Ilan Volkov has appeared as guest conductor with many leading orchestras in Europe and the United States.Ilan Volkov, a young Israeli virtuoso, will take up the baton of one of the world’s most acclaimed orchestras this month, when he debuts as the head conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.
Volkov may only be 26 years old, the youngest conductor ever to be appointed to lead one of the prestigious BBC orchestras, but he is already an established figure on the international classical music scene, recognized as one of the most outstanding young conductors of his generation.
He began playing violin at the age of six. His exceptional talent was spotted early by his father, an acclaimed Israeli pianist. He began conducting at a young age, studying in Israel with Mendi Rodan.
At 16, he left Israel to study at the Royal Academy in London with Colin Davis. Even before he completed his studies, he was invited to be the conductor of the Northern Sinfonia, based in Newcastle in Great Britain. Two years later he was invited by Seiji Ozawa to join the Boston Symphony Orchestra as Assistant Conductor, conducting them to great critical acclaim. As his reputation grew in Boston, he became a popular figure on the world music scene.
Volkov has appeared as guest conductor with many leading orchestras in Europe and the United States, and has worked with such distinguished soloists as Daniel Barenboim, Mstislav Rostropovich, Emmanuel Ax, Viktoria Mullova and Thomas Zehetmair.
Speaking about the art of conducting to The Jerusalem Post, Volkov said “there is this chance to discover music for yourself. The most important thing is how you work with the musicians in front of you, the psychology between you. After all, everything you do causes a chain reaction in the orchestras. It’s not something one can learn from a book, it’s something you can learn only by experience, through trial and error.”
When he was appointed was announced, BBC SSO Director Hugh Macdonald said: “We believe we have found that in Ilan Volkov, who has impressed us so much with the depth and maturity of his artistry. The next few years will be immensely exciting and important for the orchestra, and I know that Ilan and our superb body of musicians are going to scale new heights together.”
As Chief Conductor of Glasgow’s BBC SSO he will conduct some 26 performances over 12 weeks each season. He will begin his three year appointment in January 2003 with a four-concert project in Glasgow featuring the symphonies of Schumann. In May 2003 he will conduct the SSO on a tour to the Far East including China, and in July 2003 will make his BBC Proms debut with the Orchestra in two concerts at the Royal Albert Hall.
“The idea is to conduct as many orchestras as possible and to be invited to return. To get a first chance with an orchestra is easy, to be invited back is much more difficult. And I hope I will be able to have my own orchestra. But I can wait, I’m in no rush,” he told the Post in 2000.
For Volkov, it was worth the wait.