Karina Canellakis

American conductor Karina Canellakis has been principal 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.

Principal conductor
Karina Canellakis is internationally acclaimed for her emotionally charged performances, technical mastery and depth in her interpretations, and has become one of the most sought-after conductors of her generation. Apart from being the principal conductor of the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, she is also the permanent guest conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the permanent guest conductor of the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin (RSB).

In the 2021-2022 season she will be a guest with some of the best European and American orchestras. She will make her debut with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the HR-Sinfonieorchester (Frankfurt Radio) and return to the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks (Bavarian Radio), Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony and Orchestre de Paris. In the summer of 2021, she made her debut 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 Ninth Symphony with the Wiener Symphoniker as the last of "9 Beethoven symphonies from 9 different European cities" live on ARTE.

On the opera stage, Karina is conducting a new production of Tchaikovsky's Yevgeni Onegin at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris, with the Orchestre National de France. She enjoys conducting concertante operas and led her Radio Philharmonic Orchestra in the Concertgebouw with 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 recent seasons, she has conducted acclaimed productions of Mozart's Don Giovanni, Die Zauberflöte, Le Nozze di Figaro, David Lang's the Loser and Peter Maxwell Davies' The Hogboon.

After winning the Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award in 2016, Karina conducted leading orchestras around the world, including the London Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester, Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal and the symphony orchestras of Melbourne, Sydney, Toronto, Cincinnati, Minnesota and Detroit. She was 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 ever to conduct the Nobel Prize Concert with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic in 2018.

Karina was already known to many in the classical music world for her virtuoso violin playing. While playing regularly in the Berlin Philharmonic as a member of their Orchester-Akademie, she was encouraged by Sir Simon Rattle to take up conducting. She performed for many years as a soloist, concertmaster and chamber musician, and spent her summers at the Marlboro Music Festival, until finally conducting 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'.

Karina Canellakis:
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 Principal 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.

Karina Canellakis

Karina Canellakis, chief conductor RFO

Radio Philharmonic Orchestra

Follow us on social media