Klaus Mäkelä, 28-Year-Old Finnish Conductor, to Lead Chicago Symphony

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which has been led for decades by conducting titans including Georg Solti, Daniel Barenboim and Riccardo Muti, announced Tuesday that its next music director would be Klaus Mäkelä, a 28-year-old Finnish conductor whose charisma and clarity have fueled his rapid rise in classical music.

When he begins a five-year contract in 2027 at 31, Mäkelä will be the youngest maestro in the ensemble’s 133-year history, and one of the youngest ever to lead a top orchestra in the United States.

Mäkelä, who will become music director designate immediately, said in an interview that he did not think his age was relevant, noting that he had been conducting for more than half his life, beginning when he was 12.

“I don’t think about it,” he said. “Music doesn’t really have any age.”

Mäkelä, who will also take over as chief conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam in 2027, said he was joining the Chicago Symphony because it has “that intensity — that same sound from the past.”

“You felt as if anything you would ask, they could actually improve and do more,” he said, recalling his recent guest appearances there. “For a conductor, that is a very, very special feeling because you see that there really are no limits to what you can achieve.”

Mäkelä making his debut conducting the New York Philharmonic in December 2022.Credit…Chris Lee
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