In 2027, Klaus Mäkelä, 28, will lead the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.    

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra selected Klaus Mäkelä on Tuesday to succeed Riccardo Muti as music director, making him the youngest director since 1891.

Mäkelä, a Finn who turned 28 in January, became main guest conductor of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra in 2018-19, chief conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic in 2020-21, and music director of the Orchestre de Paris in 2021-22. After his contracts in Norway and France expire, he will conduct the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in the Netherlands for five years in 2027-28.

Mäkelä will be CSO music director designate immediately and begin a five-year stint in 2027-28, conducting 14 weeks every season. Mäkelä will be the youngest U.S. music director since Gustavo Dudamel, 28, joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2009.

“It’s just something which I don’t think about,” Mäkelä told The Associated Press. I was reminded in Amsterdam that I'm not young—(Willem) Mengelberg was 24 when he started.

Muti resigned as music director last summer before his 82nd birthday after 13 seasons. Mäkelä starts on Sept. 1, 2027, at 31 years, 7 months, 16 days. Before succeeding founding music director Theodore Thomas, Frederick Stock was the youngest orchestra director at 32 years, 5 months, 1 day, hired on April 11, 1905.

Mäkelä will lead an elderly orchestra. Georg Solti appointed most of the 93 members, whereas Muti appointed 32 and Daniel Barenboim 28. Fritz Reiner, 1953–62 music director, engaged principal trombonist Jay Friedman and harpist Lynne Turner.

“What I like about Chicago Symphony is there is quite a big part of it which still sounds like Reiner,” Mäkelä added. His CSO debut was in April 2022 with Stravinsky's “The Firebird.” Mäkelä says conducting an orchestra for the first time is chemistry. “OK, this orchestra was willing to go to places with me that I hadn't done with other orchestras.”

Jeff Alexander, CSO president, attended the first rehearsal. “You said ‘Good morning. Let's start' and started the music, Alexander remembered in a joint interview. Most guest conductors talk about the piece, but I think the musicians appreciated just working. I stayed for 10 or 15 minutes and thought something extraordinary was happening.”

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