Chailly on 13 August 1986 conducting a rehearsal of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

Riccardo Chailly OMRI (Italian pronunciation: [rikˈkardo ʃʃaˈ(j)i], French: [ʃɑji]; born 20 February 1953) is an Italian conductor. He is currently music director of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra and of La Scala. Prior to this, he held chief conducting positions at the Gewandhausorchester (2005–2016); the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (1988–2004); the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra (1982–1988); and the Teatro Comunale of Bologna (1986–1993). He was also the first musical director of the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi (1999–2005) and principal guest conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra (1983–1986).

Born in Milan, Chailly first studied composition with his father, Luciano Chailly, in his youth. He continued with composition at the conservatories in Milan and Perugia, but later shifted to conducting under Piero Guarino and Franco Ferrara. He made his conducting debut at La Scala in 1978 with Massenet's Werther, where he had been assistant director to Claudio Abbado since 1973. Upon becoming principal conductor at the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, he embarked on performing standard symphonic works—particularly Bruckner and Mahler—but expanded the orchestra's previously minuscule 20th century and contemporary repertoire. For 30 years he has recorded exclusively with Decca, and recordings with the Gewandhausorchester have been particularly acclaimed.[1]


Early life

Chailly was born on 20 February 1953 into a musical family of Romagnol and French descent based in Milan.[2] His father Luciano was a noted composer and arts administrator,[3] holding positions at numerous Italian musical institutions, including as music director of La Scala.[4][n 1] Luciano's oeuvre was centered around a neoclassical aesthetic, influenced by his former teacher Paul Hindemith,[4] which granted him an epitaph as the "Italian Hindemith".[2] Luciano Chailly married Riccardo's mother Anna Maria in 1950; Riccardo has two sisters, the harpist Cecilia Chailly and the television producer Floriana Chailly.[5] Taken by his father to his first concert at age 6,[6] Chailly quickly became obsessed with music, explaining in a 2002 interview by The Guardian: "I didn't do anything else, and always chose music over regular boyhood activities such as sports".[2] Chailly studied composition with his father,[1] took private piano lessons and played drums in The Nameless, a free jazz ensemble.[2] Despite Chailly's musical enthusiasm, his father was reluctant to readily encourage him. He was disappointed by his son's lack of interest in the technical aspects such as musicology, his general mediocrity with instruments other than the drums[2] and wanted to avoid any appearance of nepotism.[3]

Chailly studied composition at the music conservatories in Milan and Perugia. He later switched to conducting, studying with both Piero Guarino and Franco Ferrara. In his youth, Chailly also played the drums in a rhythm-and-blues band.[7][1]

At age 20, Chailly became assistant conductor to Claudio Abbado at La Scala, where he made his conducting debut in 1978 with Werther by Jules Massenet. From 1982 to 1988, Chailly was chief conductor of the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra and from 1983 to 1986 principal guest conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. From 1986 to 1993, he led the Teatro Comunale of Bologna.[1]


Chailly made his debut with the Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam in January 1985. The orchestra announced his appointment as chief conductor in June 1985, effective with the 1988–1989 season. Chailly served as the orchestra's chief conductor from 1988 to 2004. In addition to performances of the standard symphonic tradition, notably Anton Bruckner and Gustav Mahler, he broadened the repertoire with 20th century and contemporary music.[8][9] Among notable projects, Chailly led the 1995 Mahler Festival that celebrated the 100th anniversary of Mahler's first concert at the Concertgebouw. Chailly also conducted opera in Amsterdam, both at the RCO's annual Christmas Matinee concert as well as at De Nederlandse Opera (DNO), where his final opera production in Amsterdam was DNO's staging of Giuseppe Verdi's Don Carlo.[10] One report stated that Chailly decided in 2002 to leave the RCO when, at his last contract negotiations, the orchestra offered him an extension for two years rather than five.[11]

