With an extraordinarily diverse repertoire, innovative programming and charismatic performance style, John Axelrod is widely recognized as one of today’s leading conductors and 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. From July 2017-2018, unique in the Orchestra’s history, he was also appointed the General Director (CEO). Other titled positions have included Principal Guest Conductor of Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi (LaVerdi) in Italy, from the 2001 season, Music Director of the Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire in France from 2009 to 2013, Music Director and Chief Conductor of the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra and Theater in Switzerland from 2004 to 2009, Music Director of Hollywood in Vienna in Austria from 2009 to 2011, with the ORF Vienna Radio Orchestra, and in 2001-2009, Principal Conductor of Sinfonietta Cracovia, in Krakow, Poland.
Since 2001, Mr. Axelrod has conducted over 165 orchestras around the world, 33 operas and 60 world premieres. Among his long term relationships, invitations and recordings with European orchestras are Berlin’s Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester (RSB), NDR Symphony Hamburg (Elbphilharmonie), Leipzig Gewandhausorchester, hr-Sinfonieorchester Frankfurt, Düsseldorfer 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 Orchestra Madrid, Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana in Lugano, the Shanghai and Suzhou Symphony Orchestras, Camerata Salzburg and the Mozarteumorchester Salzburg, and the Novaya Rossiya, National Philharmonic Orchestra and Mariinsky Orchestra in Russia. In Japan, Mr. Axelrod regularly conducts the NHK 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.
Important festival engagements include the Enescu Festival, the Salzburg Festival, the Beethoven Festival in Warsaw, the Schleswig-Holstein Festival, the Verbier Festival in Switzerland and the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo, Japan.
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, Martinů’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 to 2009, he conducted: Rigoletto, The Rake’s Progress, Don Giovanni, The Threepenny Opera, Falstaff and Idomeneo.
Mr. Axelrod is actively committed to working with young professional musicians. He was engaged as the Principal Conductor in 2016 and 2018 (Bernstein 200) of the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo and has 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 junge norddeutsche philharmonie in Germany, and the Wiener Jeunesse Orchester in Austria.
Mr. Axelrod has regularly collaborated with such international artists as Lang Lang, Daniel Hope, Fazıl Say, Thomas Hampson, Martin Grubinger, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Gabriela Montero, Enrico Dindo, Vadim Gluzman, David Garrett, Khatia Buniatishvili, Nadja Michael, Jan Lisiecki, Albrecht Mayer, Rinat Shaham, Andreas Blau, José María Gallardo del Rey, and Wallis Giunta, among many others. 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.
Since 2013, Mr. Axelrod is also founder of CultureALL Association in Switzerland, which collaborates with UNESCO, commissions composers, develops young musicians and provides access to cultural events and patrimony for underserved and underprivileged members of the community at large. He has also authored two published books, Wie großartige Musik entsteht 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.