David Afkham


David Afkham is Principal Conductor of the Spanish National Orchestra and Chorus. He is in high demand as a guest conductor with some of the world’s finest orchestras and opera houses, and has established a reputation as one of the most sought after conductors to emerge from Germany in recent years.
Highlights for the coming seasons include subscription debuts with the Chicago Symphony, NHK Symphony and Oslo Philharmonic, as well as return projects with the Munich Philharmonic, Wiener Symphoniker, Swedish Radio Symphony, Rotterdam Philharmonic (including a tour of Korea and China), Orchestra of Accademia Santa Cecilia, Orchestre National de France, Gothenburg Symphony and Frankfurt Radio Symphony. 
Recent highlights include a highly successful debut with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at the 2016 Tanglewood Festival, a summer festival tour with the Bamberger Symphoniker as well as subscription debuts with the Concertgebouw Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony, DSO-Berlin, Philharmonia Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, and a New York debut at the Mostly Mozart Festival. David also returned to the Gustav Mahler Jungendorchester for their 2016 European Easter tour with Frank-Peter Zimmermann. 
His first season at the helm of the Spanish National Orchestra in Madrid, featuring a Brahms symphony cycle, Brahms's Requiem, and concert performances of Wagner's 'Fliegende Holländer', was unanimously acclaimed by the press.
In Summer 2014, David Afkham made a noted opera debut with Verdi’s 'La Traviata' at Glyndebourne Festival Opera, later reviving the production with Glyndebourne on Tour.  His semi-staged performances of Wagner's 'Fliegende Holländer' with the Spanish National Orchestra in Madrid, featuring Bryn Terfel in the title role, led to an immediate invitation from the Tokyo Opera Nomori Festival. Future opera projects also include Ginastera's 'Bomarzo' (Teatro Real Madrid), 'Hansel & Gretel' (Frankfurt Opera) and 'Rusalka' (Theater an der Wien). 

Born in 1983 in Freiburg, Germany; David Afkham received his early piano and violin lessons at the age of six. At 15, he entered his native city’s University of Music to pursue studies in piano, music theory and conducting and continued his studies at the Liszt School of Music in Weimar. David Afkham was the first recipient of the ‘Bernard Haitink Fund for Young Talent’ and assisted Maestro Haitink in a number of major projects including symphony cycles with the Chicago Symphony, Concertgebouw Orkest and London Symphony Orchestra. He was the winner of the 2008 Donatella Flick Conducting Competition in London, resulting in him becoming the Assistant Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra for two years. In 2010, David Afkham was the inaugural recipient of the ‘Nestle and Salzburg Festival Young Conductors Award’, and was Assistant Conductor of the Gustav Mahler Jungendorchester 2009- 2012.

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    David Afkham with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra


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Video Interviews


Shostakovich Symphony no. 10

Chicago Symphony

Afkham showed how eloquently and powerfully Shostakovich's masterpiece can speak to us on its own, purely musical terms. How inexorable was his building of linear and harmonic tension through the long, archlike opening movement...How implacable was the fury Afkham unleashed in the whirlwind Allegro, which generated the kind of driving excitement you associate with the symphony's greatest early interpreters, Dimitri Mitropoulos and Evgeny Mravinsky...The thunderous reiteration of the "DSCH" monogram at the peak of the finale sealed the triumph, Shostakovich's as well as Afkham's.
Chicago Tribune

Staatskapelle Berlin

Philharmonie Berlin

"Aus dem feinmaschig geknüpften Klangteppich lugt eine hohe Sinnlichkeit hervor. Mal verteilt die Musik Streicheleinheiten, dann klingt es bedrohlich wie die Musik zu einem Thriller.
Diese Ambivalenz hat David Afkham grandios eingefangen und die Partitur hervorragend durchleuchtet. "
Kulture Radio.de

SWR Orchester

Konzerthaus Freiburg

"Das Reißerische ist dem Mann am Pult wie dem brillant folgenden Orchester keineswegs fremd. Es bleibt indes alles straff, nervig. Es kommt keine klangliche Fettsucht auf, kein Schwulst. Delikateste Ausformulierungen in der lyrischen Salonnähe, Feingefühl und Leidenschaft: die Sinfonie – ein Drama. Grandios." Badische Zeitung


La Traviata

Glyndebourne on Tour

"Underpinning these three singers' musical achievements is the conducting of David Afkham, who finds the melancholy "tinta" of the piece even in its outwardly glittering moments. From the first bar to last, he maintains dramatic tension in the excellent orchestral playing."

The Telgraph
"Afkham sympathetically supports the singers and shapes the ensembles with propulsive flair...Afkham shows here that he is a man to watch in opera."

The Times


Symphony no. 9

Pihlharmonia, Royal Festival Hall London

"in the ensuing Allegro it was at once noticeable that the conductor was letting the music breathe; there was no hard driving, but instead airy, dance-like rhythms and light accents; immensely likeable and almost intimate".  Classicalsource.com
"Afkham’s interpretation combined vigour with poetry, gently unfolding the melodies of the first movement with lovingly caressed phrases". Bachtrack.com

Schubert: Symphony no.9, 24 Aug 2013

Blossom Festival, Cleveland Orchestra

"Afkham was sensitive throughout to pictures both long-term and fleeting, demanding a high level of refinement all along the route to lofty, meaningful destinations. The balance he struck in the Andante between volume, tempo and expressive detail was nothing short of perfect."

The Plain Dealer. 26 Aug 2013

Brahms Symphony no. 2

Mostly Mozart Festival, Lincoln Center

"His expansive left-hand gestures and dancelike body movements are balanced by a right hand that delineates the beat with sober precision. And that beat was impeccably judged. In Symphony No. 2, Mr. Afkham’s swift tempos and supple phrasings emphasized the natural flow and self-evident beauty of Brahms’s score. Alert to the fleeting harmonic changes, Mr. Afkham never indulged in unnecessary drama but allowed each resolution enough space to unfold its sweetness."

New York Times, 18 August 2013

Concert, March 2013

Seattle Symphony

"Then, after intermission, there was the small matter of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, a supreme peak for any young conductor — any conductor — to scale. Afkham’s account was something of a revelation. It made most performances of the work that one routinely hears seem merely generic.
There was a lightness yet also a seriousness about the performance, often laying bare vistas that made even so familiar a piece sound thrillingly new. The second movement, taken very fluently, was airy in texture, and the finale, instead of being portentous, actually sang. The string sound, again, was at once light and firm" Seattle Times

Concert September 2012

Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra

"It was clear that orchestra and conductor had a terrific connection, and Mr Afkham demonstrated a mastery of the score. The orchestral playing was intense, bringing out the human dimension of Shostakovich’s music." Seen and Heard International

Concert, July 2011

Cleveland Orchestra

"In a brilliant Cleveland debut, Afkham ... outlined a bold vision marked by screaming highs and tense, grinding lows. Even within the narrowest musical confines, he found room for drama." Cleveland.com




Symphony No.10 
Ligeti: Atmospheres 
Gustav Mahler Jungendorchester
Salzburg Festival, 2010