brown are beyond criticism. Without further comment: this is Wagner at its best!”

Accent 4, 1.18.17

 “Justin Brown takes the chamber music character of much of the “Walküre” very seriously.  One has seldom heard Wagner’s music played so gently, so intimately.  Of course, Brown unleashes plenty of power and pathos in the second Act prelude, or in the “Ride of the Valkyries”, but the singers never have to fight to be heard.  The balance is outstanding. When at the beginning Siegmund’s flight is musically evoked, the tremolo in the violins is raw, the fast quarter notes in the basses sound harried and brusque.  Brown achieves a graphic opening to an evening in which music and staging converge, and which for long stretches conjures a spell from which one can scarcely escape.”

– Georg Rudiger, Badische Zeitung, 12.14.16

 “Justin Brown contrasted exquisitely the hefty orchestral outbursts of the superb brass ensemble with marvellously intimate passages of warm string tone, and on top of that showed himself to be an excellent accompanist to the singers.”

– Gerhard Hoffmann, Der Neue Merker, 2.11.17

“Glowing and fast-paced, the “Walküre” surged forth from the orchestra pit of the Badische Staatskapelle.  Under General Music Director Justin Brown, Wagner’s musical language seemed as fresh and free from dusty tradition as did Yuval Sharon’s production.”

– Nike Luber, Badisches Tagblatt, 12.13.16

“A quite exceptional musical realisation. Justin Brown unleashed overwhelmingly powerful emotions from the Staatskapelle.  He goaded the orchestra to a luscious, full-toned yet sophisticated and nuanced Wagner-sound of luxury class. There was no shortage of goose-bumps-inducing moments.”

– Frank Pommer, Die Rheinpfalz, 12.13.16

 “[Justin Brown] showed once again his superb ability to illuminate Wagner’s score to the depths, and found on this occasion the perfect balance between force, which never overpowered the singers, and delicate colouration.”

– Isabel Steppeler, BNN, 12.13.16

On Wagner: Das Rheingold, Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe

“Justin Brown… proves an ideal Wagner interpreter, his performance symphonic, well-paced, and sensitively balanced.”

– Lotte Thaler, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 7.13.16

“Justin Brown, who has already conducted the Ring several times in Karlsruhe, makes of Rheingold exactly what Wagner wanted: a conversation piece with flowing parlando and pointed accents. It often sounds like chamber music. Brown not infrequently holds the orchestra back, in order to be able then to unleash the crucial dramatic moments to great passionate effect. This is a powerfully eloquent Wagner, the conductor eliciting from the Staatskapelle a taut and many-hued performance.”

– Karl Georg Berg, Die Rheinpfalz, 7.11.16

“Justin Brown conducted with a wonderful sense of flow, masterful in his command of time and space, rhetorically brilliant, full toned and intensely coloured.”

– Karl Harb, Salzburger Nachrichten, 7.16.16

“Justin Brown presented a fascinating traversal of Rheingold; he keeps the score constantly in flux, closely following the singers’ phrasing, since for him this music is shaped by the conversation of heroes, or rather anti-heroes.”

– Eckhard Britsch, Mannheimer Morgen, 7.19.16

“GMD Justin Brown presented an interpretation full of life, rich with colours and brisk tempos. Brown deftly avoided covering the singers, so they were able to project without forcing.  The Karlsruhe Rheingold is musically flawless.”

– Nike Luber, Badisches Tagblatt, 7.11.16

“The musical side of the evening is of high quality.  The conducting of Karlsruhe Music Director Justin Brown is light-footed, luminous, very precise and responsive to the parlando of the text.”

– Susanne Benda, Stuttgarter Zeitung, 7.11.16

“Musically the evening is on the highest level.  The Badische Staatskapelle under Justin Brown binds the individual scenes together with a broad, epic soundscape;  they drive the fast-moving drama forwards, allowing the characterful singer ensemble to shine.”

– Christine Gehringer, Pamina Magazin, 7.19.16

On Wagner: Tristan und Isolde, Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe

“Justin Brown spent much time in the rehearsals collating the historical comments and notes of his famous predecessors, found in the House’s own library material, and which in turn represent the direct stipulations of Wagner and of Hermann Levi. These were painstakingly implemented, especially as regards tempo and dynamics. Furthermore, this production happily presented the uncut score, which demands of the protagonists the highest degree of concentration and physical stamina.

