Karel Mark Chichon

Chief Conductor & Artistic Director, Orquesta Filarmónica de Gran Canaria


Karel Mark Chichon O.B.E is the Chief Conductor & Artistic Director of Orquesta Filarmónica de Gran Canaria, starting from the 2017/18 season.

In 2016, Karel was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music (London) in recognition of his achievements within the profession.

Karel’s previous positions include Chief Conductor of the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken (2011-2017), Chief Conductor & Artistic Director of the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra (2009-2012) and Chief Conductor of the Graz Symphony Orchestra (2006-2009).

Karel conducts at the Metropolitan Opera New York, Wiener Staatsoper, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Bayerisches Staatsoper Munich, Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Teatro Real Madrid, Gran Teatre del Liceu Barcelona and with orchestras such as the  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra, Netherlands Radio Filharmonisch Orkest,  Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin,  Wiener Symphoniker, Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien, NHK Symphony Orchestra Tokyo, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Orchestre National de Belgique, Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI, Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo and Russian National Orchestra.

In early 2016, Karel made a highly acclaimed debut at the Metropolitan Opera New York with Madama Butterfly, which included a broadcast live on HD in 2,000 cinemas in 66 countries throughout the world.

Karel is also a regular Deutsche Grammophon recording artist, having recently recorded two CDs for the renowned record label.


  • More info  
    12 Dec 18 Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern CD: Revolutionary Rhythms
    Prokofiev/Stravinsky/De Falla

    “While Karel Mark Chichon is best known for his fine ongoing Dvořák symphony cycle and the albums he’s recorded with his wife Elīna Garanča, his new recording of suites from Stravinsky’s The Firebird, Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, and Manuel de Falla’s The Three Cornered Hat propels him into a different category of conductor: commanding, electrifying, utterly individual, with his German Radio Philharmonic playing as those possessed.”

    “Listen, for instance, to “The Death of Tybalt” from the extended suite from Romeo and Juliet. Not only is the opening menacing in the extreme, but also the tempo in the duel music is so ferocious (and the string articulation is so electrifying) that you might have some difficulty remaining in your seat. Throughout, Chichon’s command of the music’s rhythmic life is extraordinary: “The Young Juliet” is as vivacious as it is charming, with a deftly swaggering “Masks” and a “Minuet” kept on a tight but not inflexible leash.

    By that same token, The Firebird Suite’s “Infernal Dance” moves with a superbly controlled savagery, the trumpeting elephants from the 1919 version certain to raise as many goosebumps as smiles. Chichon is every bit as convincing in the ballet’s more reflective moments. The “Berceuse” is phrased with an affectionate, heart-stopping subtlety, while the “Round Dance” has a rhythmic delicacy that few recent recordings can match. In fact, the conductor’s ability to tease and caress the tempos is one of the great joys of the album, especially since nothing—including that jaw-dropping, 16-second final chord of The Firebird—seems arbitrary or overdone.

    While both of the Russian items are fully competitive with the best on the market today, the Falla is clearly the pick of the litter. Born in London of parents from Gibraltar—he co-founded the Gibraltar Philharmonic Society in 1998—Chichon speaks Manuel de Falla’s language like a native, with a zest, finesse, and command of the music’s subtle rubato that places the recording in the rarified company of the classic accounts by Reiner (currently unavailable), Ansermet (Decca 466 991), and Frühbeck de Burgos (Warner Classics 67590).
    A surprising and possibly career-altering album.”
    Jim Svejda, Fanfare Magazine

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    10 Oct 18 Season Opening
    Orquesta Filarmonica de Gran Canaria

    “Gustav Mahlers 2. Symphonie wird für das Saisoneröffnungskonzert perfektioniert. Und was dabei zu hören ist, klingt wirklich gut. Die Blechbläser intonieren präzise, die Streicher tönen in weicher Wärme. Die Musiker folgen Chichons Anweisungen mit absoluter Hingabe. Bratschistin Adriana Ilieva merkt an: „Er legt Wert auf jedes Detail. Aber das ist gut für uns.“ In der Tat. Chichon wacht nicht nur über jeden Ton, bei ihm muss alles passen.”

