Karina Canellakis: Trading bow for baton


Between orchestral scores spread out on the dining room table and the sound of the piano resonating within the walls of her family’s New York apartment, Karina Canellakis grew up surrounded by music, the daughter of a conductor and a pianist. She began her career as a violinist, which brought her to Germany where the great Sir Simon Rattle encouraged her to trade her bow for a baton.

From chair to podium: crescendo accelerando

Her experience as an orchestral musician informs her approach on many levels: as a concertmaster, she commands the responsibilities of leading her fellow musicians, combined with the knowledge of a vast orchestral repertoire. Her debuts were simply meteoric: in 2014, she had already risen to the position of Assistant Conductor to Jaap van Sweden – who incidentally is also a violinist by training – with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Shortly after assuming the position, she had to take over at the last minute for a large-scale concert, conducting Shostakovich’s Eighth Symphony with pianist Emanuel Ax in the same program. As success leads to more success, in 2016 she won the prestigious Sir Georg Solti International Conducting Competition. Montrealers will have the privilege of hearing her conduct the dazzling Concerto for Orchestra by Lutoslawski for her OSM debut on May 15, 16 and 17, followed by the arch-Romantic Piano Concerto no. 3 by Rachmaninoff with Daniil Trifonov as soloist.

A sense of detail and balance

Currently Principal Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and recently named Principal Guest Conductor of the Berlin Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester, Karina Canellakis embraced the whirlwind of the 2018-2019 symphonic season, a particularly busy one, by making some dozen debuts with internationally renowned orchestras including the OSM.

Karina Canellakis has a special fondness for the music of Dvořák and Bartók, and an interest in lesser-known composers such as Steven Stucky or Lili Boulanger. Onstage, she is known for her exquisite sense of detail and capacity to bring out the shape of orchestral lines, as well as for her mastery in balancing different voices. Don’t miss her debut with the OSM in May!

“The first time through with every orchestra is a bit like swimming in the ocean and having things floating around you.”

– Karina Canellakis