The orchestra acquitted itself with great precision and outstanding solo playing, thereby building the essential foundation for the altogether successful Karlsruhe premiere. It came within a week of the rival production in Baden Baden [Berlin Philharmonic under Simon Rattle] but had absolutely nothing to fear from the comparison.

Brown himself, with his powerful grasp of the score, was wholly convincing. Despite generally brisk tempi, there were plenty of wonderfully atmospheric moments throughout; but these were never piecemeal, rather, they belonged to the spirit of the work as a whole, giving weight to the magnificent accumulations and climaxes of the score. And yet conductor and orchestra understood well how to support the singers, almost never drowning them in the massive Wagnerian soundscape. The playing of the Staatskapelle was exemplary, making the orchestra the real star of the evening.”

– J. M. Weineke, Opernglas, May 2016

“The conductor Justin Brown leads the Badische Staatskapelle to ever higher summits. He plays the score uncut, exactly as Cosima Wagner wanted, which lent the interpretation a certain authenticity. Precision often takes pride of place, above all for the emotion-drenched opening bars with the upward sixth of the cellos, and then of course also for the famous Tristan-chord F-B-D sharp-A. The extended harmony and the germinating development of the individual motifs are expertly worked out.

Much of the score is interpreted with a chamber music-like delicacy, above all in the woodwind solos and in the strings. What one occasionally misses in Christopher Alden’s staging is compensated by the musical rendering: namely the astonishing richness of Wagner’s tonal palette. This is how the consummation of passion in death finds such poignant expression. The symphonic structure is often stretched to breaking-point and accumulates ever greater sonic intensity. The fateful love between Tristan and Isolde achieves an almost sacred power, reminiscent of “Parsifal”. The way the “Tristan” music mixes the classical with the romantic was handled in this performance with boldness and intelligence.

Brown often holds himself back however, which makes for some transparent and shimmering sounds. The song of the lovers swings up to its culminating A flat major, reaching its climax at the unison high A flats on the word “Liebe”, love. And the transition in the orchestra from A flat to G major thereafter is handled exquisitely by the Badische Staatskapelle. Tristan’s death, with the motif of the lovers’ glance, became in this reading an emotionally gripping highpoint. Puzzling new melodies and rhythms arrive on the scene with the “Alte Weise”, the old folksong of the shepherd at the start of the 3rd Act, where Justin Brown and the orchestra pointedly highlight many futuristic harmonies. The ineluctability of fate is mercilessly laid bare. And the B major chord of the Liebestod achieves thereby an astonishing transfiguration.”

– Alexander Walther, Der Neue Merker, 3.28.16

“Music director Justin Brown astonished us with a phenomenal interpretation. Already in the Prelude’s waves of sound, it was clear to what heights the inspired playing of the Badische Staatskapelle would reach. These expectations were not just confirmed – no, they were exceeded by far. This accomplished Wagner conductor moulded the gorgeous playing of the orchestra in moderate tempi for the long monologues, achieving a concentrated and fresh reading of the score. The rich, transparent colours and nuanced dynamics gave the overall sound a newly minted, almost cathartic quality.

In Brown’s conducting, the important thing is how the moulding of the tempo modulations, weighty yet flowing, allow the music to reach heights of overpowering ecstasy. There are no gratuitous eruptions of sound, rather, precisely tuned brass chords harmonise perfectly with elegiac strings to produce an aphrodisiac soundworld that’s pure opium for the senses.

The audience was beside itself, giving singers and orchestra fifteen minutes of ovations.”

-Gerhard Hoffmann, Der Neue Merker, 3.28.16

“…Rightly celebrated was the orchestra, playing almost exactly as precisely as the Berlin Philharmonic, which had performed the work [in Baden Baden] just previously. Under Music director Justin Brown, this orchestra was less concerned to titillate with the anticipations of the modernist movement of the turn of the 20th century; rather, they offered something actually more interesting: great, often disturbing, unremitting, tension-filled music theatre, like the last echo of a forgotten yearning.”

-Bernhard Doppler, Deutschlandradiokultur.de, 3.28.16

“Already in the intermissions, shouts of “bravo” underlined the formidable success – particularly musically – of the B-Premiere. The performance, played to an almost sold-out house, harked back to the days of Karlsruhe’s pre-eminence as an important Wagner-city.

The decisive share of the success of this “Tristan” belongs to Justin Brown… He lead the orchestra to extraordinary heights, which were sustained just as much in the passionate outbursts as in the lyrical passages, in the chromatic cascades as well as the musical delirium of the massive orchestral eruptions. The audience was rightly enthralled, vigorously cheering the whole ensemble.”

