James Gaffigan

Chief Conductor: Luzerner Sinfonieorchester

Principal Guest Conductor: Netherlands Radio Philharmonic

© David Künzler & Melchior Bürgi


Hailed for the natural ease of his conducting and the compelling insight of his musicianship, James Gaffigan continues to attract international attention and is one of the most outstanding American conductors working today.

Engagements this season have included appearances with the Symphony Orchestras of Cleveland, Chicago, San Francisco, Toronto, Detroit, Sydney Bournemouth and the BBC Symphony Orchestra; Oslo Philharmonic, Seoul Philharmonic and Los Angeles Philharmonic; the Orchestre de Paris and Orchestre National de France; Simon Boccanegra with the Netherlands Radio Symphony and his debut with the Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra.

In the 2017/18 season James will appear with the Chicago Symphony, Dallas Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Munich Philharmonic and the Concertgebouw Orchestra, in addition to commitments with the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra and Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. James will make his debuts with the Lyric Opera of Chicago with a production of Così Fan Tutte, and with Santa Fe Opera with Ariadne auf Naxos, and will return to the Wiener Staatsoper Opera for La Traviata. Further ahead James will make his debuts at the Netherlands Opera and the Metropolitan Opera.

Performance Schedule



  • 06 Oct 16 Prokofiev 'Cinderella' & Vine 'Five Hallucinations' Chicago Symphony Orchestra
    More info  

    “One could hardly have imagined a more successful world premiere… Gaffigan’s direction was just as exemplary, balancing the large forces skillfully against the soloist, allowing Vine’s colorful writing to register clearly, and drawing dynamic and responsive playing from the orchestra.”
    Lawrence A, Johnson, Chicago Classical Review, 7 October 2016

    “Gaffigan, the rising young American chief conductor of the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra in Switzerland, was taking care of subscription series business for a week while Riccardo Muti was taking a scheduled break from his fall residency to study scores at his home in Ravenna, Italy. Gaffigan’s fine showing made him much more than a glorified placeholder.
    He surrounded the Vine piece with two works of literary inspiration, both absent from the CSO repertory since 2004: Cesar Franck’s “Le chasseur maudit” (“The Accursed Huntsman”) and an extended suite from Prokofiev’s ballet “Cinderella.” Both drew assured accounts that supported his growing reputation as one of the more gifted American conductors of his generation.”
    John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune, 7 October 2016

  • 23 Sep 16 MOZART 'Le nozze di Figaro'
    Washington National Opera
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    “From the first triumphant swells of an overture famous in its own right, before the curtain even opens, Conductor James Gaffigan and the Washington National Opera (WNO) make it clear that we are in for a musical treat.”
    Julia Hurley, DC Metro Theater Arts, 23 September 2016

    “Conductor James Gaffigan made his WNO debut with this production, and how wonderfully he brought out the colors and
    mathematically-structured precision of Mozart’s score! More importantly, he set the tone for the show (adapted from a recent production at Glimmerglass Festival): this production would be positively impish and
    easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy fun. The back and forth interplay of instruments articulated deftly so that they became like additional characters who were entering into the chatty dialogue.”
    Susan Galbraith, DC Theatre Scene, 26 September 2016

  • 12 Dec 15 Beethoven Symphony no. 4 & Andrew Norman 'Split' New York Philharmonic Orchestra
    David Geffen Hall
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    “Mr. Gaffigan, who is thriving as the chief conductor of the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra, led a bracing performance of Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony, chosen because it’s an ebullient piece full of that master’s equivalent of jump cuts. Strauss’s popular tone poem tells the story of Till Eulenspiegel, an actual prankster. Mr. Gaffigan conducted an uncommonly brash account that made the music seem ominously playful. Much like “Split.””
    Anthony Tommasini, New York Times, 12 December 2015

  • 17 Oct 14 DVORAK Symphony No 6; American Suite Op 98b
    Harmonia Mundi
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    “The opening bars of the symphony signal something quite out of the ordinary … Lightness, transparency, geniality, warmth and a keen sense of symphonic inexorability – these and other admirable qualities keep the first movement of Gaffigan’s Dvorak Sixth consistently engaging. His pacing is near ideal (relaxed yet animated), his seamless handling of the movement’s second set artfully judged… Gaffigan and his Lucerne players offer a performance that combines exuberance with the utmost delicacy (try 1’22” into the second movement). This is a wonderful CD, my first encounter with Gaffigan and his players. I can’t wait to hear more.”
    Rob Cowan, Gramophone, Awards Edition 2014

    “Gaffigan’s performance of the American Suite is as delightful as the music: melody is well to the fore with no sense of this unpretentious music being patronised.”
    Jan Smaczny, BBC Music Magazine

    “James Gaffigan is a thoroughly genial guide to Dvorák’s Sixth Symphony, one of the composer’s most consistently sunny works. The American conductor finds plenty of bite in the distinctive twists and turns of the furiant (a Czech dance) that Dvorák used for the Scherzo, and he certainly doesn’t shirk the implications of the dark clouds that occasionally gather over a work that’s often described as being pastoral in nature. But the standout characteristic of the performance is the way Gaffigan delights in, as it were, drawing attention to the special beauties of the gorgeous landscapes he’s leading his listeners through.”
    Michael Dervan, The Irish Times, 17 October 2014

    “Dvorák’s Sixth Symphony (1880), with its cross-rhythm “Furiant” Scherzo and soaring melodies, was written for Vienna but is as richly and distinctively Slavonic as anything the composer wrote. It has a tender inner spirit and benign fervour – deliciously explored here in a warm, subtle performance delivered with pin-sharp exactitude. If the opening bars sound like a tribute to the Symphony No 2 of Dvorák’s friend Brahms, the work unfolds with a style and imprint that could only be Dvorák’s. Originally for piano, the American Suite (1894), weaving New World jazziness with old Bohemian folk, is buoyant and wistful in this orchestral version, full of those sliding key shifts Dvorák loved. Switzerland’s oldest orchestra and conductor James Gaffigan make a beguiling, expert team”
    Fiona Maddocks, The Observer, 5 October 2014