His professional debut was in a performance of Handel's Messiah for the BBC (1971). Esswood has participated in over 150 recordings, including the alto parts in many Bach cantatas with the Teldec series by conductors Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Gustav Leonhardt. He has recorded Messiah four times, as well as extended works by Henry Purcell, Claudio Monteverdi, Francesco Cavalli, Marc-Antoine Charpentier and others. Among the roles in contemporary works written for Esswood are the title role in Philip Glass's Akhnaten and Death in Penderecki's Paradise Lost. He also sang in the première of Schnittke's Second Symphony. Paul Esswood is the founder of Pro Cantione Antiqua, an all-male a cappella group specializing in early music. He is also establishing a reputation as a conductor of Baroque opera.
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