About James Gaffigan
Conductor James Gaffigan is a versatile figure with a repertory ranging from orchestral music to opera, from Mozart to Wolfgang Rihm. His career has entailed long-term posts with several prestigious European ensembles, and as of 2021, he was the principal guest conductor of the Trondheim Symphony in Norway.
Gaffigan was born in New York in 1979. His father was a sales representative for the Procter & Gamble firm, and his mother was a secretary. Gaffigan attended La Guardia High School in New York, but he showed musical talent and also took classes in the Juilliard School's Preparatory Division. He went on to the New England Conservatory, his interest in conducting steadily growing, and he attended the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University in Houston for a master's degree, studying with Larry Rachleff. Gaffigan rounded out his conducting education with courses at the American Academy of Conducting at the Aspen Music Festival, working with David Zinman and Murry Sidlin, and he earned a conducting fellowship at the Tanglewood Festival in 2003. A first-prize win at the Sir Georg Solti International Conductors' Competition in Germany in 2004 aided his career, which had already begun with his appointment as the assistant conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra, under Franz Welser-Möst, the previous year. Gaffigan also served as the music director of Cleveland's CityMusic Chamber Orchestra.
In 2006, Gaffigan was chosen by music director Michael Tilson Thomas as associate conductor of the San Francisco Symphony; remaining there until 2009, he also served as the director of the orchestra's Summer in the City festival. Gaffigan began to find high-profile guest conducting engagements, including those with the New York Philharmonic, the Orchestre de Paris, and the Lucerne Symphony in Switzerland, where he made guest appearances in 2008 and 2009 before being hired as the chief conductor in 2010. His contract was renewed in 2015 for a second five-year term. He also held principal guest conductor posts during this period with the Radio Filharmonisch Orkest in the Netherlands and the Gürzenich Orchestra of Cologne. In 2020, Gaffigan stepped down from his position in Lucerne, and he was named the principal guest conductor of the Trondheim Symphony the following year.
Gaffigan made 15 recordings with the Lucerne Symphony, mostly for the Harmonia Mundi, Challenge Classics, and Sony Classical labels. In 2021, he and the Lucerne Symphony backed violinist Vadim Gluzman on an album of concertos by Beethoven and Schnittke on the BIS label. Gaffigan and the Lucerne Symphony also released the album Americans: Bernstein, Barber, Crawford, Ives on Harmonia Mundi that year. ~ James Manheim