The BBC Philharmonic has announced Juanjo Mena as its new chief conductor. The Spaniard, 44, will begin his time in charge of the Manchester-based orchestra at the beginning of the 2011-12 season. He takes over from Gianandrea Noseda, who has been in the post since 2002.
Mena comes to the BBC Philharmonic following a highly successful career in his home country, where he was artistic director and principal conductor of the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra from 1999 to 2008 and has also worked with major ensembles such as the Orquesta Nacional de España and the Orquesta Sinfonica RTVE.
Since 2007, he has also been principal guest conductor at the highly rated Bergen Philharmonic in Norway (where Andrew Litton is principal conductor) and chief guest conductor at Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa. Like Noseda, Mena is equally as strong in operatic and orchestral repertoire – just one reason why the Italian has been quick to give a glowing endorsement to his successor.
‘I always feel that a conductor should be able to do both opera and orchestra, and that’s the case with Juanjo’ Noseda tells BBC Music Magazine. ‘He has incredible talent and a very deep knowledge and from talking to him, you quickly realise that there’s nothing superficial about him as a conductor. He also does repertoire that I haven’t touched in my time here – Bruckner, for instance, and works with a Spanish connection or flavour.’
Under Noseda’s tenure, the BBC Philharmonic has gone from strength to strength, with highlights including the a Beethoven Symphony cycle that received over one million downloads from the Radio 3 website and acclaimed recordings of Liszt and Rachmaninov.
Mena will now be tasked with carrying on the Noseda magic. In the meantime, for an early glimpse of the new man, listen to Afternoon on 3 on Radio 3 on Friday 9 July.
Pic: Sussie Ahlburg