The Danish conductor and composer, Bo Holten, studied musicology at the university of Copenhagen and bassoon at the Royal Academy of Music, but he was principally autodidact. He then worked some years as music teacher and as critic at various newspapers in Copenhagen.
In 1979 Bo Holten founded the vocal group Ars Nova with whom he through 17 years made more than 500 concerts, performances of almost 120 world premieres and 20 CD recordings with both contemporary and early music. In 1991 he was appointed Guest Conductor of the BBC Singers, London, with whom he has worked on a regular basis every year, giving some 70 concerts, radio- and CD recordings including works with Symphony Orchestra and several BBC Proms. 1996 he founded the vocal ensemble Musica Ficta with whom he has now conducted about 250 concerts and theatre performances, and recorded 18 CD's. In December 2007 he was appointed chief conductor for the Flemish Radio Choir in Brussels. From the press release: " 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 choirs potential".
Bo Holten has an international reputation as a leading specialist in early music, especially with regard to vocal polyphony. He has frequently led challenging concerts in which works from various eras and nations have appeared on the same programme. As a freelance conductor he has been a guest at a wide range of ensembles and choirs in Scandinavia and abroad, among them the Swedish Radio Choir and the Nederlands Kamerkoor, The National Chamber Choir of Ireland, and The Flemish Radio Choir. He is a regular visitor with most symphony orchestras in Denmark, often working with oratorios, contemporary or late romantic music. Every year since 1985, Holten has been conducting a five day orchestral workshop for younger composers with the South Jutland Symphony Orchestra. Over the years Bo Holten has conducted more than 175 world premieres. His recording of music by Delius with the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra (on Danacord) met with considerable acclaim in the UK where The Grammophone awarded it “Editors Choice” and Classical CD named it Record of the Month. Holten's orchestration of Carl Nielsen’s grand Commotio and other newly orchestrated Nielsen works was praised highly by the press, recorded under his baton by The Odense Symphony Orchestra. A second Delius recording with works connected to Norway with the Aarhus orchestra appeared in 2002. Also this was elected as "Editor's choice". Since then Bo Holten has recorded a long list of orchestral CD's for the Danish National Label DACAPO, featuring music by for example Riisager, Emil Hartmann, Erik Bach, Thomas Koppel and Emil Reesen, and also an entire CD devoted to Holten's own choir works. At the moment (2007) Holten is concentrating mainly on composing a new grand opera (his sixth), based on P.O.Enquist's famed novel The Visit of the Royal Physician of 1999, already translated into 32 languages. This work will be premiered under the composer's baton in Copenhagen's new operahouse during the first months of 2009.
Bo Holten is also a prolific composer with more than 100 works on his work-list. Among those are 5 operas of which nr. 3 Operation Orfeo has been the most frequently performed contemporary Danish opera with now 89 performances worldwide. His fifth opera "Gesualdo", written for a period band, a madrigal group, and "modern" opera singers met with general acclaim in 2003. He has also written 2 symphonies, 4 concertos and two musicals. Among his most widely performed music are the 30 a cappella-works which span his whole composing career. Apart from that there are also songs, chamber music and several film- and TV-scores. As a composer he has been particularly noted for his inventive counterpoint and melodic writing.
As composer and musician Bo Holten is thoroughly extrovert and it is important to him that the music is understandable and has an influence on people, and according to him musical composi-tion is always an activity which is part of concrete musical practice. Bo Holten was a member of the State's Music Council from 1979 to 1983 and chairman of the music committee of the State's Arts Council from 1990 to 1993 and has received several distinguished awards including the Herman Sandby Prize 1980, Rostrum of Composers, Paris 1982, Danish Composers Association's Anniversary Grant 1983, The Art Council's Production Reward 1984 and the Møgens Wöldike Prize 1984.