– Rüdiger Krohn, Badische Neueste Nachrichten, 4.19.16

On Elena Langer: Figaro Gets a Divorce (World Premiere), Welsh National Opera

“Lively instrumentation – injections of accordion and piano – gives cohesion and Justin Brown’s conducting brings a sweeping energy.”

– Rian Evans, The Guardian

“Pountney’s clean-lined, crisply drilled staging, imaginatively designed by Ralph Koltai, is exemplary, and the conductor Justin Brown leads the orchestra in an engagingly vivid account of a score I want to hear again.”

– Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph

“It is remarkable that Langer’s music manages to keep pace with the stylistic somersaults of the plot, but it does. Tango, pantomime, impending doom, youthful romance: she brings all to life, using a modest-sized orchestra, vividly conducted by Justin Brown.”

– Richard Fairman, FT

“Admirably played by the WNO Orchestra under Justin Brown’s direction, the score is multilayered and multireferenced, often recalling moody film noir, but then pulsating with Latinate rhythms, congealing into chilling clusters or breaking into sleazy cabaret waltzes.”

-Richard Morrison, The Times

“The WNO Orchestra played magnificently under Justin Brown, bringing out all the color of Langer’s captivating soundworld.”

-Keith Clarke, Musical America

“Justin Brown conducts what seems a brilliant account of this impressive score.”

-Stephen Walsh, Artsdesk

On Verdi: Falstaff, Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe

“…The conductor Justin Brown drew a luminous, technically brilliant musical performance from the singers and orchestra…”

-Reiner Knäbel, Opera Magazine, November 2015

On Wagner: Parsifal, Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe

“…The present-day Karlsruhe Opera (Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe), where the general music director is the dynamic British conductor Justin Brown, is establishing its Wagnerian credentials… the beauty of the visual spectacle here [in Act 3] is matched by Brown’s exquisite conducting – the wind particularly lovely… I have already mentioned the fine conducting in Act III, but there were also scrupulously observed details in the earlier acts and moments of unforgettable potency, such as the huge climax when Amfortas is brought in (Act I). The strong singing of the chorus deserves a mention too, but above all the imaginative collaboration of conductor and director: time after time, the power of the score is enhanced by gestures, movements or groupings of the characters. This is how all good Wagner productions should be, of course, but infrequently are.”

-Barry Millington, The Wagner Journal, Vol. 9, No. 3

“Karlsruhe has a distinguished Wagner tradition, and indeed the conductor of Parsifal’s premiere, Hermann Levi, was once in charge here. His current succesor as Generalmusikdirektor, Justin Brown, has honed the orchestra to a very high standard without imposing any super-blended smoothness, so the notes of the prelude tugged at each other with real Schmerz. His first act was broad, the second scherzo-like. The muscularity of his interpretation made the Act 3 prelude gripping in its raging emotions, and his pacing was secure… An outstanding achievement.”

– John Allison, Opera Magazine, July 2015

“The musical hero of the evening stood in the pit at the head of the Badische Staatskapelle.  Right from the start of the Prelude, Karlsruhe’s Music Director Justin Brown coaxed a luscious, velvet sound from his strings, held the dramatic tension across eloquent silences, and always remained sensitive to the balance with the singers.  Reverence and drama were not mutually exclusive in Brown’s conducting, and so by the end of the evening he had not only successfully furthered his Wagner cycle, but received from the audience the loudest ovation of all.”

– Susanne Benda, Stuttgarter Nachrichten, 3.31.15

“Justin Brown continues his series of formidable Wagner interpretations in Karlsruhe, at the helm of a magnificently supple Staatskapelle.  Once again one is fascinated by the immediacy of the sound, the abundance of colour, the lofty character as well as the intensity of expression.  With mostly broad tempi, Brown achieves the feat of allowing the music its full measure of calm and majesty on the one hand, and its dramatic tension and blistering passion on the other… The evening is long, but the conducting is so compelling that every single bar is an absorbing musical experience.”

– Karl Georg Berg, Die Rheinpfalz, 4.1.15

“Justin Brown and the Badische Staatskapelle present a fluent and coherent reading of the score…  The conductor mixes the timbres of strings and winds to the point of complete fusion – it’s as if the open Karlsruhe orchestra pit has almost turned into the covered Bayreuth one.”

