[Franck’s Le Chasseur maudit (The Accursed Huntsman)] The thrill of the chase was excitingly portrayed by the CBSO with Ms Canellakis acting as Master of Hounds, ensuring that rhythms were tight and urgent… All this was conveyed very excitingly in a driven and dramatic performance. Karina Canellakis certainly put the piece across powerfully and the CBSO responded to her direction with playing that was tense and, in the quiet, spooky passages, suitably atmospheric. To judge by their committed performance you’d think that the orchestra played the piece regularly. I’m sure that’s not so, however; I wonder when last they played it. This performance made the case that we should hear it more often.”
[Rachmaninoff Symphonic Dances] “The score makes virtuoso demands on both conductor and orchestra and here the CBSO, ardently and precisely led by Karina Canellakis, rose to the challenge superbly. In the first dance I admired the weight and bite of the playing in the outer sections. The gorgeous central section is dominated by a choice example of the composer’s trademark bittersweet nostalgic melodies. Here it was introduced soulfully by the alto saxophonist (Mark O’Brien) but just as outstanding as his playing was the supple way with which his woodwind colleagues wove their decorative material around the melody. This haunting passage was beautifully moulded, mainly with her left hand, by Ms Canellakis. When the strings took over the melody, delivering it with yearning sincerity, I admired – not for the last time in this performance – the very natural and idiomatic rubato that the conductor brought to the music. The lead back to the movement’s opening material was decisively conducted as was the reprise of that material. I loved the expressive way in which the violins played the self-quotation from the composer’s First Symphony just before the hushed close of the movement.
The second movement is a spectral, uncertain waltz. The music was ideally shaped and shaded in this performance. It’s marvellously written for the orchestra and Ms Canellakis and the ever-sensitive members of the CBSO brought out all the nuances most effectively. Again, the use of rubato was telling; there was highly idiomatic give and take in the music’s flow. The closing pages call for will o’ the wisp dexterity and that’s just what was delivered. The performance of the final dance was simply superb. Tonight’s performance had knife-edge precision; the playing combined flair and dash. However, this movement isn’t all about edge-of-the-seat excitement; in the central section Rachmaninov yet again indulged in one of those characteristic dreamy, nostalgic episodes. Karina Canellakis ensured that this section was phrased with just the right degree of romantic ardour while steering admirably clear of self-indulgence. The closing pages, taken quickly but not so quickly that the music sounded at all rushed, were very exciting and Ms Canellakis made sure that the final tam-tam crash was allowed properly to resonate and decay before richly-deserved applause began.
This Rachmaninov performance was a spectacular end to a very fine concert. This was the first time that I’ve seen or heard Karina Canellakis conduct but I was impressed. She proved to be an alert and supportive concerto partner and in the two purely orchestral items she galvanized the CBSO, who were clearly on top form. I hope very much that it won’t be long before we see her back in Birmingham though I suspect her diary will be pretty full.”
–Seen and Heard International
“The concert opened with a vivid rendition of Messiaen’s “Hymne pour grand orchestre.” Canellakis and the orchestra moved with absolute conviction from atmospheric sounds and cloudy harmonies to direct, simple statements, giving a taut, crisp performance, making sections of it fairly crackle with musical energy and tension. The program’s second half opened with Cesar Franck’s “Le Chasseur maudit: Poeme Symphonique” (“The Accursed Huntsman”), which could easily serve as a primer for understanding how tone poems work.
Canellakis took a moment to speak to the audience, offering a concise roadmap of Franck’s piece via the story it relates, and then led a rollicking good musical yarn full of color, charisma and dramatic direction.
Canellakis and the orchestra closed the Friday morning program with a sunny, somehow optimistic performance of the four-movement work [Beethoven Symphony No.8] that was filled with stylish, meaningful turns of musical phrase and fine ensemble playing.” -USA Today Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“The concert opened with a breezy rendition of Haydn’s German Dances, as arranged by Austrian composer Bernhard Paumgartner. Canellakis was alive to the score’s every nuance, teasing out some delightful detail. Her conducting style was elegant with every gesture carrying a meaning, as she negotiated nimble turns of phrase, thrilling bursts of acceleration and lilting dances.
