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, 2001-2017) in Italy, Music Director of the l’Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire in France (2009-2013), Music Director and Chief Conductor of the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra and Theater in Switzerland (2004-2009), Music Director of “Hollywood in Vienna” with the ORF Vienna Radio Orchestra in Austria (2009-2011), and the as Principal Conductor of Sinfonietta Cracovia, in Krakow, Poland (2001-2009).
Since 1996, Mr. Axelrod has conducted over 176 orchestras around the world, 33 operas and 60 world premieres. Among his long term relationships, invitations and recordings with European orchestras include Berlin’s RSB, NDR Symphony Hamburg (ElbPhilharmonie), Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchester, hr-Sinfonieorchester Frankfurt, Dortmund Symphoniker, Düsseldorf 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 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 Ravello Festival and the Verbier Festival in Switzerland and the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo, Japan. Mr. Axelrod continued his long standing relationship with Sinfonietta Cracovia, recently conducting the 2020 memorial concert in memory of the composer Krzysztof Penderecki.
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.
John Axelrod is actively committed to working with young professional musicians, engaged as the Principal Conductor in 2016 and 2018 (Bernstein 200) 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.
John 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, Albrecht Mayer, Rinat Shaham, Andreas Blau, José Maria 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 is also the Founder and Artistic Director of Concerts Culinaires de Chardonne.
Maestro Axelrod teaches conducting to students worldwide via his Conductors Masterclass Online. He has also authored two published books, Wie Großartige Music Ensteht for the Henschel Verlag and Lenny and Me: Conducting Bernstein’s Symphonies for Naxos. His next book called Big Notes, released in April 2021, focuses on rare top instruments like Stradivari making money and music.
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.