Karina Canellakis joins the London Philharmonic Orchestra
New principal guest conductor brings first-hand knowledge of life as a player and includes a family concert among her first appearances
Canellakis's appointment chalks up another success for the growing number of women conductors who have refreshed a traditionally male-dominated world. She joins the orchestra at a time of transition, its current principle conductor, the dynamic Vladimir Jurowski, shortly to stand down and the very popular Edward Gardner due to take his place in 2021.
She is much in demand, already chief conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic and principal guest conductor of the Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Berlin. Last year Canellakis conducted the First Night of the Proms in London.
She began her career as a violinist, graduating from the Curtis Institute of Music, performing frequently as soloist and chamber musician, and playing for two years in the Berlin Philharmonic as a member of their Orchester-Akademie, where her change of career was encouraged by then principal conductor Sir Simon Rattle, now music diector of the London Symphony Orchestra. She then spent a number of years playing regularly in the Chicago Symphony and appearing as guest leader of various orchestras including Bergen Philharmonic.
Vladimir Jurowski is principal conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Photo: Simon Jay Price
Inspired to focus more seriously on conducting, she studied at the prestigious Juilliard school in New York, and began conducting professionally in 2013, initially with the International Contemporary Ensemble. She made her European conducting debut in 2015 and over the last few seasons has made hugely successful debuts with leading orchestras who have invited her back and and built lasting relationships.
Timothy Walker, chief executive and artistic director of the LPO, says: 'There are very few conductors who instantly impress players by their command of a score, their insights and their intellectual rigour. Karina is one of those few, and everyone at the London Philharmonic Orchestra is thrilled that she will join us as our next Principal Guest Conductor. We look forward to many years of music-making with Karina.’
Although the coronavirus lockdown as suspended all public live music-making for now, she will join an orchestra in terrific shape, its playing more colourful and focused than ever after its years under the demanding and charismatic Jurowski.
Says Canellakis: 'We are going to explore all kinds of different repertoire, looking through a fresh lens at the most beloved works of Beethoven and Brahms, plunging into the intense world of Shostakovich, as well as venturing into lesser known territory. I cannot wait to see the members of the orchestra again, to hear their virtuosic and soulful playing, and to make thrilling music together.'
Pianist Stephen Hough is the soloist in Canellakis's concert with the LPO on 16 April 2021. Photo: Sim Canetty-Clarke
Canellakis will conduct four Royal Festival Hall concerts with the LPO in the 2020/21 season. Her first concert (3 Oct) in her new role pairs Beethoven’s Symphony No 8 with John Adams’s concerto for string quartet, Absolute Jest. The following day (4 Oct, 12PM) she conducts a FUNharmonics family concert featuring Berlioz's action-packed Symphonie Fantastique.
She returns to the RFH in spring 2021 to conduct Schumann's Violin Concerto, with Frank Peter Zimmerman, and Shostakovich's Symphony No 5, plus Komarov’s Fall by the LPO’s composer-in-residence, Brett Dean (14 April).
Music-lovers will book early for the concert featuring Stephen Hough on 16 April 2021, when the popular soloist plays Brahms's Piano Concerto No 1 and the concert concludes with Beethoven's great Symphony No 3, the Eroica.
The London Philharmonic Orchestra was founded by Sir Thomas Beecham in 1932, and has since been headed by many great conductors including Sir Adrian Boult, Bernard Haitink, Sir Georg Solti, Klaus Tennstedt and Kurt Masur. It has performed at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall since it opened in 1951, becoming resident orchestra in 1992.