Spotlight on Klaus Mäkelä

This winter, shines the spotlight on the virtuoso conductor

Spotlight on Klaus Mäkelä

Every so often a musician appears on the scene who stands head and shoulders above his or her colleagues, whose artistry is characterised by an understanding that belies the years. The Finnish conductor Klaus Mäkelä is one such. 

A pupil of the legendary conducting teacher Jorma Panula, and the son of musicians, Mäkelä’s interest in conducting began when he was 12, and his rise in the profession has been vertiginous. Music Director of the Orchestre de Paris, Chief Conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic and Chief Conductor-designate of Amsterdam’s great Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (a role he takes up in 2027), he’s probably the most sought-after guest conductor on the planet, regularly appearing with the likes of the Chicago Symphony and Cleveland Orchestras. He’s still only 27 – but the moment he raises his baton, such a detail becomes irrelevant. “He’s the real deal,” the Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes told me. “There’s no doubt about it. The guy has everything. Really quite astounding.”

For orchestral musicians, there’s a warmth and professionalism that appeals. They don’t like to waste time and they admire a conductor who knows that they will deliver and doesn’t labour points that will be perfect in concert. He knows how to rehearse, but he also understands the need to keep something back for the performance. And he has a real feel for the musical line – hardly surprising as he’s a fine cellist himself. And, amid a punishing schedule he still finds time to play chamber music with colleagues (most notably at Verbier during the summer months).

For music-lovers, Mäkelä’s is a career worth following. It will be a fantastic journey, without doubt. His way with the Sibelius symphonies, for example, deepens with every performance, and in the standard repertoire (Mahler and Beethoven symphonies) he has so much to say. Climb aboard while you can! 

— James Jolly, Gramophone editor-in-chief


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