The programme was rounded off with a pulsating account of Schubert’s Symphony No 5. Canellakis took the unusual step of placing the woodwinds in the front of the orchestra, where they could shine with some ravishing passages. The orchestra romped home with an exuberant climax.” -The Northern Echo, U.K.
“Karina Canellakis stepped in for music director Jaap van Zweden (who was called away on a family emergency), with less than 24 hours’ notice to take on this task, with impressive success.
That Canellakis was up to the assignment was evident from the first moment in her confident and precise delivery of the multi-layered lines in the somber orchestral introduction of Mozart’s Concerto No. 24 in C minor, which nicely set up the stark entry of piano soloist David Fray.
With a much larger orchestra on stage after intermission (including percussion stationed in the midst of the violin section), Canellakis took on Shostakovich’s mammoth, 80-minute Symphony No. 7, also known as the “Leningrad” Symphony.
While Canellakis had demonstrated admirable command of both emotional and technical detail in the Mozart, she admirably expanded those same qualities into Shostakovich’s epic score, knowing exactly when and how to produce the bombast of battle, and, even more impressively, how to communicate the sorrow and anguish presented in the later movements. This listener entered the concert hall confident that van Zweden would pull this off with style, and left even more impressed with the young conductor who achieved the same accomplishment on short notice.” -Dallas Observer
“Not until 20 minutes before Thursday night’s Dallas Symphony Orchestra concert did Karina Canellakis learn that she’d be conducting it. Alerted to a family emergency back in Amsterdam, music director Jaap van Zweden had just managed to book a flight back home. Having sat in on rehearsals for the concert, the DSO’s assistant conductor took over on opening night.
It was Canellakis’ second late substitution for van Zweden in a Mozart-and-Shostakovich program. The last time, in October 2014, she took over halfway through a four-performance run including the formidable Shostakovich Eighth Symphony. This time she’s conducting all four performances of a program including the Shostakovich Leningrad Symphony and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor (K. 491).
Those of us who witnessed one of those 2014 performances, and some subsequent ones in the DSO’s ReMix series, weren’t surprised at the results this time at the Meyerson Symphony Center. Once again, in a fiercely challenging program, admittedly benefitting from van Zweden’s rehearsals, Canellakis took over with absolute authority.
With gestures clear yet expressive, Canellakis realized every emotional import, managing every transition with assurance, building climaxes with inevitability. She knew what the music was about, where it was going and why. ..the orchestra responded with precision and drama. Once again, the wind principals…spun out eloquent solos. Strings supplied delicacy where called for, searing intensity elsewhere. Brasses could produce delicate hushes and ear-splitting fortissimos.
With appropriately reduced string sections [Mozart piano concerto in c minor], Canellakis got stylish, buoyant playing from the orchestra. Again, in a piece giving them particular prominence, the winds played with particular eloquence.” -Dallas Morning News
[Cincinnati Symphony] “On a few days’ notice, American conductor Karina Canellakis stepped in to make a sensational debut in the all-Russian program that included Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5.
The evening resulted in two standing ovations and one of the most thrilling concerts of the season. (Alisa Weilerstein, Shostakovich Cello Concerto No. 1) Canellakis was an excellent partner, sympathetic to every turn of phrase. Listeners were instantly on their feet, cheering.
Canellakis, a New York native and protégé of Sir Simon Rattle, is a major conducting talent whose star is rapidly rising. So clear and confident was her direction, it was mesmerizing to watch her lead Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony, in the evening’s second half. Even though this symphony was a wartime piece, it is one of Prokofiev’s sunniest works, and he called it “a hymn to the freedom of the human spirit.”
Under Canellakis’ baton, the performance had an irresistible freshness of spirit. her view was romantic and lyrical in the first movement. The lightness of the string sound was striking, but she knew just how to balance that with an exciting drive to the finish. The scherzo movement, offering a marked contrast, featured terrific staccato passages in the brass and energized playing from wind soloists.
The impression that lingered, though, was how naturally the conductor allowed the music to unfold, no matter what the tempo. She took her time in the arching themes of the slow movement. The finale was both atmospheric and lyrical, yet momentum never sagged in the drive to its extraordinary finish.
The orchestra responded with virtuosity. Go to this one.”
