"Beethoven's 'Egmont' overture, the centerpiece, made the most of the orchestra's warm, generous sound and de Cou's sense of phrasing and character."
American conductor Emil de Cou appears regularly with orchestras across the United States and is currently the Music Director of the Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle. He most recently appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in August of 2022, conducting the orchestra’s closing performance at Ravinia and this past October conducted the premiere of Michael Giacchino’s Werewolf by Night at The Kennedy Center, hosted by Mr. Giacchino.
Mr. de Cou has conducted a wide range of performances with the National Symphony Orchestra as associate conductor and as a guest since his debut at Wolf Trap in 2000. He formally joined the National Symphony conducting staff in 2001, and in addition to being Associate Conductor, he served as the conductor of the NSO at the Wolf Trap Festival. His innovative concerts at Wolf Trap have included the first screenings of The Wizard of Oz with the score performed with live orchestra, the first ever live-tweeted program notes (for Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony), and a live real-time podcast for a concert entitled Fantastic Planet. In 2003 he conducted the premiere of the original version of Debussy’s Printemps at the National Cathedral with the Cathedral Choral Society and the NSO.
Mr. de Cou has appeared as guest conductor with many leading orchestras, including those of Philadelphia, Chicago, Houston, Saint Louis, Detroit, Montreal, Boston Pops, Minnesota, and San Francisco, where he also served as Principal Pops Conductor. He was hired by Mikhail Baryshnikov as conductor of the American Ballet Theatre and served for eight seasons, conducting performances at the Metropolitan Opera House as well as national and international tours. He made his Carnegie Hall debut with the New York Pops Orchestra in 2006.
As musical consultant for NASA, Mr. de Cou conducted several successful collaborations, including Human Spaceflight: The Kennedy Legacy, at the Kennedy Center. In 2006 he led the NSO in a presentation of Holst’s The Planets with narration by Leonard Nimoy and images from NASA. For his ongoing work with NASA, Mr. de Cou was awarded the agency’s Exceptional Public Achievement Medal in 2012 by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. In 2021, he led the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in the Vital Voices of the Planet for the UN COP 26 Climate Summit.
His performance of the ballet Othello (with music Elliot Goldenthal) was aired on PBS’s Great Performances and recorded for the Varèse Sarabande label. His other recordings include Debussy Rediscovered, which includes previously unrecorded works by Debussy, for the Arabesque label, and the first recording of Charles Griffes’s The Karin of Koridwen for Koch Records.
Emil de Cou was born in Los Angeles and studied with Daniel Lewis at the University of Southern California. He was the subject of a documentary on National Public Radio and participated in Leonard Bernstein's master class at the Hollywood Bowl. He resides in San Francisco and Seattle with his husband, conductor Leif Bjaland.