Born in Petrozavodsk, Russia, Yuri Klaz graduated from his hometown’s Music College and Conservatory before finishing his Master’s degree in conducting at the St. Petersburg State Conservatory. In 1982, he was appointed an Associate Professor of choral and orchestral conducting at the Petrozavodsk Conservatory and, in 1987, became the Artistic Director and Conductor of the Chamber Choir of Petrozavodsk’s Karelian Art Centre. Under his guidance, the choir earned numerous awards performing in concert tours and music festivals in Russia, Germany, Finland, Estonia, Ireland and Norway.
In 1995, by decree of President Boris Yeltzin, Mr. Klaz was awarded the prestigious title, “Honoured Artist of Russia,” investing him with a silver medal for exceptional success in the development of art in Russia. In 2000, the Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir recruited Yuri Klaz as its Artistic Director and Conductor. Quickly becoming a leader in Winnipeg’s choral community, in 2003 he was appointed Artistic Director and Conductor of The Winnipeg Singers, and now also directs the First Mennonite Church Choir. In 2005, Mr. Klaz made a critically acclaimed debut as a conductor with the WSO in a choral series that included Fauré’s Requiem, Verdi’s Stabat Mater and J. S. Bach’s Cantata No. 4.
In 2006 Mr. Klaz made his first appearance with the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra conducting Mozart’s Great Mass in C minor with the Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir and The Winnipeg Singers. He has also led The Winnipeg Singers in several performances at the WSO’s New Music Festival.
Mr. Klaz has directed choirs around the world, including United States, Japan, Taiwan, Germany, Russia, Austria, France, Italy and The Netherlands, and has attended World Choral Symposiums in Vancouver, Minneapolis, Sydney, Kyoto and Copenhagen. In his more than 40-year-career Mr. Klaz has conducted numerous major choral works, including J.S. Bach’s Mass in B Minor and Weihnachts-Oratorium (Christmas Oratorio); Handel’s Messiah; Brahms’ Ein Deutches Requiem; Bruckner’s Requiem; Mozart’s Requiem; Mendelssohn’s Elijah; Rutter’s Magnificat; Pärt’s Berliner Messe and, most recently, Rachmaninoff’s Vespers.
In June 2010, Yuri Klaz was honored with the Winnipeg Arts Council’s “Making a Mark” award in recognition of his contribution to choral music performance. In July 2016 Mr. Klaz led The Winnipeg Singers’ performance at the 5th International Choral Competition in Florence, bringing home the award for Best Choir: The Golden David.