American conductor Karina Canellakis has been chief conductor of the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra since 1 September 2019. She is attached to the orchestra for at least four years and succeeds Markus Stenz in this role.
Karina Canellakis made an exceptional debut with the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra in Utrecht and Amsterdam in March 2018, performing works by Britten, Shostakovich and Beethoven. Her concerts excelled in spontaneity and depth, coupled with orchestral beauty and perfection. After these concerts, many musicians called for her to be their chief conductor.
Internationally acclaimed for her emotionally charged performances, technical command and interpretive depth, Karina Canellakis has become one of the most in-demand conductors of her generation. She is the Chief Conductor of Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, the Principal Guest Conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as the Principal Guest Conductor of the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin (RSB).
The 2021/22 season includes concerts with some of the finest European and US orchestras, including her debuts with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the HR-Sinfonieorchester (Frankfurt Radio), and returns to the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks (Bavarian Radio), Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, and Orchestre de Paris. During the summer of 2021, she made debuts with the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood, the Cleveland Orchestra at the Blossom Festival, the Orchestre National de France at the St. Denis Festival, and performed Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the Wiener Symphoniker as the culminating performance of “9 Beethoven Symphonies from 9 different European cities” live on ARTE.
On the operatic stage, Karina will conduct a new production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris, with the Orchestre National de France. She enjoys doing opera-in-concert and will lead the Netherlands Radio Orchestra at the Concertgebouw for Janáček’s Kát’a Kabanová, the second act of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, and the Wiener Symphoniker at the Bregenzer Festspiele in the third act Wagner’s Siegfried. In the past few seasons, she has conducted critically acclaimed productions of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Die Zauberflöte, Le Nozze di Figaro, David Lang’s the loser and Peter Maxwell Davies’ The Hogboon.
Since winning the Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award in 2016 Karina has become a guest conductor with leading orchestras around the world, including the London Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, and the symphony orchestras of Melbourne, Sydney, Toronto, Cincinnati, Minnesota, and Detroit. She happened to be the first woman to conduct the First Night of the BBC Proms in London in 2019, with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. She was also the first woman to ever conduct the Nobel Prize Concert with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic in 2018.
Already known to many in the classical music world for her virtuoso violin playing, Karina was initially encouraged to pursue conducting by Sir Simon Rattle while she was playing regularly in the Berlin Philharmonic for two years as a member of their Orchester-Akademie. She performed for many years as a soloist, guest leader, and chamber musician, spending her summers at the Marlboro Music Festival, until conducting eventually became her focus. Karina was born and raised in New York City.
First female principal conductor
The appointment of Karina Canellakis is the first appointment of a female principal conductor at a Dutch symphony orchestra.
Roland Kieft, general director of Stichting Omroep Muziek:
I am extremely pleased with the appointment of Karina Canellakis as principal conductor of the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. Musicians, staff and audiences 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 newly-composed music, fits the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra perfectly. This brings a two-year search to a successful conclusion. With her arrival, we open a new chapter and there is a glimmer of a future in which top quality and innovation go hand in hand'.
It was love at first sight, right from the first rehearsal. I was very impressed by the orchestra's commitment to beauty and finesse, by their curiosity, attention to detail, virtuosity, intense concentration, goodwill and desire to delve deeper into unusual repertoire, while still maintaining a sense of humour, openness and warmth. There was a natural way of communicating, a freedom of thought, and this became even more apparent in the wonderful conversations I had with many musicians individually between rehearsals and concerts. All this makes me more than happy and honoured that I was asked to be the principal conductor of this great orchestra. I am convinced that we will cross many borders in our future together.
Canellakis conducts ten productions a year with the orchestra. She performs alongside permanent guest conductor James Gaffigan, who is with the orchestra at least until the 2022-2023 season. Markus Stenz will continue to regularly return to the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, especially for large-scale, newly-composed music, just as former chief conductors Edo de Waart and Jaap van Zweden will continue to return to the orchestra.