Matthew Dirst, organist, harpsichordist, conductor

Handel, Agrippina, November 2018, Ars Lyrica Houston 

“Ars Lyrica, Houston's preeminent early music ensemble, under the sparkling direction of Matthew Dirst, has staged an utterly magnificent production of George Frideric Handel’s first international smash hit: his baroque opera seria Agrippina (1709). This opera rarity is the company's first fully staged work, and it’s wildly successful. It’s stupendous!  

With this peerless production, Ars Lyrica pays Handel the greatest homage. The show has style, wit, glorious singing, elegant design. Maestro Dirst is in love with Handel, and he makes us fall in love with him, too.” 
-Houston Press (17 November 2018) 

 “Dirst, directing Ars Lyrica’s period-instrument ensemble from a harpsichord at the center of the pit, emphasized Handel’s drive and buoyancy. But when the singers brought lyricism to the fore, the orchestra supplied a limpid and expressive accompaniment. Dirst and the group played their own role in the story.” 
-Arts and Culture Texas (26 November 2018)

Handel’s Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne & Bach’s Trauerode, April 2018, Ars Lyrica Houston  

“Matthew Dirst…has an unerring ability to put together programs that are musically rich and varied, framed in fascinating historical context, and vividly brought to life by the finest guest soloists and musicians…. Conducting the full chorus and instrumental ensemble from the harpsichord, Dirst set a moderately brisk pace in the opening movement that reflected the solemn majesty of the occasion without any trace of heaviness. The chorus sang with clarity and pathos while the music moved forward with supple fluidity.”  
- Arts+Culture Texas (12 April 2018) 

Matthew Dirst, organist, harpsichordist, conductor
Matthew Dirst, organist, harpsichordist, conductor
Matthew Dirst, organist, harpsichordist, conductor
Matthew Dirst, organist, harpsichordist, conductor
Matthew Dirst, organist, harpsichordist, conductor
Matthew Dirst, organist, harpsichordist, conductor
Matthew Dirst, organist, harpsichordist, conductor

Bach, St John Passion, March 2018, Washington Bach Consort 

“Dirst is an efficient, extremely precise conductor who has an ear for detail and up-to-date ideas about performing Bach. Leading from a portative keyboard in front of the orchestra, he brought a beautifully blended sound from the 16 voices of the chorus, rich in dynamic variety and always sensitive to Bach’s piquant dissonances.”  
- The Washington Post (19 March 2018) 

Handel, Esther, February 2018, Ars Lyrica Houston 

“Dirst [brought] ‘Esther’ to vivid, dramatic life…the music-making was accomplished, idiomatic, and tightly controlled...several of ‘Esther’s’ highlights transcended the concert setting.”  
- Houston Chronicle (19 February 2018) 

W. F. Bach, Concerto in D Major, June 2016 National Convention of the American Guild of Organists  

“Multiple keyboard skills coupled with intellectual rigor and creativity characterize the work of Matthew Dirst…his hands whirred through the flashing runs and bizarre flourishes of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach’s Concerto.”  
- The American Organist (September 2016) 

Autumn Hunt, September 2015, Ars Lyrica Houston with mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton and violinist Adam LaMotte

“Barton and Dirst’s band…imbued the aria’s recitative with unhurried expressivity and eschewed sluggishness in the piece nicknamed Handel’s Largo…. The performance [of Vivaldi’s “Fall” Concerto] was admirably tight and crisp. There was a lovely transparency and sweetness in the softer moments, and the work’s concluding Allegro boasted stirring, Ländler-like bounce and heft.”  
- Classical Voice North America (17 September 2015) 

Handel, Alexander’s Feast, May 2015, Bach Society Houston & Ars Lyrica Houston 

“Conducting both clear and evocative by Ars Lyrica’s Matthew Dirst yielded a performance as irresistibly lively as it was stylish. The music danced.”  
- The Dallas Morning News (18 May 2015) 

Scarlatti, La Diridina & Pur nel sonno, 2012 Sono Luminus recording with Ars Lyrica Houston 

“Engaging and animated…the whole program is very well constructed and performed. There is a very fine assurance and comfort in the style, tight playing among the singers and players, perfectly-judged tempos, and strong vocal acting.”  
- American Record Guide (January/February 2013) 

Monteverdi, 1610 Vespers, November 2010, Orpheus Chamber Singers & Ars Lyrica Houston
No. 1 Classical Concert of 2010, The Dallas Morning News

“Dirst’s crisp but expressive direction yielded impressive precision, but also rhythmic buoyancy and rhetorical freedom. Lines were lovingly shaped, harmonic crunches viscerally felt, phrases elegantly rounded off…it was one of the most glorious musical experiences I’ve had in 11 years in Dallas.”  
- The Dallas Morning News (15 November 2010) 

Hasse, Marc’Antonio e Cleopatra, 2010 Sono Luminus recording with Ars Lyrica Houston. Grammy nomination for Best Opera 2011

“a thrilling performance that glows in its quieter moments and sparkles with vitality.”  
- Early Music America (Spring 2011) 

  “Dirst leads a disciplined, well-balanced performance…fluent and poised.”  
- Fanfare (January 2011) 

“One couldn’t ask for a finer world-premiere recording of this 1725 operatic dialogue…Johann Adolf Hasse’s gorgeous score glows under Matthew Dirst’s direction. The singers on this two-CD set are a pleasure, too.”  
- The Toronto Star (September 2010) 

Harpsichord Music of François and Armand-Louis Couperin, 2010 Centaur recording 

“A stylish, tasteful, and technically commanding performance…expressive and brilliant playing.”  
- Early Music America (Spring 2011) 

“From the opening measures of Le Verneüil (18th Ordre), I sensed that here was a performer with an innate feeling for Couperin. Dirst is able to find the exact expressive center of each piece—the Affekt—and deliver it in a neat package…. I found myself shaking my head in agreement with nearly every one of Dirst’s interpretative choices, from the tender Soeur Monique of the 18th Ordre, to the concluding grand passacaille L’Amphibie of the 24th Ordre.”  
- Fanfare (2011) 

Bach, “Goldberg” Variations, May 2006, New York, Houston, and Dallas 

“Dirst proved himself to be an interesting colorist, providing kaleidoscopic variety as the evening developed…an extremely taut and accurate traversal [of the “Goldberg” Variations]…with a propulsive, almost primitive, sense of meter.”  
- The New York Sun (26-28 May 2006) 

“[Dirst] gave a technically dazzling, deeply moving performance...his every mood captivated.”  
-Houston Chronicle (6 February 2006) 

“[Dirst’s] playing was of irresistible rhythmic impulse, the rhythm not of the metronome but of a fine dancer ever minutely adjusting to gravity’s tug. He commanded the music’s intellectual rigors but also luxuriated in its pure delight. And there was some pretty dazzling virtuosity.”
- The Dallas Morning News (5 April 2005)