“John Axelrod is a highly imaginative and dynamic musician, whose rich musicological background and historical insights combine with intellectual drive and charismatic enthusiasm for people and for life, to get probing, rigorous and richly characterized interpretations.”
-Remy Franck, Pizzicato
With an extraordinarily diverse repertoire, innovative programming and charismatic performance style, John Axelrod is widely recognized as one of today's leading conductors and he is sought after by orchestras throughout the world.
In 2019, Maestro Axelrod was announced as the Principal Guest Conductor of the City of Kyoto Symphony Orchestra, further establishing his global profile. In 2014, Maestro Axelrod became the Artistic and Musical Director of the Real Orquesta Sinfónica de Sevilla (ROSS). His contract was unanimously extended through the 2019-2020 season.
Other titled positions have included Principal Guest Conductor of Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano “Giuseppe” Verdi (LaVerdi) in Italy, from the 2011-2017 season, Music Director of the l'Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire in France from 2009-2013, Music Director and Chief Conductor of the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra and Theater in Switzerland from 2004-2009, Music Director of "Hollywood in Vienna" in Austria, from 2009-2011, with the ORF Vienna Radio Orchestra, and in 2001-2009, as Principal Conductor of Sinfonietta Cracovia, in Krakow, Poland.
Since 1996, Mr. Axelrod has conducted over 175 orchestras around the world, 35 operas and 60 world premieres.
Among his long term relationships, invitations and recordings with European orchestras include Berlin’s RSB, NDR Symphony Hamburg (ElbePhilharmonie), Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchester, hr-Sinfonieorchester Frankfurt, Dortmund Symphoniker, Dusseldorf Symphoniker, Filarmonica della Scala, Orchestra Sinfonica della RAI Torino, Teatro La Fenice Orchestra in Venice, Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Orchestre de Paris, Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, RTVE Orquesta Madrid, Orchestra Svizzera Italiana in Lugano, the Shanghai and Suzhou Symphony Orchestras, Camerata Salzburg and the Mozarteum Orchester Salzburg, and the Novaiya Rossia, National Philharmonic Orchestra and Mariinsky Orchestra in Russia.
In Japan, Mr. Axelrod regularly conducts the NHK, Sapporo and Kyoto Symphony Orchestras.
In the USA, Mr. Axelrod has performed with the Chicago Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Philadelphia Orchestra among others. Maestro Axelrod recently debuted to great acclaim with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Mr. Axelrod has regularly collaborated with such international artists as Lang Lang, Daniel Hope, Fazil Say, Thomas Hampson, Martin Grubinger, Patricia Kopatchinskaya, Gabriela Montero, Enrico Dindo, Vadim Guzman, David Garrett, Khatia Buniatishvili, Enrico Dindo, Nadja Michael, Jan Lisiecki, Teodora Gheorghiu, Albrecht Mayer, Rinat Shaham, Andreas Blau, José Maria Gallardo del Rey, and Wallis Giunta.
He has recorded core and contemporary repertoire for Sony Classical, Warner Classics, Ondine, Universal, Naïve and Nimbus.
Mr. Axelrod also released a cycle of Brahms Symphonies combined with Clara Schumann lieder entitled Brahms Beloved on Telarc, produced by Grammy winner Michael Fine, with Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi and accompanying Dame Felicity Lott, Wolfgang Holzmair, Indra Thomas and Nicole Cabell.
Mr. Axelrod is actively committed to working with young professional musicians, engaged as the Principal Conductor in 2016 and 2018 (Bernstein 100) of the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo and having toured with the Santander Orchestra in Poland, the Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra to the Salzburg Festival, the Orchestra Giovanile Italiana in Italy, the Accademia della Scala to Muscat, the NordDeutsche Junge Philharmonie in Germany, and the Vienna Jeunesse Orchester in Austria.
Bernstein said there is no more noble act than teaching. That's why Maestro Axelrod shares his lessons learned and experience gained for student, amateur or professional conductors on his conductors masterclass online website. Click below to find out more.