– Heinz W. Koch, Badische Zeitung, 4.2.15

“Justin Brown and the Badische Staatskapelle transform the events of the opera into nothing less than a magical sound-world.  The gentle string sound, the dark sheen of the brasses, the beauty of the woodwind playing, all combine to form a moving and finely nuanced picture… The solemn moments resound with due gravity but without ever descending to unnecessary pathos, in particular in the Good Friday music.  Passionate upsurges describe the mental agonies which characterise every figure in the drama.  Seldom does Wagner’s Parsifal come off as trenchantly as it does in the new Karlsruhe production.”

– Nike Luber, Badische Tagblatt, 3.31.15; Swp.de, 4/2/15

“The musical quality is excellent, thanks to Justin Brown, who lets his orchestra pour the music forth wonderfully.  Everything feels as if it’s borne aloft by a natural empathy for Wagner.”

– Eckhard Britsch, Mannheimer Morgen, 4.2.15; Opernnetz.de, 4.1.15

“Musically, the Karlsruhe Parsifal far exceeds the level of a Staatstheater.  This is thanks to the first-rate collaboration between Music Director Justin Brown and his orchestra.  The ideal balance between brass and strings, as well as the exactness of the ensemble and the constant mindfulness towards the singers were remarkable.  Here was an example of an orchestra and its conductor in perfect communion.”

– Franz Roos, Der neue Merker Online, April, 2015

“Brown’s mastery of his accomplished forces and his ability to delineate Wagner’s long-view architecture underlay this triumphantly received performance.”

– David Shengold, Opera News, 4.3.15

On Krása: Verlobung im Traum, Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe

“Music director Justin Brown conducts with sensitivity and taste, giving the work’s lush harmonies full scope without letting them lapse into kitsch. … Krása was a student of Zemlinsky, and you can hear that, alongside the influence of Czech folk music, jazz, popular idioms, Stravinsky and Wagner.”

– Shirley Althorp, Financial Times Online, 10.26.14

“There is not a dull moment in the evening, largely because Justin Brown and the Badische Staatskapelle are alert to every colour and stylistic twist of this score, with its genial mix of jazz, Viennese schmaltz and complex counterpoint.  The Karlsruhe Music Director draws deeply from the sparkling rhythms and harmonies of the Roaring Twenties. … All in all a great evening. An overdue rediscovery, a necessary act of reparation.”

– Alexander Dick, Opernwelt, December 2014

“The orchestra under Justin Brown plays Krása’s score with all imaginable care. Everything is transparent, precisely articulated and colourful. And the quote from Vincenzo Bellini’s ‘Casta diva’ resounds with a wondrous wistfulness.”

– Gerhard Rohde, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 10.25.14

“What is truly superb about this Dream-opera is the way the music is served up with spirited drive by Justin Brown and the Badische Staatskapelle. By turns, they let the comedy turn toward grotesque, sustain the parlando, or, when the scheming Nastassja mobilizes the local gossips to stop the wedding, conjure up a marvellous chaos as if the “Prügelfuge” from Wagner’s “Meistersinger” is being parodied.”

– Joachim Lange, Die Tageszeitung (Berlin), 10.20.14, and Dresdner Neuste Nachrichten, 10.23.14

“Music Director Justin Brown calibrated with keen attention and blazing impulsiveness the changing timbres and pulses of this music, as much in the spirit of its time as it is imbued with a unique personal aura.”

– Hans-Klaus Jungheinrich, Frankfurter Rundschau, 10.20.14

“Justin Brown conducting the Badische Staatskapelle always has his finger on the pulse, impelling his orchestra to switch deftly from jazz to swing, from late-romantic languor to a restrained “New Objectivity”. … For Krása music is modern in the best sense of the word – and was therefore hated by the Nazis, who hated all the achievements of civilization of the 20th century.”

– Frank Pommer, Deutsche Bühne, 10.20.14

“The music is presented by the Badische Staatskapelle under Justin Brown with sparkling polish and refined impetuosity; for the musicians show us Krása’s witty melange of Strauss and Mahler, Stravinsky and dance-hall, which he serves up in a rhythmically inspired jargon. … A successful evening:  the encounter with an original composer is worthwhile, and the first-night audience is completely thrilled.”

– Eckhard Britsch, Opernnetz, 10.20.14

“The Badische Staatskapelle under its Music Director Justin Brown made music dedicatedly and trenchantly, whether Strauss-waltzes (Johann via Richard) or minimalistic repeated motifs à la Janáček; in short: with wit, warmth and charm.”

– Manfred Langer, Der Opernfreund, 10.26.14

On Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe

“Justin Brown’s praises have been sung many times already in these pages; his Meistersinger reading is thrilling, many-layered, always focused on the musical flow and sensitive in the details.”