    Gustav Mahler’s 2nd Symphony is perfect for the season opening concert. And what is heard sounds really very good. The brass intonation is precise, the strings sound soft and warm. The musicians follow Chichon’s instructions with absolute devotion. Violist Adriana Ilieva notes, “He values ​​every detail. But that’s good for us. “Indeed. Not only does Chichon watch over every sound, everything has to fit in with him.
    Susanne Zobl,

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    11 Jul 18 Oehms Revolutionary Rhythms
    Deutsche Radio Philharmonie

    “The simple answer is that Chichon is a superb and sensitive interpreter of this music, the players of the orchestra provide brilliance, power and elegance as required and Oehms have given them a recording of subtlety, detail and wide dynamic range. Yes, it really is that good […] Chichon – no doubt helped by his alert players and the transparent engineering – conjures real atmosphere […] Chichon’s tender and expressive shaping of lyrical phrases is a recurring feature of the whole disc. There is a disarming simplicity that works wonderfully – he does exactly the same thing in his Dvořák, too. Nothing mannered or over-phrased, just the natural unfolding of a beautiful melody.”
    Nick Barnard, musicweb-international

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    17 Jan 17 Dvorak Complete Symphonies recording
    Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken

    “…of all the more recent recordings I have heard, it strikes me that Chichon is amongst the very best at allowing the fresh and joyful inspiration of Dvořák’s early symphonies to shine through. The excellent playing of his Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern, allied to the sophisticated and satisfying engineering of these discs, makes for a thoroughly enjoyable experience.”
    Nick Barnard, Music Web International 

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    12 Sep 16 Puccini La bohème
    Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern
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    26 Oct 16 Gala Concert Prague Philharmonia
    Smetana Hall

    Sense and Sensibility

    By Olga Janáčková,, 27.10.2016

    “You can hear the softest (sounded) pianissimo,
    as well as very powerful… She can totally rely on Karel Mark Chichon.
    Their collaboration is perfect and sets a great example how a singer and a
    conductor can unite in acoustics and expression, and how to cooperate on the
    stage – many of our conductors should follow this example…. Chichon
    manifested his works mainly in orchestra pieces; PKF – Prague
    Philharmonia was working very hard to meet his requests. The conductor
    builds the compositions on unusually swift and contrasting tempos, he is
    dynamic, rhythmical, he often emphasizes individual instruments groups, his
    demands on the orchestra often border virtuosity… The audience went
    wild…….due to her perfect harmony with Karel Mark
    Chichon, the evening was an exceptional experience…”

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    19 Feb 16 Puccini Madama Butterfly
    Metropolitan Opera

    “Ana Maria Martinez’s artful restraint was matched by those around her, including the conductor Karel Mark Chichon, who made his company debut with a performance that kept the drama flowing inexorably forward, cutting the saccharine without stinting on Puccini’s lushness”
    Zachary Wolfe, New York Times

    “Mr. Chichon’s debut demonstrated he is a very fine artist, able to coax delicate impressionistic tone color from the massive Met orchestra. Madama Butterfly is one of the world’s most popular operas, but it doesn’t play itself; it takes a perceptive maestro like Mr. Chichon to present this score at its best”
    James Jorden, New York Observer 

    “Also making a strong debut was conductor Karel Mark Chichon, who will be leading the orchestra throughout the season”
    Joe Mcdonald, New York Sports Day 

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    13 Apr 15 CD Recording DVOŘÁK: Complete Symphonies 1
    Deutsche Radio Philharmonie
    “I have been greatly impressed by this disc in every respect. Much of the credit for this has to go to Karel Mark Chichon who allows the music to speak so freshly and spontaneously…..big-boned, open-hearted music played with sensitivity, brilliance and panache.”
    Dvorak Symphony No 1:
    (comparing it with Kubelik and the Berlin Philharmonic and Rowicki and the London Symphony)
    “…its own right, this recording is very fine indeed……..Karel Mark Chichon scores significantly over several esteemed rivals precisely because he allows the music to flow…….as a well-played freshly affectionate performance well-recorded it certainly deserves to be heard……..Chichon is extremely good at picking ideally fluent tempi which reinforcing the genial, open-hearted youthful nature of the work…….the first movement has a very positive expressive drive……the playing of the DRP is similarly poised and refined. Not that they lack punch or bite if required – Chichon is very good at observing the detail of the score whilst also allowing the players to unleash real drama…..the slow movement introduction leads to a very beautiful extended oboe melody – absolutely delightfully played here and again at an ideally chosen steady tempo but one which allows the music to slowly unfurl. Again real care has been taken to allow the subtly balanced dynamic layers to register…..Chichon finds a perkily insouciant feel for the third movement that again seems wholly appropriate. This is delightfully alert playing beautifully caught by the by the Hanssler engineers…….…….the engineering of this Hanssler disc is unfussily fine. In fact this would seem to be a good old-fashoned high audio studio recording. Balances across the orchestra are realistic and effective and the dynamic range is again natural but also expands excitingly to the big climaxes…”
    Rhapsody Op 14 
    (comparing with all other recordings of this work) “…this new version is far better in every regard. Better played, more tautly conceived and compellingly exciting…” 

