Having enjoyed a long and successful career as a leading professional oboist, Jonathan Small has in recent years chosen to develop a parallel conducting career. Jonathan has now conducted opera, choral music, chamber and large symphony orchestras and now has a wide range of symphonic repertoire to offer. He enjoys an excellent rapport with audiences and musicians alike.
Jonathan has studied conducting keenly during his many years as a leading orchestral section principal and soloist with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, where he has worked closely with world-famous conductors such as Vasily Petrenko, Andrew Manze, Sir Simon Rattle, Libor Pešek KBE, Vernon Handley, Sir Charles Mackerras and Marek Janowski. He has worked with choral specialists such as Richard Hickox, Ian Tracey, Simon Halsey and Claus Peter Flor. Earlier in his career as Principal Oboist at Scottish Opera he had the privilege of working under Sir Alexander Gibson, Raymond Leppard, Leonard Hancock and Roderick Brydon.
At the time he sought to take up conducting from 2005, Jonathan had the benefit of regular mentoring by the late Frank Shipway, which Jonathan found hugely insightful and formative (drawing strongly on his time spent playing for maestro Shipway in his student days) together with technical coaching from Peter Stark. Jonathan enjoys working with all types of ensembles whether professional, youth or amateur, and today has many successful performances and a constantly expanding repertoire.
Jonathan has conducted the wind section of the RLPO in several programmes, performing music by Richard Strauss, Dvořák and Mozart, Enescu, John McCabe and Adam Gorb at Liverpool’s St.Georges Hall. Having made his debut as a conductor with the winds of Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra a few years earlier, in August 2014 Jonathan conducted the Swedish chamber orchestra Musica Vitae as part of the Music at Bosjökloster series in a programme including woodwind concertos by Mozart. In 2014 Jonathan also made his conducting debut in New York, conducting a professional ensemble at NYU in the US premiere of the Concertino for Bassoon by Augusta Read Thomas, and also Michael Daugherty’s Firecracker. In that concert he also played Chen Qigang’s Extase II.
In October 2014 Jonathan was invited to conduct the Kuopio Symphony Orchestra in Finland, performing Elgar’s Enigma Variations in a highly successful concert dedicated to the memory of Frank Shipway, who had been the orchestra’s Chief Guest Conductor for some years.
In 2008 Jonathan Small took over conducting the Wirral Symphony Orchestra. Under his direction the WSO’s playing standards have risen steeply and their reputation has grown enormously. In 2014 Wirral SO celebrated its 30th anniversary season giving ten concerts, the highpoint being Mahler’s Second Symphony at Chester Cathedral in May, followed by the orchestra’s first concerts outside the UK, with a visit to Normandy, where they gave a memorable performance of the Requiem by Duruflé at Notre Dame Cathedral in Le Havre with their partner choir, Ensemble Vocale Renaissance. More Mahler followed with a triumphant performance of the 3rd Symphony in Chester in July 2015, and further performances of Haydn’s Creation in Normandy in May 2016. The same forces will give Brahms’ German Requiem in Chester and Normandy in May of this year.
Jonathan has proven himself capable of handing the most challenging of scores and of training orchestras to take on such works with confidence. Recent performances include Nielsen's Inextinguishable Symphony with the Crosby Symphony Orchestra in Liverpool, and Rachmaninov's Third with the Wrexham Symphony. Wirral Symphony gave Martinů's Third Symphony in 2017, to great acclaim.