After studies in musicology at the University of Copenhagen and bassoon at the Royal Academy of Music, Bo Holten established his reputation as a conductor of early music vocal groups, particularly Ars Nova which he formed in 1979. Ars Nova under Holten have since given around 450 performances and made 15 recordings of both contemporary and early music. He has an international reputation as a leading specialist in early music, especially in vocal polyphony.
Bo Holten has conducted most Danish professional symphony orchestras performing both his own and other composers’ works. From 1991 to 2007, Bo Holten was Guest Conductor of the BBC Singers in London He has conducted a wide range of ensembles and choirs in Scandinavia and abroad, among them the Swedish Radio Choir, Nederlands Kamerkoor, National Chamber Choir of Ireland, and the Flemish Radio Choir. From 2007 to 2012 he worked as chief conductor of the Flemish Radio Choir who said at the time: “That the Flemish Radio Choir has been so successful in bringing a major figure of the choral world to Flanders is proof of both the ambition of the choir and the confidence shown by the choral world itself in the choir’s potential”.
Bo Holten has composed over 100 works including symphonies, solo concertos, works for chorus and orchestra, operas, and musicals. He has also written works for chamber ensembles, song cycles, and pieces for percussion ensemble, as well as scores for films and television series. Among his most widely performed music are the 30 a cappella works which span his composing career.
In addition to being renowned as an early music specialist, Holten is an advocate of new music, presenting more than 175 premieres of new works. In his own work, Holten’s music likewise builds a bridge between old and new.
His opera, Gesualdo, which blends Don Carlo Gesualdo’s idiom into his own and is scored for Baroque period ensemble was a controversial hit when it opened in 2003. Holten’s opera, Operation Orfeo is the most frequently staged Danish opera in history, achieving over 100 performances throughout Europe.
In fall 2014, Bo Holten staged his second Gesualdo-opera Gesualdo · Shadows and he is currently working on a great Opera on Martin Luther commissioned by the Malmö Opera House.