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"To a considerable degree, the success of the concert as a whole stemmed from the clear, engaged leadership of conductor Hirzer, whose evident musical talents and leadership abilities were apparent in all the works presented. As on other occasions, Hirzer showed himself to be a conductor with wide-ranging sympathies, able to deal with complex modern works, but also to engage the established repertory with genuine understanding." -Calgary Herald
"Mr. Hirzer brought a combination of detailed accuracy and intense musical feeling to the work [Mr. Tambourine Man], resulting in an absolutely marvelous performance." - John Corigliano
"Special mention needs to be made of conductor Karl Hirzer, for whom this [Unsuk Chin's Graffiti] was a tremendous challenge, especially in matters of rhythm. That he could manage such a task at all was a demonstration of his skill as a conductor and ability to handle the most difficult music. This point was recognized by the players themselves, who showed their warm appreciation for his leadership." - Calgary Herald
"The Szczecin Philharmonic was conducted by Karl Hirzer, a 29-year old Canadian musician recognized by critics as a rising star in the world of conducting." - Radio Szczecin
"The performances of [Mozart] overtures and arias that Hirzer led were the work of a thoroughly cultivated musician who knows his scores, has interesting musical ideas and can convey them to an orchestra. Steady competence, leavened here and there with sparkle were the hallmarks of this very fine, much-enjoyed concert." - Calgary Herald
The gifted young Canadian conductor Karl Hirzer can’t remember a time when he didn’t want to be a musician.
Karl grew up in New Westminster, BC, in a household filled with music. His parents had Glenn Gould and Louis Armstrong on the CD player; he and his mother sang along with Irish folk songs on the radio (and he’d let her know if she hit a wrong note).
He was “composing” at the family’s upright piano at age four. Formal piano lessons began at six. At twelve he started playing guitar in heavy metal bands and dreamed of becoming a rock star, while simultaneously perfecting Chopin Études and Beethoven Sonatas. He earned his ARCT at seventeen.
Today he’s Associate Conductor of the Calgary Philharmonic and has led orchestras from Vancouver to Halifax, from the Gstaad Festival to educational programs in Warsaw. He is the 2022 recipient of the Heinz Unger Award, presented biennially by the Ontario Arts Council to Canada’s most promising emerging conductor.
Karl was a prodigious pianist and studied to become a soloist at the University of Victoria before getting his master’s at McGill University in Montreal.
He got his first taste of conducting an orchestra during his undergrad and basked in the wondrous experience of sharing his musical ideas with a big band of musicians and an audience, through simple gestures. Imagine - hundreds of people in the concert hall, each having a unique experience of a shared moment, something communal and intimate at the same time, forging a personal relationship with a composer who may be long dead - or sitting in the front row.
He believes music plays an essential role in our lives.It touches us viscerally, even though we can’t really explain why or how.
Karl is especially committed to exploring music by living composers and believes that modern music defines what the classical idiom is today. He’s also heavily invested in bringing music to young audiences, helping them discover a sound world that’s completely captivating. His contributions to the arts, community and education were recognized with his inclusion in Avenue Magazine’s Top 40 under 40 list for 2022.
He continues to perform as an instrumentalist and also composes his own music, blending genres while mixing acoustic and electronic instruments. Heads up - his first album of original material will be released in spring of 2023.
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