[Hong Kong Philharmonic] “The overture to The Abduction from the Seraglio by Mozart, with its boisterous rhythm and tingling accoutrements from the percussion, threw the party open in high spirits. The pensive interlude that follows was soon overtaken by the romp of the opening theme to a rousing close. Lunging and stooping in clear gestures to get the most out of the orchestra, Canellakis infused Mozart’s overture not only with energy, but poise and majesty. The cymbals, triangle, drums and piccolo were embellishments to the scurrying strings that never overwhelmed them. (Augustin Hadelich, Mozart’s Violin Concerto no. 5 in A major) The cooperation between soloist and orchestra produced a result that is at the same time intimate and thoughtful, with both avoiding the limelight but emerging triumphant as one.
The Adagio second movement is a gem of lyricism and episodic contemplation. Soloist and orchestra now sat back, kicked off their shoes, and reminisced as if they were old friends. As we hear what is said, most of it beautifully played by soloist and orchestra alike, we also occasionally glimpsed what is left unsaid, upon a wink of understanding between the two.
Perhaps in a post-war attempt to revive a career somewhat blighted by rumours of having sympathised with the Nazis, Richard Strauss turned his opera Die Frau ohne Schatten (The Woman without a Shadow), which had premièred in 1919, into a symphonic poem. The result, a “Symphonic Fantasy”, is a grand score fit for a Hollywood movie. A few bad-tempered grunts on low brass at the opening soon give way to an extended lament on strings and a Disney-like fairy-tale frolic with the help of harps and percussion. After a few dancing episodes, the trombone launches into a gloriously lyrical solo – for me the highlight of the work – that refuses to go away despite the strings’ attempt to suppress it, eventually assimilating it into a return to a more assertive version of the opening lament. After a triumphant summation replete with organ, the work draws to a close in an introspective mood. Conductor Karina Canellakis’ broad vision captured the variety of mood swings perfectly and fully exploited all the lyrical and grand-standing opportunities.
The “Dance of the Seven Veils” from Strauss’ opera Salome is a mixture of sensual seduction and grotesque desire. The music tracks Salome’s performance for father King Herod, beginning with a frenzied and rather horrifying rhythm that leads to an exotic melody on oboe. While there are passages of supreme lyricism, the sense of grotesque horror has the final say. With boundless energy and consummate skill, Karina Canellakis tamed a programme of disparate works into a whole that excited and pleased at the same time.”
-Bachtrack, Hong Kong
“From the first notes of Mozart’s Symphony No. 38 in D Major, “Prague,” which opened the concert, one could tell that the orchestra was in very good hands. Tempos breathed, and textures were transparent. But more than technical things, one could sense in her view the humanity and wit of this composer. Every phrase was shaped with nuance and care. The musicians’ playing sparkled with refinement.
After such a performance, I couldn’t wait to hear what she would do with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 in C Major, which came after intermission. It turned out to be revelatory. The orchestra’s playing was superb from beginning to end. The first movement’s Allegro was bursting with energy. She led the scherzo with momentum, while its central trio was a magical dialogue between winds and strings. The finale was fleet and played with exciting virtuosity, but even better, the musicians and conductor were having fun.
So was the audience. It’s not every day that one is witness to such a rare and special talent. Let’s hope she returns to Cincinnati again, and soon.”
[translated from German] “The first part of the concert, Dvořák’s “Golden Spinning Wheel”, had been announced as a conversation concert, and as Karina Canellakis also speaks excellent German, she introduced the audience to the story as well as to the themes and motifs of the symphonic tone poem. The Chamber Orchestra of Europe told the gory story by means of a broad palette of colors, whereby the darker moments, for instance the murder scene, played in strong fortissimo, became particularly gripping. The orchestra seemed to really revel in the waltzes and polkas at the wedding feast of the king, as Canellakis animated the musicians to brisk tempi, just as in the gleaming finish to the work, in which happiness and the joy of life took over entirely. Karina Canellakis’s electrifying and dark interpretations of Dvořák’s works and her great enthusiasm on the podium in front of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe spoke for themselves.”
