Born in Kanagawa, Japan in 1979, Kazuki Yamada has been the UK's City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) Principal Guest Conductor since 2018.
At present, he is also the Principal Conductor and Artistic Director of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo. In fact, Yamada intends to strengthen connections between the two orchestras by taking the CBSO Chorus to Monaco for a joint performance of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana in 2023.
For a time, Yamada studied under Seiji Ozawa and credits Ozawa with what he describes as his "Japanese feeling" for music. He hopes to introduce more Japanese repertoire into the CBSO's programs, including works by Toru Takemitsu, Akira Miyoshi, and Toshiro Mayuzumi. Yamada will also take the orchestra on a tour of Japan in 2023.
Yamada began his musical life as a percussionist but added conducting to the mix at the age of 17. His first international success came when he won the Besançon Competition at the age of 30.
Now aged 42, he worried that he might now be too old for the Birmingham position. However, the CBSO's Chief Executive, Stephen Maddock, felt differently.
"We thought: this is silly to extend our search when we’ve got somebody standing here right in front of us who has all that we need,” Maddock said of Yamada.
“From his very first concerts with us, there was an immediate rapport between Kazuki and our musicians, and enormous respect for his musicianship and craft," said Maddock. "Over time that has only deepened, and I know that those who have already seen Kazuki conduct the orchestra will be as thrilled as we are by this news."
“His energy, dynamism and precision make for electrifying concerts and I have no doubt that audiences in Birmingham and beyond will very quickly come to await his next performances as eagerly as our musicians already do, as we embark on new musical adventures together,” he added.
“For me, the best thing about the CBSO is they know how to enjoy music,” Yamada says. “We always create something fresh and exciting. There is always a very warm atmosphere. I am always happy to see them, and am so happy to be part of their family.”