Such is a sampling of reviews garnered by Maestro Robert Olson, Artistic Director and Conductor of the Colorado MahlerFest since its inception twenty-one years ago. He brings an amazingly active and varied career to the podium, encompassing the entire spectrum of the concert stage, including symphony, opera, and ballet.
Currently a resident of Kansas City, Robert Olson holds posts with two other orchestras. He is Director of Orchestras/Opera at the Conservatory of Music at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where his two orchestras and, in particular, the opera productions consistently receive critical acclaim. With a repertoire of over 60 operas, productions include Turandot, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Manon, and Ariadne auf Naxos. He is also Music Director and Conductor of the Longmont Symphony Orchestra in Colorado, an orchestra that has consistently received rave reviews from Colorado critics. During his 24-year tenure, the orchestra has flourished, presenting an eleven-concert season to enthusiastic audiences, and Colorado residents hear the orchestra regularly on classical music radio station KVOD.
Prior to his move to Kansas City he was on the faculty of the University of Colorado/Boulder College of Music for sixteen years, where he was music director of the opera program and Associate Conductor of Orchestras. Local audiences also remember his years of conducting the immensely popular Colorado Gilbert & Sullivan Festival.
During his fourteen year tenure as conductor for the Kansas City Ballet, he conducted over 600 performances with the St. Louis and Kansas City Symphonies. He has held conducting posts with the Omaha Symphony, Boulder Baroque Chamber Orchestra, Boulder Civic Opera, Arapahoe Chamber Orchestra, Arvada Chamber Orchestra, Colorado Lyric Theater, and the Rocky Ridge Music Festival.
As an active guest conductor, he has led many orchestras in the United States. In 1990, he made his European debut in Belgium, resulting in return invitations to Belgium, and engagements in Venezuela, Bergamo and Milan, Italy, the Czech Republic, the Ljubljana Music Festival, Oporto, Portugal, and the National Symphony of China in Beijing. In February of 2001 he conducted four major Stravinsky works in a Stravinsky Festival sponsored by the Kansas City Symphony as well as five performances for the Miami City Ballet. In April, 2004, he took first place in a ten-contestant orchestra competition, conducting the Korean National Symphony in a concert that was televised live over much of Asia.
Following the success of his recording of Mahler's Eighth Symphony, critiqued as "legendary" by several national publications, Dr. Olson and a small international team of Mahler scholars spent over a year editing and preparing the Joe Wheeler realization of Mahler's Tenth Symphony. He then recorded the world premiere of the Wheeler version, both with the MahlerFest Orchestra in 1997 and for Naxos Records with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra in 2002, to reviews such as "second only to Rattle and Berlin." His recordings of all the Mahler symphonies with the MahlerFest Orchestra are known throughout the world.
He is married to Victoria Hagood-Olson and has two daughters, Tori and Chelsea, both budding musicians.