John Axelrod

A new look at the Brahms symphonies

A new look at the Brahms symphonies

John Axelrod to record unique Brahms symphonies + Clara Schumann Lieder cycle, exploring the symphonies as four sides of the woman with whom Brahms was obsessed.

“I can do nothing but think of you…” – Johannes Brahms, letter to Clara Schumann in 1855, the year he started composing his First Symphony in earnest.
In a [...] Continue Reading…

Going To The Limit: In Defense of the Orchestra Virtuoso

Going To The Limit: In Defense of the Orchestra Virtuoso
John Axelrod ©2012

Recently I toured with the incomparable phenomenon from Salzburg known as “The Groovinger.” Martin Grubinger, the multi-percussionist and Deutsche Grammophon recording artist, performs at a level that most musicians, soloists and orchestral, can only dare to reach.

I recall our first collaboration, in 2007, [...] Continue Reading…

Ma Lettre de l’amour au public : Let the truth be told

Winter Update 2012


Dear Friends,

After this historic election, I share some words that reflect my thoughts for this winter update. Obama rode on the support of hispanics, women, and most of all, young people. This was a lesson learned long ago.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said: “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but [...] Continue Reading…

Voice of Spring and Sauternes

The Joy of Wine and Music: Voices of Spring and Sauternes
by John Axelrod ©2012

The New Year has past, Strauss has been played, the voice of Spring is on its way, and what better way to warm the heart then to hear the song of nature calling, (even if in winter) and to listen to Beethoven’s Symphony [...] Continue Reading…

sensual syrah

Sensual Syrah
by John Axelrod, c. 2012

It has been said that a meal without wine is like a day without sunshine.
Winemakers are anxious for the start of fall, and the harvest season so that more wine can be enjoyed with a good meal.  The hot summer weather has actually been good for grapes, making them retain much of their sugar [...] Continue Reading…

Top 10 wines and classical music CD’s

1. Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde by Wagner/RECORDING- Carlos Kleiber, Stuttgart Oper > Alteo Amarone by Gino Fasoli.

My favorite piece of music and my favorite wine.  The music is dense, rich, emotional, structured, powerful, unforgettable.  So is the wine.

2. The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky/ RECORDING: Pierre Boulez, Cleveland Symphony > Chateau Petrus, Pomerol

The music [...] Continue Reading…

Verdi and Verdi!

Verdi and Verdi!
©2012 by John Axelrod

While Verdi’s 200th anniversary is not till 2013, my focus on Italy has already begun, not only due to my work as Principal Conductor of Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano “Giuseppe Verdi”, aka LaVerdi, but also because I enjoy being in this golden paradise of wine and music.  So do many other conductors, from  Barenboim [...] Continue Reading…

Ravel and Tzigane-music to drink

Listel and Tzigane, by John Axelrod

This month, the Joy of Wine and Music will focus on Tzigane by Maurice Ravel, and the wine that best accompanies it: The Listel Rosé. There is a reason for this particular choice: I have recorded this Tzigane with Rachel Kolly d’Alba and the Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire, for her new [...] Continue Reading…

The Perfect Wine for Wagner’s Ring Cycle

„Den perfekten Wein zum Ring des Nibelungen“!
by John Axelrod © 2012

With the advent of 2013 for opera houses and orchestras, one name will figure prominently on all programs. His name is synonymous with both the agony and the ecstasy of Classical Music.

Mention the name Richard Wagner, and depending on where you are, and to whom you speak, [...] Continue Reading…

King Porcini and Princess Pumpkin

King Porcini and the Pumpkin Princess.
by John Axelrod ©2012

Once upon a time, there were two vegetables: The porcini and the pumpkin. With winter around the corner and autumn leaves falling, both the pumpkin and porcini are most definitely in season. I recently toured throughout Italy playing Dvorak and Tchaikovsky with the excellent Orchestra Giovanile Italiana, Italy’s [...] Continue Reading…

Classical Rock

If Wagner was alive today, would he be Heavy Metal?
If Queen were alive a century ago, would they have composed an oratorio?

