Breaking: Holland picks its first female chief conductor

The American Karina Canellakis is to be the first woman music director of a major Dutch orchestra.

She has just been named chief of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, which ranks third in the hierarchy behind the Concertgebouw and the Rotterdam Philharmonic.

She will succeed Markus Stenz in September 2019.

Canellakis, 36, was assistant to Jaap van Zweden in Dallas and is being introduced to Dutch media as his protegée. She credits her first conducting opportunity to a spell at the Berlin Philharmonic Academy, when Sir Simon Rattle offered her the baton.

A New Yorker, she won the 2016 Georg Solti conducting competition and is agented from London by AskonasHolt.

She made her debut with the radio orchestra just eight weeks ago.



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  • Another top-level player who has made the leap across into conducting. I wonder if a lot of them see the person at the front and think ‘Hmmm I reckon I could do that…’.

    • I met Karina at a workshop when she was 22, having recently completed her violin studies at Curtis. She was new to conducting at the time, but the talent was undeniable. She has since developed her orchestral chops in the Berlin Phil training program, and has paid her dues as a conductor, both through formal schooling and through years on real-world, hands-on experience. I have no doubt that she’s earned this legitimately. As someone else wrote, she’s the real deal.

    • I recall an interview with Itzhak Perlman where he basically said he thought that same thing… “Hmmm, I could do that…”

      Then he tried it.

          • François-Xavier Roth, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Andris Nelsons, Sakari Oramo, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Susanna Mälkki, Mstislav Rostropovich…..

      • Robert Holmen – completely different situation from Perlman. He has always been a soloist. Many long-time soloists, though not all, have struggled with the transition to the podium, and Perlman’s switch took place rather late into his career. Karina is a strong, experienced orchestral player, who started exploring and studying conducting early in her career, and took her time to develop.
        Many accomplished conductors have come from the ranks of the orchestra, because they know what it’s like to live within the sound of and orchestra and understand what they need from a conductor – Rattle (percussion), Toscanini (cello), Vanska (clarinet), are three such examples.

        • Hold on there!

          You’re telling me there are differences between Itzhak Perlman and Karina Canellakis? Damn, who knew?

          Duffay’s comment was to “top-level” players, not merely soloists.

          For some it works, for some it doesn’t and there isn’t a lot of correlation with previous resumé.

  • Daphne, it’s just a modern trend to make verbs out of nouns, like ‘medalling’ (winning a medal) in sporting events.

    • It may be a modern trend to claim that such a thing is modern.

      However, it is a long-standing tactic of English to create words in such a way.

      For example, “trend” gained its verb use centuries ago.

      Head, close, surface, time… the list will seem endless… all began as either noun or verb and were soon re-purposed to be the other.

      It did not start (there’s another one!) with internet bloggers.

    • Better by far, but I’m not certain what that has to do with her conducting ability. I’ve seen her in Dallas. She’s the real deal, and I’m afraid that Dallas has now lost the opportunity to make her their next Music Director after JvZ.

    • I have played with both her and Mirga. She is a serious musician whose approach to music making and interpretation is based fine tradition. Something that can not be said about Mirga.

  • Congratulations to her! Does anybody know why Stenz is leaving? He has a quite packed schedule for other high ranked orchestras. Is he going to work as a freelancer or is he named as incomming MD elsewhere?

    • According to his website, Markus Stenz just got his contract extend as Baltimore’s Pricipal Guest Conductor. What I think is really exciting, is that he’s doing Franz Schrecker’s “Die Gezeichneten” in Munich. There’s a fine recording of the work in Decca’s Entartete (forbidden) series of works by composers banned (or worse) by the nazis. It’s actually a very good opera by any standard, I think.

      As a card carrying member of the evil ‘Mahler industry’, I’m of course interested in the career of Markus Stenz.

      I know nothing about Ms. Canellakis, but I wish her the best. Having seen both JoAnn Falletta (Women’s Philharmonic in S.F.) and Marin Alsop (Cabrillo Music Festival) conduct in California numerous times, I’m well aware that women can conduct orchestras as well as any male.

  • I noticed her Facebook profile goes by the name Karina Eugenia. I wonder if she recently got married? Or is Eugenia her middle name?

  • Looking forward with great anticipation to her date with Orchestra de Paris next month. BTW, her brother, cellist Nick ain’t too bad either.

  • Don’t you just love people who turn nouns into verbs, and mangle the British English language, when there is a perfect construction to use a noun! Ha, ha!!!

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