René Jacobs

Belgian countertenor and orchestra conductor

As well as an internationally well-known orchestra conductor, René Jacobs also used to be one of the greatest countertenors of his generation. He did more that 200 recordings and has become a remarkable figure in the classical music world.

Born in Ghent on the 30th of October 1946, René Jacobs was introduced to singing when he was a choral boy for the St Bavo's Cathedral in Ghent. While learning more about the vocal art, he studied classical philology at Ghent University and even taught Latin and Greek for a few years. Afterwards, he dedicated himself solely to music.

Impressed by his encounter with Gustav Leonhardt, the Kuijken brothers and Alfred Deller, René Jacobs turned to the baroque repertoire and created the Concerto Vocale in 1977. His research on vocal techniques and partition led him to become a teacher at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis and to establish relations with the Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles. He nonetheless carried on with his singing activities and did several recordings, with the label Harmonia Mundi among others.

René Jacobs started his career as a lyrical conductor in 1983 when he conducted a production of Orontea by Cesti at the Innsbruck Festival – he would become in 1991 its the artistic director. Since then, he has been conducting orchestras on a regular basis on the most prestigious stages (Staatsoper in Berlin, Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels, Aix en Provence festival, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées…).

He often got the honours from the international critics for his recordings. 

Six landmark dates in the life of René Jacobs

• 1946: born in Ghent (Belgium)
• 1977: creation of the Concerto Vocale
• 1983: first experience as a conductor
• 1991: became the Innsbruck Festival artistic director
• 1999: started a series of recordings of Mozart’s opera for the label Harmonia Mundi
• 2009: Designated Artist of the year by Classica for his recordings of the Brockes Passion of Telemann, Idomeneo of Mozart and The Creation of Haydn.

Six key recordings by René Jacobs

• Bach, Passion selon Saint Matthieu
René Jacobs (Alto solo), Collegium Vocale, la Chapelle Royale (dir. Philippe Herreweghe)
Harmonia Mundi, 1985
• Schütz, Kleine Geistliche Konzerte
René Jacobs, William Christie, Christophe Coin…
Harmonia Mundi, 1991
• Monteverdi, Orfeo
Concerto Vocale (dir. René Jacobs)
Harmonia Mundi, 1995
• Mozart, Le Nozze di Figaro
Concerto Köln (dir. René Jacobs)
Harmonia Mundi, 2003
• Haydn, Die Schöpfung
RIAS Kammerchor, Freiburger Barockorchester (dir. René Jacobs)
Harmonia Mundi, 2009
• Mozart, Idomeneo
RIAS Kammerchor, Freiburger Barockorchester (dir. René Jacobs)
Harmonia Mundi, 2009