David Afkham

Biography

David Afkham has been appointed as the next Principal Conductor of the Spanish National Orchestra, a tenure which will begin in the season 2015/16, and is rapidly establishing a reputation as one of the most sought after conductors to emerge from Germany in recent years. 

Symphonic highlights over the past two years include the Concertgebouw Orchestra, Munich Philharmonic, Staatskapelle Dresden, DSO-Berlin, Swedish Radio Symphony, Santa Cecilia Orchestra, Filarmonica della Scala, Philharmonia Orchestra London, as well as the Cleveland Orchestra, Seattle Symphony and a New York debut at the Mostly Mozart Festival. 

In Summer 2014, David Afkham conducted a highly successful opera debut with Verdi’s La Traviata at Glyndebourne Festival Opera. He is reviving this production this Autumn with Glyndebourne on Tour.

Highlights over the next two seasons also include return projects with the Munich Philharmonic, Swedish Radio Symphony, Wiener Symphoniker (Musikverein series), Orchestre National de France, Gothenburg Symphony, Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart, and on tour with the Gustav Mahler Jungendorchester. David is also looking forward to debuts with the Staatskapelle Berlin, London Symphony Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony, Danish National Symphony, Israel Philharmonic and Rotterdam Philharmonic.

Born 1983 in Freiburg, Germany, David Afkham received his first 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.  He won first prize in the solo-piano category of the 2002 “Jugend Musiziert“ National Piano Competition. He then completed his conducting studies at the Liszt School of Music in Weimar. David Afkham was the first recipient of the "Bernard Haitink Fund for Young Talent", was a conducting fellow of the "Richard Wagner Association" Bayreuth and a member of the "Conductor's Forum" of the German Music Council. He assisted his mentor Bernard Haitink on a number of major projects including symphony cycles with the Chicago Symphony, Concertgebouw Orchestra and the 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 August 2010, he became the first recipient of the “Nestlé and Salzburg Festival Young Conductors Award”. David Afkham was Assistant Conductor of the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester for three years, a tenure which ended in Summer 2012. 

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Biographie auf Deutsch

David Afkham, mittlerweile einer der gefragten jungen Dirigenten aus Deutschland, wird im nächsten Jahr (ab der Spielzeit 2015/16) seine Arbeit als Chefdirigent des Orquesta Nacional de España aufnehmen. 

Zu den Höhepunkten der vergangenen zwei Jahre gehören Symphoniekonzerte mit dem Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, den Münchner Philharmonikern, der Staatskapelle Dresden, dem Deutschen Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, dem Schwedischen Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester, der Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rom, der Filarmonica della Scala, dem London Philharmonia Orchestra sowie mit dem Cleveland Orchestra, Seattle Symphony und nicht zuletzt sein Debüt beim „Mostly Mozart Festival“ in New York. 

Im Sommer 2014 dirigierte David Afkham mit Verdis La Traviata an der Glyndebourne Festival Opera sein gefeiertes Operndebüt, und er wird mit dieser Inszenierung mit dem Glyndebourne-Ensemble im Herbst auf Tournee gehen.

Zu den Höhepunkten der kommenden zwei Spielzeiten gehören Wiedereinladungen zu den Münchner Philharmonikern, dem Schwedischen Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester, den Wiener Symphonikern (Musikverein-Zyklus), dem Orchestre National de France, den Göteborger Symphonikern, dem Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart sowie eine Tournee mit dem Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester. Darüber hinaus kann er sich auf Debüts mit der Staatskapelle Berlin, dem London Symphony Orchestra, dem City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, dem Danish National Symphony Orchestra, dem Israel Philharmonic Orchestra und dem Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra freuen.

Der 1983 in Freiburg geborene junge Dirigent erhielt mit sechs Jahren seinen ersten Klavier- und Geigenunterricht. Schon mit 15 Jahren wurde er als Jungstudent in den Fächern Klavier, Musiktheorie und Dirigieren an die Musikhochschule Freiburg aufgenommen. 2002 errang er beim Bundeswettbewerb „Jugend Musiziert“ einen ersten Preis in der Kategorie „Klavier solo“. Sein Dirigierstudium schloss er dann an der Hochschule für Musik „Franz Liszt“ in Weimar ab. David Afkham war Stipendiat des Richard-Wagner-Verbands Bayreuth und Mitglied des Dirigentenforums des Deutschen Musikrats. Zudem war er erster Stipendiat des „Bernard Haitink Fund for Young Talent“. Er assistierte seinem Mentor Bernard Haitink bei zahlreichen Projekten, darunter Konzertzyklen mit dem Chicago Symphony Orchestra, dem Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra und dem London Symphony Orchestra. 2008 gewann er den Londoner Donatella Flick-Wettbewerb und wurde dafür zwei Jahre lang mit dem Posten des Assistenz-Dirigenten des London Symphony Orchestra betraut. Im August 2010 wurde er mit dem in diesem Jahr erstmalig vergebenen „Nestlé and Salzburg Festival Young Conductors Award“ ausgezeichnet. Seine dreijährige Amtszeit als Assistenz-Dirigent des Gustav Mahler Jugendorchesters vollendete David Afkham im Sommer 2012. 



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Press

Verdi

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

Schubert

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

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Recordings

Shostakovich

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