– Eckhard Britsch, Opernetz.de, 4.30.14

“This Meistersinger bore all the hallmarks of Justin Brown, who with his always flexible conducting guaranteed a propulsively flowing and extraordinarily transparent Wagner interpretation.”

– Thomas Weiss, Mannheimer Morgen, 4.30.14

“Justin Brown decidedly plays a central role [in the illuminating freshness of the production]: the musical energies are focused, rhythm and articulation are tight, the neo-baroque qualities of the music always transparently underlined, and the accompaniment of the singers fine and sensitive.”

– Ingo Dorfmüller, Deutchlandfunk, 4.29.14

“Justin Brown traversed the three acts including the two preludes in almost exactly four and a half hours of actual playing time.  Brown kept his conducting consistently free of pathos and bombast, so one did not need to freeze in pompous reverence when the Meistersinger theme returns for the nth time; for the Staatskapelle produced instead a delicate, often chamber music-like accompanying tone, flowing gently and remaining always sensitive to the singers.”

– Manfred Langer, Der Opernfreund, 4.30.14

“Justin Brown and the Badische Staatskapelle delivered a tour-de-force at the Premiere.  They generated their own Wagner-sound with chamber music-like woodwind, radiant brasses and lyrical horns.”

– Nicole Dantrimont, SWR 2, 4.28.14

“The musical performance matched the mercurial staging to a tee.  Justin Brown elicited from the Badische Staatskapelle a gloriously sparkling array of sounds.”

– Jörn Florian Fuchs, Deutschlandradio, 4.27.14

“Kratzer’s staging concerns itself with discourse and re-telling; he develops empathy with his protagonists and allows himself many subtle jokes.  That it succeeds so well is because the conductor Justin Brown sets a fast pace and finds a narrative-friendly tone which supports and never covers the singers.”

-Joachim Lange, NMZ Online, 4.29.14, Die Welt, 5.22.14

On Strauss: Die Fledermaus, Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe

“In Karlsruhe they must be really happy with their General Music Director Justin Brown.  Fledermaus just doesn’t get played any more with such flexibility and buoyancy, such support for the singers, such savoring of every last coloristic detail as was heard here.  Not in any opera house, as far as this reviewer is aware.”

– Eckhard Britsch, Opernetz.de, 12.19.13

“For Justin Brown, at the helm of the Badische Staatskapelle, this Fledermaus was obviously a great pleasure.  He clearly enjoys the swift interchanges between caustic Viennese waltzes, parlando passages and orchestral fireworks, not least the “hit” Radetzky March borrowed from Papa Strauss.  The contrasts were achieved seamlessly and made this Fledermaus not only a thought-provoking spectacle but also a musical delight.”

– Joachim Lange, Neue Musikzeitung, 12.22.13

On Britten: Peter Grimes, Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe

“Under Justin Brown the Badische Staatskapelle excelled itself, and plays the decisive part in the success of the evening. You could hear in every bar how close this piece is to Brown’s heart as he spurred on and inspired every single participant. Brown teased out every nuance of this masterpiece, all the harsh and bitter beauty of Britten’s poly-stylistic score, the violent outbursts just as much as the meditative moments, but also the ironically interpolated folkloric elements, such as the dance band music or the sea shanties, which were in his hands seamlessly interwoven into the musical fabric. The musical highpoint was the great orchestral Passacaglia, a shattering psychological study of the taciturnity into which Grimes increasingly sinks. All in all, a performance which needs to be seen and heard!”

– Uwe Schweikert, Opernwelt, September/October, 2013 and Stuttgarter Zeitung, 7.9.13

“An exact understanding of the structure of this music, and the ability to bring out all the passion contained within it, are the bases of Justin Brown’s phenomenal reading of this score, with the Badische Staatskapelle playing on top form. The richness and suppleness of the sound was a revelation, as was the mesmerizing palette of colors. On top of that comes a compelling expressive power and an unflagging tension. The creative force of Justin Brown’s completely masterful conducting is in fact perfectly befitting, because it allows all the many facets of the work to come to fruition.”

– Karl Georg Berg, Die Rheinpfalz, 7.9.13

“General Music Director Justin Brown and the Badische Staatskapelle make this opera into a veritable orchestral sensation. Especially in the six Interludes, he illuminates every detail of Britten’s transparent, finely spun music. Woodwinds and brasses play with astonishing beauty, the harp adds an ethereal edge, the strings illustrate the sea in all its moods. Motifs scurry through the texture with absolute rhythmic precision and agility…. This Peter Grimes is certainly an exciting and musically rewarding evening.”

