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.
Pupil of Simon Rattle, assistant to Jaap van Zweden
Karina Canellakis was born and raised in New York, where she grew up in a musical family - her mother is a pianist, her father a conductor and her brother a cellist. She studied violin at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. After graduating, she freelanced for several years, played many recitals and concerts, chamber music, and gained orchestral experience as a substitute in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Berliner Philharmoniker, among others. As a member of the Karajan Akademie of the Berliner Philharmoniker she was noticed by Sir Simon Rattle, her first mentor, who encouraged her to start conducting. She subsequently studied conducting at the Juilliard School of Music in New York with Alan Gilbert and was also mentored by Fabio Luisi. After her studies, Canellakis was assistant for two years at the Dallas Symphony to Jaap van Zweden, who himself was chief conductor of the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra from 2006 to 2012.
Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award
Karina Canellakis' breakthrough therefore occurred with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra when she filled in for Jaap van Zweden at very short notice for a performance of Shostakovich's Eighth Symphony. Barely six months later, she again filled in at short notice, this time for Nikolaus Harnoncourt with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe at the Styriarte Festival in 2015. The 2016 award of the Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award from the Solti Foundation in Chicago marked Karina Canellakis' international breakthrough. In the period 2016-2018, she appeared before more than 25 renowned orchestras and built strong relationships with a number of them, including the BBC Symphony Orchestra (with whom she debuted in the London Proms in 2017), the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin.
In June 2018, she made her debut with the Orchestre de Paris, followed by her return to the Proms with the BBC Symphony. She also conducts the Wiener Symphoniker during the Bregenzer Festspiele. In the 2018-2019 season, she will conduct the prestigious Nobel Prize Concert with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic and make her debut with the London Philharmonic, the Oslo Philharmonic and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, among others. She has also been invited to give concerts with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal and the symphony orchestras of Dallas, Detroit, Cincinnati, Milwaukee and St. Louis.
Karina Canellakis' conducting career started in New York with the International Comtemporary Ensemble, where she conducted many world premieres of contemporaries. Since then, newly composed music forms a substantial part of her concerts.
In recent years, Canellakis' interest in opera has grown. She conducted a production of Le nozze di Figaro at the Curtis Opera Theatre at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia in 2016 and returns there for Don Giovanni in the 2018-2019 season. She has developed a close relationship with the Opernhaus Zurich, where she conducted Die Zauberflöte, a scenic production of Verdi's Requiem, and in 2017 Peter Maxwell Davies' new opera The Hogboon with the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg.
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.