David Afkham


David Afkham is rapidly establishing a reputation as one of the most sought after conductors to emerge from Germany in recent years. The past two years saw highly successful debut engagements with the Concertgebouw Orchestra, Swedish Radio Symphony, Santa Cecilia Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, DSO-Berlin, Munich Philharmonic, Wiener Symphoniker, Spanish National Orchestra, Gothenburg Symphony, Gulbenkian Orchestra Lisbon, as well as the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Houston Symphony and Seattle Symphony. David Afkham also stepped in at short notice for an indisposed Ingo Metzmacher to lead the Gustav Mahler Jungendorchester’s extensive 2012 Easter tour, attracting unanimous critical acclaim in major cities around Europe.  

In May 2013, David Afkham was appointed as the next Principal Conductor of the Spanish National Orchestra, a tenure which will begin in the season 14/15.

Highlights over the next two seasons include returning projects with the Philharmonia Orchestra, Swedish Radio Symphony, Wiener Symphoniker (Musikverein series), DSO-Berlin, Orchestre National de France, Spanish National Orchestra, Gothenburg Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and a tour with the Gustav Mahler Jungendorchester. David is also looking forward to debuts with the Filarmonica della Scala, London Symphony Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Staatskapelle Dresden, Staatskapelle Berlin, Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart, Frankfurt Radio Symphony, Gürzenich Orchestra Köln, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and NHK Symphony Tokyo, as well as a New York debut at the 2013 Mostly Mozart Festival. 

David Afkham was Assistant Conductor of the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester for three years, a tenure which ended in Summer 2012. 

In August 2010, he became the first recipient of the “Nestlé and Salzburg Festival Young Conductors Award”. He was also 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.  

Born in 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“ German 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 continues to work on a regular basis with his mentor Bernard Haitink, whom he has assisted on a number of projects including major symphony cycles with the Chicago Symphony, Concertgebouw Orchestra, and the London Symphony Orchestra. 

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Biographie auf Deutsch

 David Afkham gehört zu den meistgefragten jungen Dirigenten aus Deutschland. In der Spielzeit 2011/2012 debütierte er beim Concertgebouworkest Amsterdam, beim DSO Berlin, Cleveland Orchestra, Gulbenkian Orchestra Lissabon, Wiener Symphoniker und Mahler Chamber Orchestra. Diese Debüts führten zu sofortigen Wiedereinladungen. Außerdem sprang er kurzfristig für Ingo Metzmacher ein und leitete die europaweite Ostertournee des Gustav Mahler Jugendorchesters 2012. Diese von der Presse gefeierte Tour umfasste 12 Konzerte mit zwei ambitionierten Programmen, darunter Vorspiel und Liebestod von Wagners Tristan und Isolde, Skrjabins Poème de l’Extase, Auszüge aus Wagners Götterdämmerung, Zimmermanns Photoptosis und Schostakowitschs Sinfonie Nr. 7.

Zu den Höhepunkten der Saison 2012/13 gehören die Debüts bei den Münchner Philharmonikern, Staatskapelle Dresden, Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart, hr-Sinfonieorchester Frankfurt, Philharmonia Orchestra London, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Schwedisches Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester, Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rom, Filarmonica della Scala sowie Seattle Symphony Orchestra und Mostly Mozart in New York. Wiedereinladungen führen David Afkahm unter anderem zum Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Orchestre National de France, Spanish National Orchestra und Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester. 

Im Sommer 2012 schloss David Afkham seine 3jährige Amtszeit als Assistenzdirigent des Gustav Mahler Jugendorchesters ab. Im August 2010 erhielt er als erster Preisträger überhaupt den neugegründeten „Nestlé and Salzburg Festival Young Conductors Award“. 2008 gewann er den Londoner Donatella Flick Wettbewerb und wurde zwei Jahre lang mit dem Posten des Assistant Conductor des London Symphony Orchestra betraut.

1983 in Freiburg geboren, erhielt David Afkham im Alter von sechs Jahren seinen ersten Klavier- und Geigenunterricht. 2002 errang er beim Bundeswettbewerb Jugend Musiziert einen ersten Preis in der Kategorie Klavier solo. Mit 15 Jahren wurde er Jungstudent in den Fächern Klavier, Musiktheorie und Dirigieren an der Musikhochschule seiner Heimatstadt. Er schloss sein Dirigierstudium 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“.

David Afkham arbeitet weiterhin regelmäßig mit seinem Mentor Bernard Haitink, dem er bei zahlreichen Projekten assistierte, darunter größere Konzertzyklen mit dem Concertgebouworkest Amsterdam, dem Chicago Symphony Orchestra und dem London Symphony Orchestra.

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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