– Nike Luber, BT, 7.8.13

“Like Britten, Justin Brown is also on home territory. Under his direction, the premiere of Peter Grimes was an orchestral triumph, brilliantly reinforced by the chorus too. Brown comes from the South of England, and Peter Grimes has long been on his wish list for Karlsruhe. Now he unleashes the storm, and it pierces to the marrow when brasses, harp, timpani and strings brew up a raging tempest; or equally, when the sea lies still and soft tones bemoan the tragic and inevitable fate of Grimes and his apprentice. The Badische Staatskapelle plays with remarkable transparency and dynamic luxuriance.”

– Isabelle Steppeler, BNN, 8.7.13

“In the interpretation of Justin Brown with the excellent Badische Staatskapelle, the drama unfolds inexorably. Brown conducts with pinpoint accuracy, produces marvelous soundscapes for the huge chorus scenes as well as for the intimate moments…”

– Eckhard Britsch, Opernetz, 7.10.13

“This opera evening was one of the finest hours for the Staatskapelle and its British GMD Justin Brown. The sea swells somberly as a storm brews up, then once more the music disperses in gentle reflections of the light. The orchestra handles the soloists with equal delicacy.”

– Christine Gehringer, Pamina, 7.10.13

“Justin Brown shapes the music, at once illustrative of the powerful forces of nature and of great psychological trauma, with confidence and sensitivity, always effective, always pulsating. The synchronicity with the large and intensely engaged chorus was perfect, as it was indeed with the excellent soloists.”

– Eckhard Britsch, Mannheimer Morgen, 7.12.13

On Wagner: Ring Cycle, Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe

“The real star of the two performances was the orchestra under Justin Brown, which gave an excellent and completely rounded performance – which for one-off performances is a rare occurrence. Already in the orchestral preludes, the atmosphere of what was to come was masterfully conveyed.”

– Manfred Kraft on Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, BNN, 3-30-13

‟How Justin Brown approaches the Siegfried score by building a sustained pianissimo, and then shapes the climaxes without ever allowing the excellent brass of the Badische Staatskapelle to become overbearing, is one of the remarkable aspects of this performance: Brown shapes the Leitmotif layers masterfully while striving always for transparency, in order to bring out to the full the colorfulness and instrumental finesses of the work. At the same time he can be relied upon for thrillingly dramatic orchestral surges, as for example in the final scene on Brünnhilde’s rock. That Karlsruhe’s General Music Director has developed a powerful affinity for Wagner underpins this celebrated performance.”

Die Rheinpfalz on Siegfried, 4-4-13

‟Under General Music Director Justin Brown, this year’s Ring Cycle must be counted as one of the best of recent decades, and as such was rightly acclaimed by the Wagner-hungry public.”

– Manfred Kraft on Siegfried, BNN, 4-2-13

On Wagner: Tannhäuser, Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe

“Justin Brown conducted the Vienna version of the score, and showed that he was in command in the grand ensembles and chorus scenes, with a good ear for the world’s brilliant orchestral sophistication.”

– Reiner Knäbel, Opera Magazine, 3.2013

“…Without ever rushing the tempos, Brown paced the big tableaus with a fine eye for the architecture and a compelling sense of drama, especially in the final scenes of the second Act. Great acclaim for this excellent new production. What a sensation such a sublime and interesting Tannhäuser would have been in Bayreuth!”

– Hans-Klaus Jungheinrich, Frankfurter Rundschau, 10.9.12

“…Justin Brown made clear how the music of Tannhäuser is rooted in the tradition of French grand opera. He did not attempt to paper over the cracks – after all, these are characteristic of the work – rather, he paraded them explicitly for the marveling listener. That Tannhäuser is in many senses a double game was thus made clear before the curtain even opened: the Badische Staatskapelle aggressively countered the pious pilgrims’ chorale with what Berlioz called the “ungodly yowling” of the string figures, which call that very piety into question. The conductor’s felicitous way with Wagner once again got to the heart of the matter in this Tannhäuser, conjuring up benevolently transparent, gentle passages as well as ebullient ones, the voices occasionally sidelined by urgent orchestral eruptions. … That the drama is so clearly played out in the orchestra pit, whatever happens visually on stage, is the greatest plus-point of this performance.”

– Jürgen Hartmann, Stuttgarter Zeitung, 10.9.12

“Brown’s interpretative grip is always strong and convincing, especially where he points the musical contrast between the two opposing worlds on the stage.”