    Music Web International 

    “Karel Mark Chichon has much sympathy for this work, both its invention and detail, and secures a performance that is thrilling and beguiling…The recording, naturally balanced and dynamic, supports fully the performers’ dedication.”
    Classical Ear 

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    21 Oct 14 Grieg & Dvorak Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Berlin
    Philharmonie Berlin (with Alice Sara Ott, piano)
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    09 Jun 13 Mahler Symphony No. 2
    Deutsche Radio Philharmonie, Congresshalle Saarbrücken

    “Die Spielzeit der Deutschen Radio Philharmonie ist noch nicht zu Ende, doch mit einer überragenden Interpretation von Mahlers Sinfonie Nr. 2 („Auferstehungssinfonie“) krönte Chefdirigent Karel Mark Chichon nun die Saison.”
    Saarbruecker Zeitung

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    01 Dec 10 Debut Concerts
    Concertgebouw Orchestra
    “The conductor Antonio Pappano, to whom the disgruntled audience had been eagerly waiting to see, was replaced by Karel Mark Chichon. But their annoyance  disappeared instantly at the start of the Overture: there were bold tempo changes, a fine characterization of the pathos in the strings and poignant lines in clarinet and oboe. This man knows what he wants. The Second symphony of Borodin showed that (Chichon) had established an intimate contact with the orchestra in this first encounter.”
    (Volkstraat ****)


    “The extreme contrasts within the overture were dramatic. What is clear: Chichon is a conductor who does not bore the listeners! The beautiful playing  of the orchestra’s dialogue with Kavakos was astonishing…”
    (Telegraaf ****)


    “(Chichon’s) talent for musical drama was plain to see in the Verdi Overture; he kept the suspense perfectly…”
    “In the Borodin, high romantic drama from fairytale Russia, he kept the lines tight…the slow movement was really allowed to sing yet sizzle.”
    (URC ****)


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    29 Oct 10 Season Opening Concert
    Latvian National Symphony Orchestra


