Hailed by the New York Times as “an interpretive dynamo,” conductor and cellist Eric Jacobsen has built a reputation for engaging audiences with innovative and collaborative programming.
Jacobsen is Co-Artistic Director and conductor of The Knights, and also serves as the Music Director for the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra and the Greater Bridgeport Symphony. Jacobsen founded the adventurous orchestra The Knights with his brother, violinist Colin Jacobsen, to foster the intimacy and camaraderie of chamber music on the orchestral stage. As conductor, Jacobsen has led the “consistently inventive, infectiously engaged indie ensemble” (New York Times) at Central Park’s Naumburg Orchestral Concerts, Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival, (Le) Poisson Rouge, the 92nd Street Y, Carnegie Hall, and Lincoln Center, at major summer festivals such as Tanglewood, Ravinia, and Ojai, and on tour nationally and internationally, including at the Cologne Philharmonie, Düsseldorf Tonhalle, Hamburg Elbphilharmonie, Salzburg Großes Festspielhaus, Vienna Musikverein, National Gallery of Dublin, and the Dresden Musikfestspiele. Recent collaborators include violinists Itzhak Perlman and Gil Shaham, singers Dawn Upshaw, Susan Graham, and Nicholas Phan, and pianists Emanuel Ax and Jean-Yves Thibaudet. Also in demand as a guest conductor, Jacobsen has led the symphony orchestras of Baltimore, Detroit, Virginia, Alabama, the New World, Naples, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra, and the Deutsche Philharmonie Merck.
The Knight’s current season features appearances at Tanglewood and at the Ravinia Festival, including a fully-staged centennial production of Bernstein’s Candide directed by Alison Moritz, as well as a Florida tour with Gil Shaham, with whom Jacobsen and The Knights are recording the Beethoven and Brahms violin concertos. Jacobsen and The Knights also perform in Madison, WI; Montreal; and in their annual concerts at Washington’s Dumbarton Oaks. With the Bridgeport Symphony, Jacobsen will perform and record with the renowned kamancheh player Kayhan Kalhor. Jacobsen will also guest conduct the Arkansas Symphony and the Juilliard Pre-College Orchestra, of which he is an alumnus. He has been re-engaged to conduct the Virginia Symphony and the Detroit Symphony, where Jacobsen will perform Gabriel Kahane’s emergency shelter intake form, which he will also conduct in Orlando with Kahane as composer-in-residence there. The 2019-20 season in Orlando also includes two new initiatives: Inside the Score, in which Jacobsen leads the audience on a guided exploration of Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, and Resonate, which features a unique blend of old and new orchestral and chamber works, performed in standard and more intimate concert formats.
During the 2018-19 season, Jacobsen undertook a 15-concert European tour with The Knights and mandolin virtuoso Avi Avital, including performances at Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie and Vienna’s Musikverein. In New York, Jacobsen and The Knights performed at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall; with groundbreaking countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo at National Sawdust in music of Handel and Philip Glass; and at the Park Avenue Armory, where they helped create the music for William Kentridge’s The Head and the Load. With the Bridgeport Symphony, Jacobsen performed with Gil Shaham, with star pianist Yuja Wang, and with his brother Colin, with whom he recorded a video of Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending that was featured on London’s Classic FM and The Violin Channel. Guest conducting engagements included the New World Symphony, the Knoxville Symphony, Santa Fe Pro Musica, the Deutsche Philharmonie Merck and the Tonkunstler Orchestra, with whom Jacobsen appeared at Vienna’s legendary Musikverein.
At the close of a successful fourth season with the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, Jacobsen has continued to pioneer the orchestra’s programming and community engagement in new and exciting directions. The 2018-19 season featured Puerto Rican-born composer and multi-instrumentalist Angélica Negrón as composer-in-residence, and included appearances by Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Rhiannon Giddens and internationally acclaimed cello virtuoso Jan Vogler.
