Conductor Stephen Layton has, unusually, cultivated a strong career in both choral and orchestral music. Perhaps best known as the director of music at Trinity College, Cambridge, he has often championed contemporary works.
Layton was born in Derby, England, on December 23, 1966. His father was a church organist, and he became interested in choral music early on, becoming a chorister at Winchester Cathedral and earning scholarships to Eton College (in American terms a high school), and then to Cambridge University, where he earned the competitive post of organ scholar at King's College. He sang in its famous choir and soon settled on a career as a choral conductor himself, founding the mixed-voice choir Polyphony in 1986 while still a Cambridge student. He has remained associated with the group, which has broadened its repertory beyond its original early music base, moved to London, and recorded extensively. The group has participated in the world premieres of several major works, including the Symphony No. 2 of Alfred Schnittke. Layton held posts as assistant organist at Southwark Cathedral, as director of the Wokingham Choral Society, and as director of music at the medieval Temple Church in London. He worked in northwestern Europe as chief conductor of the Netherlands Chamber Choir from 1999 to 2004, and as chief guest conductor of the Danish National Vocal Ensemble from 2000 to 2012. In addition to Polyphony, Layton serves as director of three other major ensembles: the Holst Singers, taking up the baton in 1993; the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, where he began work in 1996 and later assumed the position of director of music; and conductor of the City of London Sinfonia, where he was named artistic director in 2009, later given the title of principal conductor.
It is a measure of Layton's depth and versatility that he has made major recordings with all three of these groups. By the late 2010s, his catalog of recordings, many of them on the Hyperion label, numbered well over 50. In 2019, with the Choir of Trinity College, he issued a recording of choral music by Gerald Finzi.