John Axelrod’s opera activity includes Bernstein's Candide at Théâtre du Châtelet, Teatro alla Scala and Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Eugene Onegin at Teatro San Carlo in Naples, Kurt Weill’s Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny and the premiere of Vittorio Montalti’s Un Romano a Marte at the Rome Opera, Martinu’s Mirandolina at Teatro la Fenice in Venice and both la Traviata and the premiere of Fabio Vacchi’s Lo Specchio Magico at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. For the Lucerne Festival from 2004-2009, he conducted: Rigoletto, The Rake's Progress, Don Giovanni, the Three Penny Opera, Falstaff and Idomeneo.
Maestro Axelrod was expressly invited to open the 2020 Puccini Festival, conducting Gianni Schicchi, in the first staged opera performance in Europe post Covid-19 and returned in 2021 to conduct a new production of Turandot, directed by Daniele Abbado.
Mr. Axelrod has also authored two published books, Wie Großartige Music Ensteht for the Henschel Verlag and Lenny and Me: Conducting Bernstein’s Symphonies for Naxos, and he maintains a personal blog about wine and music, www.IamBacchus.com
Mr. Axelrod graduated in 1988 from Harvard University. Trained personally by Leonard Bernstein in 1982, he also studied at the St. Petersburg Conservatory with Ilya Musin in 1996 and was mentored by Christoph Eschenbach from 1997-until 2000 when he made his professional debut as assistant conductor for Parisfal at the Bayreuth Festival.
A TALE OF TWO CITIES AND ONE SYMPHONY
This project offers a rare opportunity in two Italian cities near each other to experience both versions of Schumann’s 4th Symphony: the original version, the one composed and premiered in 1841, and published nearly 50 years later by his champion Johannes Brahms; and the revised version of 1851 advocated and protected by his widow Clara Schumann. Both versions of the same 4th symphony offer insight to tell the story of the two people who loved Robert Schumann most, and how these two versions reflect Schumann’s own dual nature.
“One of John Axelrod’s strengths is the energy he brings to live performances, based on his conviction that each opportunity to make music is a chance to bring about a better world.”
I was fortunate to have studied with the legendary Leonard Bernstein who said
I would be a
conductor like him.
But I chose a different path, working in the music and wine business. One night many years later, in Napa Valley, I had an epiphany. I was driving at night, with Wagner's Tristan and Isolde Prelude in my head, thinking about what Bernstein had told me, unable to concentrate
on the dark road.
I stopped the engine, looked at the majestic beauty of the rolling hills, with a full moon and a cobalt sky and I felt humbled by the sublime and divine power of Nature.
It was a pure
and perfect silence.
I got back in the car, turned on the engine and radio, and it was the Tristan Prelude. I took it as a sign and quit my job the next day to, yes, become a conductor.
And I still love wine. I have a blog about wine and music http://iambacchus.com/Beethoven/, inspired by a quote from Beethoven.
Embrace your passion.
It will make your
dreams come true.
Since 1996, after attending the St. Petersburg Conservatory and studying with the great pedagogue, Ilya Musin, I have conducted over 175 orchestras, 65 world premieres and 35 operas.
I have been Music Director or Principal Guest Conductor of many orchestras, from Houston's OrchestraX, which I founded, to Krakow's Sinfonietta Cracovia to the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra and Theater to the Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire in Nantes and Angers to the ORF RSO Wien for "Hollywood in Vienna" to the Sinfonica di Milano "Giuseppe Verdi" to the Real Orquesta Sinfonica de Sevilla to the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo and
to the City of Kyoto
Before I became a conductor, I worked in the music business, as Artists & Repertoire for RCA/BMG and Atlantic Records, working with such bands and artists as Smashing Pumpkins and Marc Cohn.
At Harvard, my band, The Rhythm Method won the 1987 Energizer Batteries Best College Band in America!
I started playing the piano at the age of 3.
It is easy to see my life has always been filled with symphonies and songs.
I find inspiration
all around me.
Writing books, cooking with fresh ingredients, drinking the best vintages of wines, traveling the world, studying history and philosophy, sharing my life with my family and friends, working with young musicians, sharing music with audiences, all remind me why I do what I do.
I recently started a unique project combining wine, food and music: www.culinaryconcert.com
Living in the UNESCO wine region of the Lavaux in Chardonne allows me to share my passion and my motto:
Eat, Drink and Be Musical!
Life is a full of miraculous wonders. Take inspiration from everything.
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