Violinists who turned their hand to conducting
Many violinists have shifted careers and become conductors. We name some of the best
Part of being a conductor is commanding respect from your musicians, so an understanding of an orchestra’s string section is an advantage. No wonder, then, that so many top violinists have gone on to stellar conducting careers.
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Thirteen years ago, Russian violinist Maxim Vengerov hung up his bow and darted for the hills. Having now returned to playing, he celebrates 40 years on the concert stage with a renewed enthusiasm and a burgeoning conducting career.
In his thirties and forties, Neville Marriner was a successful orchestral and chamber violinist including stints in the Philharmonia, LSO and London Mozart Players. His experience stood him in good stead for directorship of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, and by his death in 2016, many had even forgotten about his playing.
Principal conductor of the New York Phil and Hong Kong Phil, Jaap van Zweden studied violin at the Juilliard before becoming concertmaster of the Concertgebouw at 18 in 1979, the youngest ever holder of that role.
Period violinist Andrew Manze has many fine recordings under his belt and has directed the Academy of the Ancient Music and English Concert. Recently, he has put violin aside to concentrate on his work conducting the NDR Radiophilharmonie, Helsingborg Symphony and RLPO.
American conductor Karina Canellakis – now chief conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and principal guest conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra – only moved away from playing the violin when Simon Rattle encouraged her to pursue conducting when she was with the Berlin Philharmonic's Orchester-Akademie from 2005 to 2007. She then went on to study conducting at the Juilliard School. Previously, she had studied the violin at the Curtis Institute and was a substitute for the Chicago Symphony and guest leader of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra.
Pinchas Zukerman has, since 2009, been the principal guest conductor of the RPO and has conducted the English Chamber and Saint Paul Chamber orchestras among others.
As a violinist, Nicolaj Szeps-Znaider recorded the Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Korngold and Elgar concertos for RCA Red Seal. This year he becomes music director of the Orchestre National de Lyon alongside his principal guest conductorship of the Mariinsky Orchestra.