Intriguing questions, and the answers are given in the first volume of ClassicalRock, produced for AD Productions, and premiered on November 24, 2011, at the Saison Culturelle in Montreux, Switzerland, during the events honoring the 20th [...] Continue Reading…

Listel and Tzigane

Listel and Tzigane, by John Axelrod

This month, the Joy of Wine and Music will focus on Tzigane by Maurice Ravel, and the wine that best accompanies it: The Listel Rosé. There is a reason for this particular choice: I have recorded this Tzigane with Rachel Kolly d’Alba and the Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire, for her new [...] Continue Reading…

The Joy Of Wine and Music

The Joy Of Wine and Music, by John Axelrod
A good symphony is like a good bottle of wine, so the saying goes. They both get better with age and are best consumed in one serving.
Balanced, harmonious, resonant, structured, deep, colorful, spicy, sweet, dry, exotic, intense, traditional and modern: These words apply as much to wine as to music. Wine, [...] Continue Reading…

Fall Update 2011

It is always nice to start with a bang.  Or better, a chain reaction.  A ripple effect.

The 40th season of the ONPL has begun to great acclaim with a televised concert of French musical treasures in the treasure that is the Abbaye de Fonteyvraud (final resting place of Henry the 2nd, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Richard the Lion Hearted), [...] Continue Reading…

Summer Update 2011


Spring has come and gone and the season is nearly over. My first year as Music Director of the Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire has been historic, with recordings made with Veronique Gens and Rachel Kolly d’Alba, a new commission by Gabriel Prokofiev, Parisian standing ovations at Salle Pleyel with Lang Lang and Herbie [...] Continue Reading…

As goes the Chef So Goes the Guest in Copenhagen: Il Grappolo Blu

As goes the Chef, so goes the guest: Il Grappolo Blu, Copenhagen

This is the way of Alfredo Franco, master chef. And also, expert Sommelier Giovanni Bagnara.

A Chef’s menu is all that is offered at this Michelin deserving Autentico Italiano in Copenhagen. The old wood decor, candlelight and Napolitano songs over the speakers add the typical gourmet [...] Continue Reading…

Gendarmenmarkt Gusto in Berlin

Gendarmenmarkt Berlin

If you happen to be in Berlin, attending concerts at the Konzerthaus or Philharmonie, it is worth knowing where to find the authentic Italian ristorante versus the sordid crowd of Italian style restaurants.

Il Bocca di Bocco retains its crown for quality authentic, but the service and spirit seems to have been abused too often by touristic [...] Continue Reading…

Autentico Italiano in France, part 1

Autentico Italian in France:

Pepe e Sale in Nantes

The location could not be better. Across from the Centre du Congrés and the Novotel in Nantes, my home away from home, Pepe e Sale (Salt and Pepper) offers the full Autentico Italian treatment. Salvatore and his “family” don’t give a menu. You simply sit and he brings what he [...] Continue Reading…

Family Style in Dusseldorf

Family Style In Dusseldorf

A week in Dusseldorf meant hopefully finding some good food, but the January 2011 weather was not very cooperative. Fortunately, near my hotel, close to the Tonhalle, sits Positano, a good option when going to concerts. As for Authentic Italian, well, yes, but what it may lack in great food it certainly makes up [...] Continue Reading…

New Years Update 2010-2011

New Years Update, 2011

Dear Friends,

Another year has come and gone, the whitest christmas in Berlin in the last 100 years, historic success for the ONPL since 40 years, and Tallulah reached her lucky 7.  In my case, the years don’t get any slower or less.  Having withstood the many pressures of life this year, most of all my mother’s [...] Continue Reading…

Winter Update 2010

Dear Friends,

I had wanted to post an udpate for Winter 2010 about what it means to be a 360° artist, one who has a flexible repertoire and performance style.  How, despite the demands and expectations of a limited music industry, being able to perform in one month everything from Bernstein’s Kaddish to Hollywood in Vienna film scores by Howard [...] Continue Reading…

Summer Update 2010


Dear Friends,

Free time is a luxury. Whether it be the man of routine who finds freedom through security or the adventurous spirit who finds security through freedom, free time is a blessing for both. Free time gives the chance to say, here I am, I need not move, and I can see life from [...] Continue Reading…

Survival of the Fittest

Eating at dal Corsaro, considered by many to be Cagliari’s best, specializing in fresh fish and traditional maiale, baby pig, is an exercise in rustic cooking.  It is included on my Autentico Italiano list because it is an island unto itself, despite being part of Italy as of recent times.

