Michael Alexander Willens

Michael Alexander Willens

“The success of the whole owed in large measure to the uncommonly precise, yet never affected gestures of Michael Alexander Willens.”


Michael Alexander Willens is the music director of the Kölner Akademie, a period instrument chamber orchestra and choir based in Cologne, Germany.

He studied conducting with John Nelson at the Juilliard School in New York, where he received B.M. and M.M. degrees. He has also studied with Leonard Bernstein at Tanglewood, as well as choral conducting with Paul Vorwerk.

Willens’ broad experience has given him an unusual depth of background and familiarity with performance practice styles ranging from baroque, classical and romantic through to contemporary as well as jazz and pop music.

Mr. Willens has conducted concerts at major concert halls and festivals in Europe, Asia, North and South America, Scandinavia, Russia, Iceland, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Israel, receiving the highest critical praise.

Aside from Die Kölner Akademie, he has guest conducted orchestras in Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, Brazil, Canada, Israel and the Jeune Orchestre Atlantique in Saintes.


In addition to the standard repertoire, Michael Alexander Willens is dedicated to performing works by lesser-known contemporary American composers and has conducted several world premières, many of which have been broadcast live or filmed for television.

He is also keenly interested in re-discovering music from the past and has released over 70 world premiere recordings featuring lesser-known composers from the baroque, (Girolamo Abos, Johann Friedrich Agricola, Gottfried August Homilius, Johann Heinrich Rolle and others) classical (Carl Friedrich Abel, Ernst Wilhelm Wolf, Carl Philipp Stamitz, Wenceslas Pichl and others) and romantic (Anton Eberl, Bernhard Crusell, Johann Wenzel Kalliwoda, Sigismund Ritter von Neukomm, and others) repertoire for CPO, ARS Produktion, Capriccio and Hänssler Classic.

Several of these recordings have been nominated and given awards. They have all received outstanding international reviews.

He has also recorded full cycles of Mozart, Beethoven, Wilms and Weber piano concertos as well the complete works for solo piano and orchestra by Felix Mendelssohn- Bartholdy with Ronald Brautigam for BIS. For the Deutsche Grammophon label he recorded a set of Bach chorales for their Bach 333 box set.

Recent releases

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“Willens achieves an impeccably stylish and enjoyable performance.”

“…conductor Michael Alexander Willens exploits every bar of the score to fullest expressive effect.”

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Overtures

“Conductor Michael Alexander Willens projects uplift and energy within the music, along with fleet-footed drive.”


CPE Bach: Magnificat

“Michael Alexander Willens‘ Kölner Akademie bietet ein hochdifferenziertes, präzis ausgearbeitetes Klangerlebnis und schlägt in echter kammerorchestraler Besetzung die interpretatorisch feine Klinge.”


Jacques Offenbach: Le Violoneux, Le 66

„Die Kölner Akademie unter Michael Alexander Willens hat schon vor ein paar Jahren mit dem Doppel Pomme d’Api – Sur un vulcan ihre hohe Offenbach-Kompetenz unter Beweis gestellt.“


Emilie Mayer: Piano concerto, Overtures

“Michael Alexander Willens arbeitet mit der Kölner Akademie die scharfen Kontraste und die häufigen Farbwechsel zwischen Streichern und Bläsern klar heraus,”



“La Speranza” baroque music from Italy
Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano concerto no. 1

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