Under Jacobsen’s baton, The Knights have developed an extensive recording collection, which includes the critically acclaimed albums Azul, with longtime collaborator Yo-Yo Ma, as well as the Prokofiev Concerto in the Grammy-nominated Gil Shaham album 1930s Violin Concertos. The Knights issued three albums for Sony Classical including Jan Vogler and The Knights Experience: Live from New York; New Worlds, and an all-Beethoven album, as well as the “smartly programmed” (National Public Radio) A Second in Silence on the Ancalagon label. Jacobsen’s first release on Warner Classics was the ground beneath our feet. We Are The Knights, a documentary film produced by Thirteen/WNET, premiered in September 2011.
A dedicated chamber musician, Jacobsen is a member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, participating in residencies and performances at the Hollywood Bowl, Carnegie Hall, and across the U.S., Central Asia, Middle East, Far East, and Europe. In addition, as a founding member of the string quartet Brooklyn Rider – dubbed “one of the wonders of contemporary music” (Los Angeles Times) – he has taken part in a wealth of world premieres and toured extensively in North America, Europe, and Asia, and is credited with helping to ensure “the future of classical music in America” (Los Angeles Times).
In December 2012, Jacobsen and his brother Colin were selected from among the nation’s top visual, performing, media, and literary artists to receive a prestigious United States Artists Fellowship. Eric splits his time between New York and Orlando with his wife, singer-songwriter Aoife O’Donovan, and their daughter.
Eric Jacobsen is a cellist and conductor residing in Brooklyn, New York. He has performed with Renee Fleming on David Letterman and at the inaugural concert at Zankel Hall at Carnegie. Mr. Jacobsen has also appeared with The Silk Road Ensemble at the opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics in Shanghai.
In 2006 Eric's brother, Colin a violinist, was in residence on NPR's 'Performance Today'. It was during this time that Eric and Colin and their long-standing friends Johnny Gandelsman and Nick Cords came together. Their strong camaraderie and mutual desire to work in the string quartet medium led them to form Brooklyn Rider. Their collaboration with the Iranian kamancheh master Kayhan Kalhor inspired their first album, 'Silent City'. The album includes arrangements and compositions by Mr. Kalhor and Colin Jacobsen. Mr. Jacobsen appeared on eight subsequent recordings with the groundbreaking group.
In addition, Mr. Jacobsen has appeared as soloist with the Riverside Orchestra, the New Hampshire Music Festival Orchestra, the Greenwich Village Orchestra, the Lake George Chamber Orchestra and the Woodstock Festival Orchestra, the Children's Orchestra Society, and the Mankato Symphony Orchestra. He regularly performs at Bargemusic, often playing with Steven Beck, with whom Mr. Jacobsen has collaborated for over 10 years.
Mr. Jacobsen is a member of Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Project. He has participated in residencies and performances in Azerbaijan, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Switzerland and across the USA including The Art Institute of Chicago and The Hollywood Bowl.
In May of 2009, Mr. Jacobsen led The Knights at the opening of the Dresden 'Musikfestspiele' with soloists Dawn Upshaw and Christina Courtin. Mr. Jacobsen was also the cellist in the Mark O'Connor String Quartet performing original works by the great American fiddler.
Mr. Jacobsen is involved in many student projects in universities as well as elementary, middle and high schools. He has taught on the cello and chamber music faculty of NYU where he also conducted the orchestra. Mr. Jacobsen studied at The School for Strings as a youngster and later graduated from The Juilliard School. He worked extensively with the late Harvey Shapiro and with Joseph Elworthy, and he also considers Anner Bylsma and Yo-Yo Ma instrumental influences in his playing.
In the summer time Mr. Jacobsen has appeared at numerous festivals, including Lucerne and Lincoln Center Out of Doors. For 10 years, Mr. Jacobsen and the other members of Brooklyn Rider were the Artistic Directors of The Stillwater Music Festival in Minnesota, bringing such artists as Anne-Sofie von Otter, Bela Fleck, Gabriel Kahane, Aoife O’Donovan and others to rural Minnesota.
Mr. Jacobsen can be heard on recordings with Yo-Yo Ma, Bono, and Mark O'Connor.
Mr. Jacobsen plays a Giovanni Battista Genova cello crafted in Turin 1745