-Bachtrack (after European debut in Graz, Austria)
“Karina Canellakis made a strong and impressive local debut Wednesday night at the Grant Park Music Festival. She displayed an exceptionally idiomatic feeling for music of Leonard Bernstein, as was shown in Wednesday’s exuberant performance of Fancy Free. Canellakis led a fizzing, high-stepping performance with a notably sassy “Opening Dance,” ample sexy swagger to “Enter Two Girls,” sensual languor to the “Pas de Deux” and hyped-up testosterone in the “Competition Scene.” While the performance had enormous rhythmic kick, Canellakis also balanced textures artfully in the more delicately scored interludes. [Franck Symphony] Canellakis was clearly attuned to Franck’s elusive, uber-chromatic style, and the Lento introduction had a striking sense of searching mystery. The ensuing Allegro was incisive and dramatic, the conductor deftly charting the ebb and flow. In the Allegretto, Canellakis drew finely nuanced dynamics and transparent textures from the Grant Park players. The final movement provided the requisite payoff, surging and energized yet firmly controlled, the conductor minding the “non troppo” marking. Karina Canellakis is the real thing. Let’s hope we see her again in Chicago soon.” -Chicago Classical Review
“Canellakis is an astonishing musician. She is the model of a modern musician. She has a contagious command of rhythm, which she signals through her whole body. [Adams Shaker Loops]: The details, shaking strings, swooping inner lines, chugging Minimalist beats all had extraordinary vitality. There was no instant, no detail that didn’t come to life. [Schubert Symphony No.5]: Canellakis’ performance was brisk, propulsive, and exquisitely detailed. She shaped Schubertian melody lovingly. This was an exceptional debut. When she gestured the orchestra to rise after the Schubert, the players remained seated in a rare tribute to a young conductor making her debut. Remember her name. If LACO doesn’t grab her, some other orchestra eager to embrace the future will. And likely soon.”
-Los Angeles Times
“CANELLAKIS TRIUMPHS ON PODIUM WITH DSO: In a program including the long and fearsomely challenging Eighth Symphony of Dmitri Shostakovich, she rose spectacularly to the challenge Saturday night (as last minute replacement for Jaap van Zweden), leading with great clarity and expressivity. Even in the shifting time signatures of the Shostakovich, one always knew what meter was in play, and where each downbeat was. In the opening Mozart E-flat major Piano Concerto (No. 14, K. 449) [soloist Emanuel Ax] the motions of her body even conveyed how notes were to be sounded and phrases tapered. Yes, the orchestra had been fastidiously prepared by van Zweden, but Canellakis still beautifully conveyed shape, direction and breath. She certainly displayed excellent technique and sophisticated musicianship. There was a roaring and well-deserved ovation at the end, the musicians even signaling their approval by waving bows and stomping feet.”
-Dallas Morning News
“Karina Canellakis led a strong rendition that illuminated the various intricacies…”
– New York Times
“…[Tanglewood’s] other premiere, “Folk Songs,” by Bernard Rands,…was thoughtfully handled by Karina Canellakis. She led a performance that was alert without sacrificing easygoing charm.” – New York Times
“Karina Canellakis conducted Hindemith‘s Symphonic Metamorphosis with strength and precision. The taut energy that is everywhere in the piece was evidence of Ms. Canellakis’s control.” – Berkshire Review for the Arts
“Conductor Karina Canellakis kept up an effortless flow and maintained balance within the ensemble and with the singers that never faltered.” – Boston Music Intelligencer
“Karina Canellakis was a sensitive, unmannered conductor. The audience sighed with pleasure.” – Classical Voice America
“Charlotte Bray’s powerfully expectant “At the Speed of Stillness” (2012), conducted by Ms. Canellakis, managed the difficult feat of evoking ceaseless motion without feeling driven: It gave a sense of pulsating in place.” – New York Times
“Canellakis conducted with crisp aggression, as if to capture the water’s churn at the level of molecular vibration and collision.” – Boston Globe
“The opening Allegro impressed me from the beginning: within the undeniable wall of sound, the multiple voices and phrases remained clear and distinct—even moreso than on the historic recording by Hindemith himself conducting. Canellakis did an outstanding job balancing the large number of musicians assembled for this performance, maintaining clear direction and a sense of the work as a whole.” – Boston Musical Intelligencer
“[Bray’s work] received a lucid and well-prepared performance. …the conductor’s crisp gestures offered the players a secure framework at the same time that her friendly demeanor offered encouragement for them to play their best.” – Berkshire Review for the Arts