    “One of the greatest 20th century composers – Gustav Mahler said, “I mean, write a symphony with all available means of musical expression to build a new world!” His second Symphony is a monumental and programmatic work of the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra Season Opening Concert with Eric Ešenvalds Fanfare Karel Mark Chichon led the orchestra musicians were hand-built in the new world, which thrilled his whole heart to their uniqueness.
    As the name of the opus, the concert was opened with a fanfare Eric Ešenvalds new works – very fresh, colorful music, footage of a compact (about six minutes), but pleasantly rounded whole in which The Latvian sound code in the world breath precursory framework, while touching something outside spacetime form, common to all mankind. Ešenvalds music I have always found speaks directly to the listener with its simple beauty, which felt a sincere humility and praise the Most High, no less pathos – easy and light, filling the heart and soul with positive energy throughout. Also fanfare is no exception. Ešenvalds Welcomed Orchestra new season with a score in a short time reveals a wide variety of orchestral colors and options, from a saturated string in unison through a small and playful solo wind instrument to gently lyrical melodic which penetrated up the wonderful percussion score, while easy and attractive with its wild- continuous pulse of the musical fabric reinforcements. Ešenvalds with its characteristic reverence and entering into fanfare had placed a message on the band as a whole, which is formed from the vivid personalities and are masters of their instrument playing. Chichon orchestrated fanfare, creating expressive, yet harmonious paintings with bright accents and feel the nuances.
    Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony in turn (this is the second symphony the other name) was a monumental wealth.  To conduct  Mahler is an experience, a peculiar initiation, approaching musical maturity and self-consciousness. Mahler himself calls for many literal and specific instructions within a wide range of emotions, where weaker nerves may even be harmful. Karel Mark Chichon in the person of emotionality and temperament are intertwined with the passionate nuances of search and rational, but also with the pragmatic power distribution and the energy to bring this magnificent symphony through to its culmination in the finale. It seems every major form Chichon constructs with great care, leads the orchestra musicians carefully luster of his party and then of those clean shiny bricks in the construction of a new version of its composer-generated world. Both strings and wood and brass, and percussion sounded magnificent balanced. Special mood and contrasts gave the so-called offstage brass and percussion ensembles, which the author meticulously called for, travelled very successfully from on stage to back stage. Surprisingly, given that the concert was held without a break, and Mahler’s symphony is about one and half hours long, the time went by almost unnoticed, as did the attention of musical dynamics to relax for a moment, and keeping your eyes open were like keeping your eyes closed in the beautiful interwoven orchestral textures in display. In the third movement the sympathetic lightness and dynamic pace pleasantly reminded the conductor’s exquisite treatment of the waltz / landler, never allowing a three-four measureto  become banal. While the vocal side of the second Symphony added beautiful Russian mezzo-soprano Elena Batoukova’s rendition of Mahler’s song of the 4th movement. Her deep maternal warmth and expressivity added colored orchestral performances, bright contrast to the following French horn fanfare, leading into the symphony finale. The other soloist – the American soprano Karen Slack – sparkled with a rounded, clear, but at the same time fill the sound of a voice, a genuine enjoyment of the ears giving final ensemble with Batoukova (it seems, this time very successfully managed to harmonize the singers voice deepening tonal colors) and the Latvian National Opera Chorus, the final culmination of the spoken resurrection of the idea.  I found myself at the thought of comparing this performance with the one a few years ago in Riga under Andris Nelsons’ artistic leadership  – at that time Nelsons’ interpretation led critics and public to question the conductor emotional resources (on the border of being burnt out) which reached a definitive interpretation of contrasts, but the performance of Karel Mark Chichon, a deep and mature emotion intertwined with strictly rational direction of directing towards to the peak of the work, allows us to see Mahler’s genius in the directly programmatic symphony of construction and does not tire the listener with neverending  emotional excess. With Chichon’s interpretation the listener was allowed to breath repeatedly and at the end of the symphony after the magnificent final chords the conductor himself took an extensive pause of more than two minutes of silence to allow Mahler’s world to disappear into the sea of applause.”

    Neatkriga Daily Newspaper, Lauma Mellena

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    23 Sep 10 Tonhalle
    Dusseldorf Germany
    “……An dem großen Erfolg dieses Abends hatte der Dirigent Karel Mark Chichon, einen gebührenden Anteil.
    Unter Chichon, der das Lettische Nationale Sinfonieorchester mit Verve zu fein ziselierter Klangarbeit motivierte und die Sängerin sensibel begleitete, verteilte er klug lyrische, dramatische und temperamentvolle Akzente.
    Chichon, ein Magier am Pult, leitete das blendend disponierte Orchester mit Sicherheit, Temperament und Geschmack. Ihm und dem Orchester kann man nicht genug danken, dass der Abend mit solcher Virtuosität, musikalischer Intelligenz und Hingabe begleitet wurde. Mit hochgepeitschter Dramatik und viel Temperament servierten sie dieses umfassende Programm.
    Wie Chichon die Tempi voneinander absetzte und immer den richtigen Ton traf, ist bewunderungswürdig. Er riss das Orchester ständig mit und erreichte so ein Optimum an Differenziertheit und Klangfülle. Schmissige Tempi und kraftvolle Ausbüche gaben der Musik den richtigen volkstümlich-spanischen Klang. Man spürte die Liebe des Dirigenten für diese Musik. Sein Dirigat war eine einzige gelungene Pirouette, bei der man andauernd Beifall klatschen möchte, ein reines sinnliches Musikvergnügen. Alles war Bewegung, er wurde niemals derb, blieb immer elegant und natürlich. Er gestaltete dieses Konzert mit minimaler, aber überaus präziser Zeichengebung zu einem beglückenden Erlebnis.
    Sie erntete heftigen Jubel. Ein hervorragendes Konzert. Wir empfehlen Jedem den Besuch der Habanera Tour.”
    ioco Kultur im Netz
    “… Ganrancas Landsleute vom Lettischen Nationalen Orchester gaben unter der Leitung von Karel Mark Chichon ihr Äußerstes. Er forderte heftige Tempi und großes Klangvolumen. Keine Spur von Tournee-Langeweile. Stehende Ovationen am Schluss”.

    Rheinische Post, Norbert Laufer