External audio
audio icon You may hear Riccardo Chailly conducting the Gewandhaus Orchestra with Nelson Freire performing Johannes Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15 in 2006
Here on
audio icon You may hear Riccardo Chailly conducting the Gewandhaus Orchestra with Nelson Freire performing Johannes Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 83 in 2006
Here on

In 1986, Chailly conducted the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig for the first time, at the Salzburg Festival, after Herbert von Karajan had introduced Chailly to the orchestra.[12] His next guest-conducting appearance with the Leipzig orchestra was in 2001, and after an additional appearance, he was named the 19th Kapellmeister of the orchestra.[13][14] In August 2005, he officially became the chief conductor of the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and general music director (GMD) of Oper Leipzig. His initial Leipzig contract was to run through to 2010.[15] In May 2008, he extended his contract with the Gewandhausorchester to 2015. However, he concurrently resigned as GMD of the Oper Leipzig, reportedly after a conflict over the hiring of personnel without his consultation.[16][17] In June 2013, the Gewandhausorchester and Chailly agreed on a further extension of his contract through 2020.[18] However, in September 2015, the Gewandhausorchester announced the newly scheduled conclusion of Chailly's tenure as Gewandhauskapellmeister in June 2016, four years ahead of the previously agreed upon contract extension, at Chailly's request.[19][20][21] His projects in Leipzig have included an international Mahler festival in May 2011, featuring 10 different orchestras.

Chailly became the first music director of the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi (La Verdi) in 1999 and held the post until 2005. He now has the title of Conductor Laureate with La Verdi. In December 2013, La Scala announced the appointment of Chailly as its next music director, starting in 2017.[22] His La Scala contract is currently through 2026.[23] In August 2015, the Lucerne Festival Orchestra announced the appointment of Chailly as its next music director, effective with the 2016 Lucerne Festival, with an initial contract of 5 years.[24] In February 2021, the orchestra announced an extension of Chailly's contract through 2026.[25]


Chailly has an exclusive recording contract with Decca,[1] and his recordings with Decca include complete cycles of the symphonies of Johannes Brahms, Gustav Mahler and Anton Bruckner. His Brahms cycle with the Gewandhausorchester won the 2014 Gramophone Award for Recording of the Year. Other notable achievements include recordings of Igor Stravinsky, Edgard Varèse and Paul Hindemith. More recently, with the Gewandhaus Orchestra, Chailly has led recordings of Felix Mendelssohn, Johann Sebastian Bach, Brahms, Robert Schumann's symphonies in the re-orchestrations by Mahler, and a complete cycle of Beethoven's symphonies. His past recordings with American orchestras included Shostakovich: The Dance Album with the Philadelphia Orchestra[26] and Stravinsky's Le Sacre du printemps with the Cleveland Orchestra.

Personal life

Chailly has been married twice. His first marriage was in 1974 to Anahi Carfi, an Argentinian-Italian violinist, with whom he had a daughter that year; the couple divorced two years later. He married Gabriella Terragni in 1982, from whom he has a stepson.[2]

Earlier in his life, Chailly was an avid partaker in extreme sports, including motorbiking, speedboating and parasailing.[3] However, after a serious 1985 accident with him and his stepson, Chailly abandoned these activities.[2]