– Frank Pommer, Rheinpfalz, 10.9.12

“Justin Brown at the helm of the Staatskapelle achieved a great deal: he was a superb accompanist and produced a sumptuous and yet not too heavy Wagner-sound.”

– Stefan M. Dettlinger, Mannheimer Morgen, 10.9.12

“The quality of the Badische Staatskapelle under Justin Brown has been extolled many times over in these pages. Even so, in transparence, contrapuntal clarity and delicate pathos, the illumination of the Tannhäuser score here could scarcely be surpassed. Musically speaking, a thoroughly convincing, thrilling all-round performance, greeted with stormy applause from the premiere audience.”

– Eckhart Britsch, Opernnetz.de, 10.8.12

“The Karlsruhe GMD Justin Brown paid attention both to clarity of detail, and to the contrasts which are so present in this stylistically not quite unified score… Fascinating above all were the ensembles, whose structure was excellently delineated by Brown.”

– Alexander Dick, Badische Zeitung, 10.10.12

“The very first crescendo of the Overture was full of tension – and later too, Brown maintained the tension even in leisurely tempos with beautifully judged musical arches. In the Bacchanal, Wagner’s new command of tonality was strongly brought out. Brown highlighted the harmonic structure of the score – somewhat less complex than in Wagner’s later operas – sometimes to extremes, but never melodramatically.”

– Manfred Langer, Der Opernfreund, 10.9.12

“Great things were achieved also from the orchestra pit, where GMD Justin Brown steered the Badische Staatskapelle with vehemence, but also much discretion through the many twists and turns of the score. With mostly leisurely tempi – but always pressing forward where necessary – the countless romantic beauties of the score (above all in the woodwinds) were relished with abandon… The synchronization between orchestra and stage was remarkably successful, as was the pacing of the ensembles and the balance with the singers… Once again: a veritable feast of a season-opener, and an award-worthy gift for the Wagner-year.”

– Udo Klebes, Der neue Merker (Vienna), 10.10.12

“Musically, the performance is a pleasure, and that’s thanks once again to the Badische Staatskapelle under Justin Brown, who intensified the drama: at times Wagner’s music is finely teased out, at others it sweeps powerfully over the listener; Brown and the orchestra do full justice to the colours presented on the stage.”

– Christine Gehringer, Pamina-Magazine.de, 10.10.12

“The defining achievement of the evening came from the orchestra, from which the GMD Justin Brown extracted a fascinating cosmos of musical sensations, in an incisively illuminating mix of passionate fervor and solemn emphasis, stormy excitement and earnest asceticism.”

– Rüdiger Krohn, Rheinpfalz, 10.15.12

On Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier, Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe

“Along with the successful staging, music director Justin Brown’s performance with the Badische Staatskapelle was a real tour-de-force. The score was so brightly illuminated that the whole evening became a three-and-a-half-hour delight for the ears… finely crafted chamber music-like textures with their subtle polyphony, as well as the powerful entries of tuba and timpani; a luscious and rounded string foundation, opulent tuttis and vivid motivic detail. The orchestra and conductor were deservedly acclaimed.”

– Manfred Langer, Der Opernfreund, 7.2.12

On Wagner: Lohengrin, Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe

“Justin Brown drew from the magnificent Staatskapelle a beautiful Wagner sound: finely nuanced, the contours clearly delineated while also gently and lyrically interwoven… With a sure hand, Brown achieved throughout a fine balance between delicate strings and clear-cut winds.”

– Ralf-Carl Langhals, Mannheimer Morgen, 4.3.12

“This Karlsruhe Lohengrin makes a strong musical impression, precisely because the Badische Staatskapelle under their Music Director Justin Brown play flawlessly, excellently balanced in the tuttis and with a wealth of detail, in which one can hear already the presence of the “Ring” orchestra.”

– Alexander Dick, Badische Zeitung, Freiburg, 4.3.12

“Justin Brown’s conducting is feisty, precise, not so much an introspective Lohengrin as a lively and fresh interpretation, which the Badische Staatskapelle articulates adroitly.”

