Americans Invade France

American conductors have been named for two important orchestra posts in France. John Axelrod, 43, was tapped to succeed, on September 1, 2010, Isaac Karabtchevsky as the head of the Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire based in Nantes with an associate season in Angers. The conductor-violinist Joseph Swenson, 48, has been designated principal guest conductor and artistic advisor of the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris for the next two years. He follows another American, John Nelson, who lead the EOP for 10 years.

The EOP’s new general manager, Jean-Marc Bador, is developing a “team” concept to guide the 45-member orchestra. In addition to Swenson, leaders include “associate artists” like the conductor Laurence Equilbey and her choir, Accentus, the composer Nicolas Bacri. Estonian conductor Olari Eltis is an artistic consulor, the associate conductor is Lionel Briguier (also an assistant conductor at the Los Angeles Philharmonic), as well as an associate artist, pianist Frank Braley, and an associate composer, Philippe Hersant. Swenson, formerly director of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, is currently musical director of the Malmö Opera in Sweden.

Axelrod has already conducted the Orchestre des Pays de la Loire orchestra is now conducting an Olivier Py production of Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde” at Nantes and Angers to huge acclaim. He will appear three times the coming season. He studied at Harvard and, in 1996, took conducting courses with Ilya Musin at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory. That same year he founded, in his home town of Houston, OrchestraX, acclaimed for its search for new audiences for classical music. He has been honorary conductor of this group since 2004.

He is the principal conductor of the Cracow Sinfonietta and, at the beginning of the season 2004-2005, musical director of the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra and the Lucerne Theater. He has guest conducted major orchestras like the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Concertgebouw, the Orchestre de Paris, the Gewandhaus and the Chicago Symphony and is well-known for championing contemporary composers and has given world premiers of works by Kaija Saariaho, Karim al Zand, Anthony K. Brandt and Wojciech Kilar.

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