Let’s play three: in October, rising young conductor James Gaffigan returns to lead the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for the third time in just a year. Last season, he conducted the CSO in the world premiere of Carl Vine’s Five Hallucinations for Trombone and Orchestra. In August, he appeared at the Ravinia Festival with the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra, for which he’s served as chief conductor since 2010.
He’ll be back on the Orchestra Hall podium Oct. 26-28 for a diverse program of Bernstein’s Symphonic Suite from On the Waterfront, Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances and Barber’s Violin Concerto (featuring soloist James Ehnes).
In high demand as a guest conductor, Gaffigan has appeared with the London, Dresden, Czech and Rotterdam philharmonics, as well as the Wiener Symphoniker, Dresden Staatskapelle, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Konzerthaus Berlin, Zurich Tonhalle, and Gothenburg, Tokyo Metropolitan and City of Birmingham Symphony orchestras. In the United States, his credits include the Philadelphia and Cleveland orchestras, the New York and Los Angeles philharmonics, and the St. Louis, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and National Symphony orchestras. He’s also made his name as an opera conductor, and this season, he will mark his house debut at Lyric Opera of Chicago with Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte, running Feb. 17 to March 16.
He’s so busy that some were surprised when he extended his contract with Lucerne through 2o22. Under his leadership, the orchestra has toured Europe, Asia and South America, and made well-regarded recordings on the prestigious Harmonia Mundi label.
“There are two reasons I extended for so long,” he said. “No. 1 is artistically, I can’t imagine a better place to be working. I have a great partnership with my intendant [executive director]. He’s a genius, and he’s a fund-raising machine, and artistically we’re both on the same page. I just think the orchestra is extraordinary, and it couldn’t be replicated anywhere else in the world. Secondly, our audience base — we’re like 96-97 percent sold all the time. We have a very dedicated group of people who live in Lucerne and come from across Switzerland, Italy and France to be subscribers. It’s an extremely special place.”
Gaffigan makes Lucerne his home base not only because of his position with the orchestra but also for the city’s centrality in Europe, which gives him easy access to the rest of the continent. “Plus, it’s just a beautiful quality of life.”
TOP: James Gaffigan leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the world premiere of Vine’s Five Hallucinations last season. | ©Todd Rosenberg Photography 2016