Riccardo Chailly

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About Riccardo Chailly

Something of a mold-breaker ever since his early decision to focus on symphonic rather than operatic repertoire, the Italian conductor Riccardo Chailly has distinguished himself with glowing yet visceral accounts of formerly neglected works by Zemlinsky, as well as making distinguished and wide-ranging recordings of works by Stravinsky, Schoenberg, and Rossini—the one opera composer he has recorded extensively. Born to a musical family in Milan in 1953, Chailly began his career as Claudio Abbado’s conducting assistant at La Scala, and enjoyed success in opera, including a recording of Andrea Chénier with Luciano Pavarotti (1979). However, wishing to spend more time on symphonic repertoire, in 1982 he became principal conductor of the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra. As well as performing and recording neglected repertoire, he has thoroughly overhauled the tradition of performing well-established repertoire by composers such as Brahms, Mahler, Bruckner, and Richard Strauss. Chailly’s insistence that venerable orchestras should jettison their distinct but all-purpose sound and discover the colors and playing style appropriate to individual works initially caused controversy, but paved the way for conductors such as Simon Rattle and Roger Norrington to carry out similar work with other orchestras. Having successfully invigorated the playing style of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (of which he was music director 1988-2004) and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra (2005-16), Chailly became music director of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra in 2016, then—while continuing to hold that post—came full circle by becoming music director of La Scala in 2017.

Milan, Italy
February 20, 1953

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