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Charles Matthew Egerton Hazlewood (born 14 November 1966) is a British conductor and advocate for broadening access to orchestral music. Renowned for his widespread presence across the BBC, he conducts orchestras around the world, recently making his debut with the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in London. Hazlewood lives on a farm in Somersetmarker from where he hosts his own music festival 'Play the Field'.

Education and early career

Hazlewood attended Christ's Hospitalmarker School in West Sussex where he was a chorister and organist. He later gained an organ scholarship to Keble College, Oxfordmarker in 1986, graduating in 1989. He made his London debut with his own chamber orchestra EOS in January 1991. Hazlewood's follow-up concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hallmarker and its controversial presentation caused The Times reviewer to leave at half time, exclaiming 'I could take no more.' Hazlewood has persisted to expose orchestral music to a wider audience, and continued to cause some controversy in the British press.

He was nominated by the BBC in 1995 as the UK's sole representative in the European Broadcasting Union conducting competition in Lisbon, where he won first prize.


Hazlewood performed at Carnegie Hallmarker for the first time in 2003, conducting the Orchestra of St. Luke's. In 2009 he made his debut with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in London and the Malmo Symphony in Sweden.

Hazlewood was Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC Concert Orchestra from 2005 – 2009 with whom he has appeared several times at the BBC Proms in the Royal Albert Hallmarker in London; the first, in August 2006, he simultaneously presented live from the stage for TV.

Hazlewood is music director of the contemporary music ensemble Excellent Device! (formerly EOS), formed in 1991, and its period instrument sister orchestra, Army of Generals. [428413] The latter was formed by Hazlewood to record with him all the music for his BBC films.

Described by the BBC as "passionate about new work; in the past six years he has conducted over fifty world premieres." Known for his eclecticism, he has also initiated several projects which explore common ground between different musical disciplines, such as Urban Classic, which created a new hybrid drawing together 5 Grime MC's and the BBC Concert Orchestra. As well as his Play the Field festival which showcases orchestral music with a contemporary twist. His interest in a wide variety of musical genes lead to The Charles Hazlewood Show on Radio 2 and a place on the judging panel of the pop industry's creativity awards, the Mercury Music prize.

Music Director

Between 1995 and 2003 Hazlewood was Music Director of Broomhill Opera and Wilton's Music Hallmarker in London; for them he conducted amongst others Britten's The Turn of the Screw (director Elijah Moshinsky), Puccini's Il Trittico (director Simon Callow) and Kurt Weill's The Silverlake in a new translation by Rory Bremner.

In 1999, Hazlewood and his collaborator, Mark Dornford-May were invited to create a new opera company in Cape Townmarker. After auditioning in the townships and villages of South Africa, the mostly black lyric-theatre company DDK (Dimpho Di Kopane - Sotho for “combined talents”) was formed. Of the 40 members, only 3 had professional training. In January 2001, the company's debut of Bizet's Carmen opened to damning South African reviews, with one newpaper claiming it was preposterous for black south africans to perform western opera. The Mysteries, for which Hazlewood devised the score, opened in London in 2003 to widespread acclaim, provoking the first leader piece on the arts in the Times for 40 years. Hazlewood was music director and conductor for the company's film version of Carmen set in a township in South Africa (U-Carmen e-Khayelitsha) which won the 'Golden Bear' award for Best Film at the 2005 Berlin International Film Festival. Their subsequent movie, Son of Man featured a score created by Hazlewood in collaboration with the company.

Hazlewood was Music Director of DDK from 2000-2007. With the company he also conceived the music for the shows, Ibali Loo Tsotsi (The Beggar’s Opera); and The Snow Queen, which premiered in New York in 2004.

In 2009, Hazlewood conducted Kurt Weill's musical drama Lost in the Stars set in apartheid South Africa at the South Bank Centremarker.


Hazlewood's style as a communicator described as engaging and enthusiastic, has made him a regular face on British Television. He has authored and conducted the music in landmark BBC films on Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and most recently a series exploring the Birth of British music. He also appeared on the judging panel for the reality show Classical Star (BBC2 2007) and has anchored the BBC Proms TV coverage since 2001.

He authored and presented How Pop Songs Work (BBC4 2008) and a film with Damon Gough (aka Badly Drawn Boy) entitled Stripping Pop (BBC3 2003).

His first TV appearance was as music director on Jonathan Miller's Opera Works (1996).


Charles Hazlewood regularly performs and delivers musical analyses with the BBC Orchestras for Radio 3's Discovering Music.

Hazlewood's eclectic radio show (The Charles Hazlewood Show) on Radio 2, has won three Sony Awards. The musical selections are "linked together in surprising and productive new ways, with Mozart, for example, followed by Ivor Cutler, then the Streets, then Handel". Hazlewood has improvised music on the show with guests as diverse as Super Furry Animals, Scritti Politti, Billy Bragg, pianist Joanna MacGregor and the Guillemots. The next series of The Charles Hazlewood Show is due to begin in early 2010.

Music in Somerset

After adopting Somerset as his home, Hazlewood has been critical at the lack of professional orchestral performance in the county. He regularly involves local schoolchildren in his projects, holds regular workshops, advises young musicians, conducts amateur orchestras in the county, plays the organ in local churches and recently conducted at the re-opening of Bristol's Colston Hallmarker.

Hazlewood's flagship project is the music festival ‘Play the Field’ held at his farm near Glastonburymarker and launched in 2009. The festival, backed by TV Dragon Deborah Meaden takes place over the August Bank holiday weekend at his farm in Somerset. The 2009 programme included a version of Holst’s The Planets where members of Hazlewood’s All Star band, featuring Will Gregory (Goldfrapp), Adrian Utley (Portishead), saxophonists Andy Sheppard and Jason Yarde, drummer Tony Orrell, keyboardist Graham Fitkin and harpist Ruth Wall improvised electronic responses to each orchestral planet from a separate stage across the parkland. A recording of this concert was broadcast on BBC Radio 2 on September 11th 2009.

Hazlewood subsequently featured in a short film commissioned by inward investment agency Into Somerset, [1] which also included Deborah Meaden. The clip of Hazlewood was filmed at the rehearsal of 'Play the Field'.

Hazlewood conducted the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain at the 2007 Glastonbury Festivalmarker, making history in performing the first ever symphony concert on the world-famous Pyramid Stage. The Charles Hazlewood All Stars - an ensemble dedicated to improvisation - was launched at Glastonbury Festival 2008.

Current projects

In 2010 Hazlewood, members of his All Star band and period instrument orchestra, Army of Generals are launching a project based on music from The Beggar’s Opera which will first be heard at The Roundhousemarker in London, modernising many of the satirical songs of the original ballad opera of 1728, written by John Gay.


External Links

Charles Hazlewood Official Website

Play the Field Official Website

Biography at his agent's website

Charles Hazlewood on The Birth of British Music in The Guardian, May 2009

Charles Hazlewood on Play The Field in The Guardian, August 2009

Inside Charles Hazlewood's Diary, The Times, August 2009

Charles Hazlewood and Badly Drawn Boy, Stripping Pop on Tiger Aspect Productions

Youtube videos

The Genius of Mozart part 1, BBC 2003

The Genius of Beethoven part 1, BBC 2005

Discovering Tchaikovsky part 1, BBC 2007

The Birth of British Music, Handel, BBC 2009

Charles Hazlewood All Starts at Glastonbury 2008

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