In one of the most anticipated orchestral appointments of the year, Kazuki Yamada has just been announced as Chief Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Commencing the role in spring 2023, Yamada builds upon the deep musical bond formed with players during his time as Principal Guest Conductor of the orchestra, a role held by him since 2018.
Alongside his commitments in Birmingham, Yamada is also Principal Conductor and Artistic Director of Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo. Having already worked with the two organisations in partnership, conducting collaborative performances of Mendelssohn’s Elijah in Monaco in 2019, Yamada’s new appointment sees a continuing link forged between Monaco and Birmingham, with the CBSO Chorus set for a return to Monaco in 2023 for a performance of Orff’s Carmina Burana.
Time spent under the close supervision of Seiji Ozawa served to underline the importance of what Yamada calls his “Japanese feeling” for classical music. Born in 1979 in Kanagawa, Japan, he continues to work and perform in Japan as Permanent Conductor of the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra and Principal Guest Conductor of the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra.
Yamada’s passionate and collaborative approach to conducting means he commands a busy international diary of concerts, opera and choral conducting. His guest conductor appearances have included Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Bergen Philharmonic, Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, MDR-Sinfonieorchester Leipzig, Orchestre de Paris, Orchestre National de France, Melbourne Symphony, Seattle Symphony and Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, with whom he held the position of Principal Guest Conductor from 2012–2018.
“The Orchestre de la Suisse Romande plays scintillatingly under Kazuki Yamada.”The Sunday Times
Yamada performs again with Krystian Zimerman in 2022, following their Beethoven cycle in Monte Carlo in 2020. He has also worked with soloists such as Emmanuel Ax, Boris Berezovsky, Håkan Hardenberger, Martin Helmchen, Nobuko Imai, Steven Osborne, Baiba Skride, Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Frank Peter Zimmermann.
In the 2021/22 season, Yamada’s engagements include returns to Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse and to Opéra de Monte Carlo for a production of Berg’s Wozzeck, guest appearances with NHK Symphony, Stavanger Symphony Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra Washington and Het Residentie Orkest. In future seasons Yamada appears with Philharmonia Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Luxembourg and Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Orchestre Nationale du Belgique. He embarks on two operas in Monte Carlo – Berlioz’s La damnation de Faust alongside a fully staged performance of Saint-Saëns’ rarely programmed Déjanire.
Strongly committed to his role as an educator, Yamada appears annually as a guest artist at the Seiji Ozawa International Academy in Switzerland. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on international concert halls reaffirmed his belief that – in his words – ‘the audience is always involved in making the music. As a conductor, I need an audience there as much as the musicians’. Yamada studied music at the Tokyo University of the Arts, where he discovered a love both for Mozart and the Russian romantic repertory. He first achieved international attention upon receiving first prize in the 51st Besançon International Competition for young conductors in 2009. After living in Japan for most of his life, he now resides in Berlin.