Klaus Mäkelä, a 26-year-old Finnish maestro on a rapid rise, will be the next chief conductor of the storied Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, the ensemble announced on Friday, after a several-year search following the dismissal of Daniele Gatti over sexual assault allegations in 2018.
“It means very much,” Mäkelä, who currently leads the Orchestre de Paris and the Oslo Philharmonic, said during a news conference. “It’s wonderful to have found this family of musicians. We really share the same ambition and passion.”
Because of Mäkelä’s existing posts, he is on an initial 10-year Concertgebouw contract that begins this fall with the title of artistic partner , with a commitment of five weeks a season; he will not fully assume the podium as chief conductor until 2027, at which point he will appear with the group for a minimum of 12 weeks.
“For me, the best result, artistically, is always to commit,” he said, referring obliquely to Paris and Oslo. “I value my commitments to my two dear orchestras.”
Mäkelä, who was originally trained as a cellist, has quickly become not necessarily a critical darling, but an institutional one. He has appeared with some of the world’s top ensembles in ambitious repertory — such as Mahler, and contemporary music by the Peruvian-born composer Jimmy López — and will make his New York Philharmonic debut in December.
His age is a sharp contrast to that of the 133-year-old Concertgebouw, which has been led in recent decades by classical music eminences like Bernard Haitink and Mariss Jansons, but has also been in a state of instability since Jansons’s departure in 2015. Gatti took the podium a year later, but was abruptly dismissed in 2018 following sexual assault allegations — which he denied, and which were part of a wave of #MeToo-related firings in the field, including James Levine and Charles Dutoit.
Since then, the Concertgebouw has been led by guest conductors, who inevitably attracted speculation, if scrutiny. The British maestro Daniel Harding picked up Gatti’s American tour dates, an engagement that was seen as something of a road test. And this season, Ivan Fischer began his tenure as the orchestra’s honorary guest conductor.
Jörgen van Rijen, the Concertgebouw’s principal trombone, said in the news conference that the ensemble had “taken our time” in its search. “It was necessary,” he added. “It was a moment of an orchestra like us to sit back and think what do we want for the future, and who we want to do that with.”
Mäkelä said that he hoped his initial five-week commitment would increase over time, and that he would begin conducting opera “as soon as the schedule allows it.” (The Concertgebouw is a partnering ensemble of the Dutch National Opera.) He said that he was also eager to begin recording, to join a vast, revered catalog of albums the group has put out over the years.
“This is a truly extraordinary orchestra and there is nothing like it,” Mäkelä said. “There are too many qualities to start, but I am a sound-oriented conductor, and this orchestra — when you hear it once, you will not forget it.”