The 36-year-old American conductor Karina Canellakis is the new Chief Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. She will lead the orchestra for four years, starting on September 1st, 2019 and will succeed Markus Stenz.
Eight weeks ago Karina Canellakis made a stunning debut with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra in Utrecht and Amsterdam, conducting works by Britten, Shostakovich and Beethoven. Her concerts excelled in spontaneity and depth coupled with orchestral beauty and perfection, and, following these performances, many members of the orchestra expressed overwhelming enthusiasm in favour of inviting her to become their new Chief Conductor.
Born in New York City into a musical family – her mother is a pianist, father a conductor and her brother is a concert cellist – Karina Canellakis studied violin at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. After graduating, she spent several seasons as a touring freelance musician, as recital and concerto soloist, chamber musician, and also gaining orchestral experience as a substitute with orchestras of the caliber of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Berliner Philharmoniker. As a member of the Karajan Akademie of the Berliner Philharmoniker, she came to the attention of Sir Simon Rattle, her first mentor who encouraged her to pursue conducting. Ms. Canellakis later entered the Juilliard School of Music (New York) where she studied with Alan Gilbert, and during her time in New York was also mentored by Fabio Luisi. After Juilliard she joined the Dallas Symphony as assistant conductor to music director Jaap van Zweden, himself a former Chief Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic (2006-2012).
After a last minute jump-in for maestro van Zweden, conducting Shostakovich’s monumental Eighth Symphony, Ms. Canellakis began to achieve national recognition. Barely six months later, she filled in again on short notice for Nikolaus Harnoncourt with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe at the 2015 Styriarte Festival, and started to develop her international reputation. In 2016 she was awarded the Sir George Solti Conducting Award of the Solti Foundation in Chicago, and by the time she finished her two-year assistant appointment in Dallas, a full schedule of guest engagements on three continents awaited her. In the past two seasons she has appeared with more than twenty-five major orchestras, and has already developed relationships with several, including the BBC Symphony Orchestra (having made her debut with them at the 2017 London Proms), Los Angeles Philharmonic, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, to name a few. Still to come this season, Ms. Canellakis will make her Paris debut with the Orchestre de Paris in June 2018, and over the summer she will return to the Proms with the BBC Symphony and conduct the Wiener Symphoniker at the Bregenz Festival. In Europe next season she will conduct the prestigious Nobel Prize concert with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, and debut with the London Philharmonic, Oslo Philharmonic and Deutsches Sinfonie-Orchester Berlin, among others; while in North America she has engagements planned with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal and the Dallas, Detroit, Cincinnati, Milwaukee and St. Louis symphony orchestras.
Ms. Canellakis's conducting career began in New York with the International Contemporary Ensemble with whom she has premiered several works by contemporary composers. This continues to be a regular and important feature of her concert programming.
In recent years Ms. Canellakis has developed an increasing interest in opera. She has enjoyed working with the Curtis Opera Theatre at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia in a production of Le nozze di Figaro in 2016 and will return for Don Giovanni next season. She has developed a close relationship with the Zurich Opera conducting productions of Die Zauberflöte and a fully staged Verdi Requiem, and in 2017 conducted Peter Maxwell Davies’s new opera The Hogboon with the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra.
Karina Canellakis is the first female chief conductor to be appointed at a Dutch symphony orchestra.
ROLAND KIEFT, GENERAL DIRECTOR OF THE STICHTING OMROEP MUZIEK:
“I am very happy with the appointment of Karina Canellakis as Chief Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. Musicians, staff and audience were impressed by her deep musical conviction, professionalism, and her human, respectful attitude. The concerts in March are among the best I have heard in recent years. Her broad orientation: symphonic, vocal, opera and contemporary music fits the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra perfectly. After a two-year search, we feel that we have finally found the ideal fit and profile we were seeking in Karina. With her appointment we open a new chapter in which top quality and innovation will go hand in hand.”
“I fell in love with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra during our first rehearsal. I was so impressed with their commitment to beauty and refinement, their curiosity, attention to detail, virtuosity, intense concentration, willingness and desire to dig deeper in different repertoire, all the while maintaining a sense of humor, openness and warmth. This natural communication as well as a relaxed working environment was all enhanced by the wonderful conversations I had with many players in between rehearsals and concerts. For all these reasons, I am beyond thrilled and honored to have been asked to take up the position of Chief Conductor of this phenomenal orchestra, and feel that in our musical future together the sky is the limit.”
Ms. Canellakis will be responsible for five productions in the 2019/2020 season. In the next three seasons she will conduct ten productions per year. She will work alongside permanent guest conductor James Gaffigan, who will stay with the orchestra at least until 2022/2023. Markus Stenz will regularly return to the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, in particular for large-scale, newly-composed music, and the orchestra will continue to welcome back their former chief conductors Bernard Haitink, Edo de Waart and Jaap van Zweden.