Juanjo Mena wins BBC Phil post
20th Jul 2010
Gig news staff
The BBC Philharmonic has named Juanjo Mena as the successor to music director Gianandrea Noseda. The 44-year-old Basque conductor will begin his new role in September 2011, when Noseda will become conductor laureate. Mena has signed an initial three-year contract, for 12 weeks per year.
The announcement came soon after Mena was named as one of the substitute conductors for James Levine at the 2010 Tanglewood Festival. Levine was obliged to cancel all his engagements at the festival to recover from back surgery. Mena is joining the likes of Christoph von Dohnányi, Hans Graf and Michael Tilson Thomas, who are all stepping in for various concerts.
Richard Wigley, the Philharmonic’s general manager, praised Mena’s ‘overarching vision, with a masterly attention to detail’. ‘Juanjo Mena is a wonderful musician who will continue the tradition of world-class chief conductors at the BBC Philharmonic,’ he said.
Mena has come to international attention in a short period. In 2008 he left the Bilbao Orkestra Sinfonikoa, the region’s largest symphony orchestra, having served as its music director since 1999. At the time he told journalists he felt it was ‘the end of my cycle’ and that ‘nobody can be perpetually in one position’. Mena’s subsequent conducting engagements took him around Europe and the US, particularly the East Coast. He has also grown his reputation as an opera conductor, having been principal guest conductor at the Teatro Carlo Felice (see right) since 2007.
Mena has made a number of recordings for the BBC and Spanish National Radio, Spanish National Television (RTVE) and the EBU. He has also recorded a complete collection of Basque symphonic music with the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra for Naxos. He will be continuing the BBC Philharmonic’s partnership with Chandos, and has already recorded his first disc with the label. The recording, featuring works by French composer Gabriel Pierné with soloist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, will be released next year.