Ilan Volkov has been appointed the new Principal Guest Conductor of Brussels Philharmonic, starting in the 2022/23 season. He will develop and expand the path of new music with the orchestra, with a clear focus on performance as well as research.
A place where contemporary music is given the leading role, researched and tested, and exposed to other arts or forms of performance. A radical decision to experiment and focus on the future, with guest conductor Ilan Volkov.
Ilan Volkov is known as a figurehead of the international contemporary music scene – as one critic put it, he eats complex scores for brunch – but he is just as at home with the great classical and romantic literature, which he has conducted around the world since his breakthrough at the prodigious age of 19.
Born in Israel to concert pianist Alexander Volkov and historian Shulamit Volkov, he inherited musical genes and from an early age studied violin, piano and composition before turning to conducting. Still a teenager, he became Seiji Ozawa’s assistant at Boston Symphony Orchestra and by the age of 27 he had been appointed Chief Conductor of BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, then the youngest conductor of a BBC orchestra. Twenty years on, he still works with the orchestra regularly as Principal Guest Conductor.
Volkov’s own listening tastes are voracious and open-minded, including pop, folk and jazz, but he is especially passionate about new and experimental music and the process of working with composers. As part of his mission, he often focuses on composers whose work deserves more public attention, for example George Lewis and Claude Vivier.
With that in mind, in 2012 he launched his Tectonics Festival, which has become one of the world’s most diverse and acclaimed celebrations of new music. It has had editions around the globe from Adelaide and Athens to Reykjavík and Tel Aviv, offering opportunities to local composers, while still based in Glasgow, home of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.
Volkov’s fierce intellect allows him to read the most complex of orchestral scores and he is skilled at interpreting the even more complicated demands of opera and ballet, most recently including Samir Odeh-Tamimis’s new creation The Arab Apocalypse for the Aix Festival and George Haas’s Sym-phonie MMXX for Berliner Festspiele.
Equally, he brings this intelligence and depth to the standard repertoire and is in demand by ensembles and festivals across the world. His discography also represents this eclecticism and he has won a Gramophone Award for Britten and critical acclaim for Liszt.