  1. ^ Luciano Chailly's art administrator positions—both as advisor or artistic director—include La Scala (1968–71; 1977), the Teatro Regio (1972), the Teatro Angelicum (1973–75), the Verona Arena (1975–76) and the Teatro Carlo Felice (1983)[4] Luciano was also head of the music programs for the RAI Italian radio.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e Goodwin, Noël (2001). "Chailly, Riccardo". Grove Music Online. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.43938. ISBN 978-1-56159-263-0. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g O'Mahony, John (9 March 2002). "Maestro in the fast lane". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 August 2007.
  3. ^ a b c d Maddocks, Fiona (9 October 2015). "Riccardo Chailly: 'I want to do things differently, to put life on hold'". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 June 2021.
  4. ^ a b c Pozzi, Raffaele (2001). "Chailly, Luciano". Grove Music Online. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.05363. ISBN 978-1-56159-263-0. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  5. ^ Woodrow, Ginny (9 February 2003). "Luciano Chailly". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 June 2021.
  6. ^ Matheopoulos 1982, p. 499.
  7. ^ Mark Swed (30 September 1990). "Bringing a Touch Of Latin Sunniness To Amsterdam". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 October 2007.
  8. ^ Jessica Duchen (17 September 1999). "Dutch courage". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 August 2007.
  9. ^ Alex Ross (25 February 1996). "An Unpredictable Maestro Jars a Staid Repertory". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 November 2007.
  10. ^ Andrew Clements (9 June 2004). "Don Carlo (Muziektheater, Amsterdam)". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 August 2007.
  11. ^ Hugh Canning, "On the upbeat". The Times, 15 January 2006.
  12. ^ Igor Toronyi-Lalic, "How Riccardo Chailly reinvented the Gewandhaus Orchestra". The Times, 1 November 2008.
  13. ^ Hugh Canning, "Riccardo Chailly on LGO as Barbican regular". The Times, 15 March 2009.
  14. ^ Ivan Hewett (1 April 2009). "Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra: safe in the hands of Riccardo Chailly". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 14 September 2012. Retrieved 25 December 2009.
  15. ^ John von Rhein, "Chailly a possibility for CSO? Wait and see". Chicago Tribune, 18 February 2007.
  16. ^ "Riccardo Chailly will Leipziger Oper verlassen". MDR Regional Sachsen, 27 May 2008.
  17. ^ Peter Korfmacher, "Chailly hört bei der Oper auf – Verlängerung beim Gewandhaus". Leipziger Volkszeitung, 27 May 2008.
  18. ^ "Riccardo Chailly remains at the Gewandhausorchester until 2020". Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, June 2013.
  19. ^ "The End of an Era – Riccardo Chailly will end his work with the orchestra in the 2015/2016 season" (PDF) (Press release). Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. 3 September 2015. Retrieved 31 July 2017.
  20. ^ Peter Korfmacher (3 September 2015). "Leipzigs Gewandhauskapellmeister Chailly tritt 2016 ab". Leipziger Volkszeitung. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  21. ^ Martin Cullingford (3 September 2015). "Chailly to leave the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester – four years earlier than planned". Gramophone. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  22. ^ "Al vertice della Scala arriva Chailly. Sarà il direttore musicale del teatro". La Repubblica. 10 December 2013. Retrieved 11 December 2013.
  23. ^ Elisabetta Povoledo (16 April 2024). "La Scala Opera Taps an Italian to Be Its Next Leader". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 April 2024.
  24. ^ Michael Cooper (13 August 2015). "Riccardo Chailly to Take Over Lucerne Festival Orchestra". The New York Times (ArtsBeat blog). Retrieved 12 February 2021.
  25. ^ "Extension of Riccardo Chailly's Contract as Music Director of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra" (Press release). Lucerne Festival Orchestra. 11 February 2021. Retrieved 12 February 2021.
  26. ^ David Patrick Stearns, "After all that, he'll take Leipzig". Philadelphia Inquirer, 1 March 2007.
  27. ^ "Riccardo Chailly (Conductor)". Bach Cantatas Website. Retrieved 18 June 2021.


Cultural offices Preceded byLorin Maazel Principal Conductor, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin 1982–1989 Succeeded byVladimir Ashkenazy Preceded by(no predecessor) Music Director, Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi 1999–2005 Succeeded byXian Zhang Preceded byClaudio Abbado Music Director, Lucerne Festival Orchestra 2016–present Succeeded byincumbent Preceded byDaniel Barenboim Principal Conductor and Music Director, La Scala, Milan 2015–present Succeeded byincumbent