– Judith von Sternberg, Frankfurter Rundschau, 4.3.12

On Delius: A village Romeo and Juliet, Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe

“This sensitive rendition of states of mind illustrates the specifics of the composition that, technically speaking, should be understood less as an opera and more as a piece of symphonic poetry whose meaning one cannot escape. Particularly when so phenomenally presented by the General Music Director Justin Brown and the radiantly disposed Badische Staatskapelle. With great elegance, the conductor and the musicians reveled in the intoxicating waves of sound that were presented with filigreed and transparent opulence. Brown achieved an optimal balance between the tonally and dynamically finely attuned instrumental groups and with equal emphasis focused on the juxtaposition of the different colors, which made his graceful direction appear very sophisticated and nuanced. The singers seemed to feel very comfortable under the considerate aegis of Brown. He always paid attention to their needs and never drowned them out, thus resulting in a simply wonderful symbiosis, particularly between the lyrical songs of the lovers and the orchestra.”

–Ludwig Steinbach, Der Opernfreund, 1.29.2012

On Donizetti: L’elisir d’amore, Bavarian State Opera Munich

“Musically it offered a very clean performance by the orchestra under the attentive direction of Justin Brown and a well-rehearsed chorus of the Bavarian State Opera.”

– Johannes Marksteiner, Der Neue Merker, 7.30.2011

“Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe’s General Musical Director Justin Brown made his very successful debut on Tuesday at the Munich National Theater with Gaetano Donizetti’s comic opera The Elixir of Love. Brown had already demonstrated his mastery of the Italian opera buffa with his impressive direction of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville in the summer of 2009. He proved this again with an equally strong performance at the Bavarian State Opera.”

Die Rheinpfalz, 12.30.2011

On Berlioz: Les Troyens, Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe

“Justin Brown is not only an irreplaceable partner, but also the driving force. Seldom does one hear the refinement of French musical articulation so precisely and yet also so flexibly realized.”

–Klaus Heinrich Kohrs, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 10.21.2011

“Whoever wants to hear how interesting the musical theater-composer Berlioz can sound these days should go to Karlsruhe, where the new Justin Brown makes all of the discoveries in Les Troyens…”

–Detlef Brandenburg, Die DeutscheBühne, 11.1.2011

“The Karlsruhe Music Director not only maintained a commanding overview of the manifold events, but also knew how to inspire his musicians… On one hand, he intensified the inner rhetorical tension, while allowing the virtuosic brilliance of the orchestral movement to come into its own—almost as if he had taken the Paris critic Théophile Gautier’s remark to heart: ‘To each instrument in the orchestra Berlioz has given a soul, to each note an expression; he wanted every phrase to convey a particular meaning.’”

–Uwe Schweikert, Opernwelt, 12.2011

“Justin Brown is phenomenal.”

–Stefan Dettlinger, Mannheimer Morgen, 10.17.2011

“Justin Brown…gave an outstanding performance with the Badische Staatskapelle… He made Berlioz’ richly colored, at times impressionistic musical language shine wonderfully.”

–J.M. Wienecke, Opernglas, 12.2011

“Opera director Justin Brown makes the music of Berlioz sound magnificent…”

–Karl Harb, Salzburger Nachrichten, 11.3.2011

“Justin Brown views Berlioz (next to Shostakovich) as a matter of the heart. Again, he has achieved a gripping and phenomenal performance.”

–Hans-Klaus Jungheinrich, Frankfurter Rudschau, 10.18.2011

“Justin Brown and the Badische Staatskapelle illuminated the phenomenal acoustic palette of the score… the full magic of Berlioz’s musical creativity was given complete expression in the orchestra pit.”

Pforzheimer Zeitung,11.17.2011

On Janacek: Katya Kabanova, Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe

“Justin Brown is a renowned enthusiast and intimate connoisseur of the great Moravian composer Leo Janacek’s work.”

– Die Welt online, 6.13.2011

“Justin Brown and the Badische Staatskapelle perform the music with fluent movement and powerful expression.”

Badisches Tagblatt, 6.15.2011

“This music has found an exemplary champion in conductor Justin Brown, General Music Director of the excellent Staatskapelle.”

Badische Neueste Nachrichten, 6.15.2011

On Wagner: The Ring of the Nibelung, Baden State Theater Karlsruhe

“The revival of three evenings of The Ring of the Nibelung was followed over Easter by the first cyclical performance of the tetralogy, conducted by the English maestro. He, of course, was the “hero” and celebrated protagonist of this long sold-out performance. Rightfully so, since his direction of the Ring is exceptional…What is particularly unique about Brown’s direction is the authenticity of expression… The eloquence of the sound in this rendition is sensational.”

Die Rheinpfalz, 4.25.2011

“The series of revivals of Wagner’s Ring opera resumed with a magnificent performance of Siegfried by the Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe.”

– Die Rheinpfalz, 10.27.2009

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