Angel Gil-Ordóñez watched from the audience at Madrid’s Teatro Real in 1978 as renowned conductor Sergiu Celibidache masterfully led the London Symphony Orchestra. In awe of the conductor’s frenetic passion, tension, and the sound he was able to elicit from the musicians, Gil-Ordóñez had a revelation—he wanted to become a conductor. It was a turning point that would impact the rest of his life and career in music. In 1985, he began the most significant and important training of his career, moving to Munich to study with his idol, Celibidache.
Guidance and mentorship of the legendary conductor of the Munich Philharmonic would later inspire Gil-Ordóñez to found PostClassical Ensemble with music historian Joseph Horowitz, one of his proudest achievements. A response to orchestras not reflecting modern culture or meaningfully engaging audiences, the ethos of PostClassical was inspired by Horowitz’ innovative programming vision and by Celibidache’s tireless pursuit of transcendent concert experiences. Distinguished by its unconventional use of performances as “laboratories for musical thought experiments,” the ensemble is heralded as “…one of the country’s most innovative music groups” (The Washington Post) and intrepid incubator for classical music.
Born in Madrid, Gil-Ordóñez first remembers being enrapt by film scores while at the movies, many of which he later discovered were derived from the work of well-known classical composers he came to admire. A talented singer, at age 7 he was recruited for the choir at his primary school, and later took lessons in guitar, accordion, and violin, which became his primary instrument.
Gil-Ordóñez began attending live concerts at age 12 with family friends who had a subscription to Orquesta Sinfónica de Radio Televisión Española, Spain’s radio orchestra and after his first experience Gil-Ordóñez was transfixed, he never missed a performance.
At the insistence of his parents, Gil-Ordóñez pursued Engineering at the Universidad Politecnica de Madrid while simultaneously continuing his music studies at Conservatorio Superior de Música de Madrid (the Madrid Conservatory of Music). Academia was highly specialized and aspiring to be a professional musician when Gil-Ordóñez was attending university wasn’t well regarded, so he pursued a more traditional education, but his heart remained in music. Gil-Ordóñez continued to cultivate his talents, studying violin, polyphony and choir conducting, harmony, counterpoint, and music history with some of the most outstanding musicians in Spain. Upon receiving his Engineering degree, which he presented to his parents as proof of his commitment, he began a singular pursuit of music.
In addition to great Spanish artists, his worldview of classical music was further shaped by studying in France with luminary post-war composer/conductor Pierre Boulez and Iannis Xenakis, the pioneering composer that experimented with the use of mathematical models in music, prior to his work in Germany with Celibidache.
Though Gil-Ordóñez’s understanding of classical music was global, his heart was never far from Spain. He has dedicated much of his career to championing Spanish music and repertoire. In fact, in 2006 the King of Spain bestowed upon Gil-Ordóñez the Royal Order of Queen Isabella, the country’s highest civilian decoration, for his extraordinary work advancing Spanish culture around the world, in particular for performing and teaching Spanish music in its cultural context.
Currently the Music Director/Conductor of PostClassical Ensemble and Principal Guest Conductor of New York’s Perspectives Ensemble, Gil-Ordóñez is also Music Director of the Georgetown University Orchestra in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he serves as advisor for education and programming for Trinitate Philharmonia, a program in León, Mexico modeled on Venezuela’s El Sistema.
He has appeared as guest conductor with the American Composers Orchestra, Opera Colorado, Pacific Symphony, Hartford Symphony, Brooklyn Philharmonic, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and the National Gallery Orchestra in Washington, DC. Abroad, he has conducted the Munich Philharmonic, the Solistes de Berne, at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, and at the Bellas Artes National Theatre in Mexico City.
Gil-Ordóñez is the former Associate Conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra of Spain. He served as the Music Director and Conductor of the Orchestra and Choir of the Spanish Cultural Institute in Munich, Germany from 1986-1991. He founded and became Music Director of the Academia de Madrid chamber orchestra. He was also the Principal Guest Conductor of the Classical Orchestra of Madrid.
He has recorded 4 albums devoted to Spanish composers, in addition to his seven PostClassical Ensemble’s CDs and DVDs for Naxos. In May 2016, Naxos released the classic 1935 Mexican film, Redes, a world premiere recording of the full score by Silvestre Revueltas, featuring PostClassical Ensemble under the direction of Gil-Ordóñez. Spring 2017 will see the release of a new Naxos recording featuring the music of overlooked American master Lou Harrison.
Gil-Ordóñez moved to the United States in 1994 and became an American citizen in 2009. He resides in Washington, D.C. with his wife, Adriana, and daughter, Paula. To learn more about Angel’s work, please visit gilordonez.com