Sardinia is an ancient island with influences from the many [...] Continue Reading…


Dear Friends,

Welcome to the new John Axelrod website.  A great deal of thought has been put into the process, design and implementation, and both ARTICOMM, the designer, and I hope you like the new look!

Making a new website brings questions to mind:  why should the organic, performance of music need to have a visual (and technological) support in the [...] Continue Reading…


Dear Friends,

The holiday 2009 season arrives none too soon, after what has certainly been a full, yet fulfilling year.  Hard to imagine, but in 2009, I finished my tenure in Lucerne after five years, and earned my new position as Music Director with the Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire.  I also made my first concert as Music [...] Continue Reading…


This is Thanksgiving.  Allow me a few words to share on this day and for the holidays:

I have been recently called a Jewish American Texan, a JAT for those in the know, but I prefer to call myself an ABC, an Ameropean By Choice.

This newfound status offers great advantages:  I get to live in this wonderful union of European [...] Continue Reading…


Dear Friends,
What a summer its been. To be on tour with Herbie Hancock and Lang Lang was extraordinary in every way. Not only were these supreme musicians a joy to make music with, filled with technical virtuosity and free improvisation, but their humanity and warm spirits made the tour into a family like experience: From Montreux to Lyon to [...] Continue Reading…


Providence.  Destiny.  Fate.  Synchronicity:  Big words during big times.  And it happened just after my 43rd birthday.

In order for me to have been able to conduct Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde for Opera Nantes/Angers this April -June, a decision would have had to be made regarding any titled position, as I had other engagements scheduled in the period.  Fortunately, after [...] Continue Reading…


What better way to sample the best Italian outside Italy in Japan than to start with the best: the Enoteca Pinchiorri exported from Florence to the heart of the Ginza district in Tokyo. Next to Gucci and Armani on the 7th floor of an unsuspecting department store lies a hidden palace of gastronomic luxury. Despite deafening crowds and talking [...] Continue Reading…

Peperosso, Reutlingen – A Treasure Trove

I’ve gotten used to finding good Italian restaurants in Germany, and even finding those “special” kind of authentic Italian in small German cities.  You know, the kind that have canzone Napolitano in the background and everyone in the restaurant speaks with a rather strong Sicilian accent.  Indeed, in these places, the recipes are authentic, the service quite friendly and [...] Continue Reading…


Normally Italian food is enjoyed in more casual circumstances:  the neighborhood trattoria, the enoteca, the osteria, the cafe, the pizzeria.  But occasionally, one gets to enjoy the finer elements of Italian cuisine.  In Lugano, just north of the Italian border separating Italy and Switzerland, there are two such restaurants, famed for their awards as much as their wine and [...] Continue Reading…

Fausto’s – A Devilish Delight in Budapest

When one thinks of Faust, the recurring theme of making a deal with the devil is the most dominant image. When one eats at Fausto’s in Budapest, I cannot help but wonder if this chef made a deal with Mephistopheles just to be able to prepare food so decadent and delectable. Natually, Fausto is the Chefs real name, but [...] Continue Reading…

Good Fellas, Good Food

Gourmet Italian is one thing. Good Fellas Italian is another. And both can hit the spot, literally. While in Darmstadt conducting, I had a full week to enjoy this home of German Jugendstil. Instead, amidst the snow and Chrstmas rush, I spent my time, when not rehearsing or in concert, at Ristorante San Remo, across from my hotel, where [...] Continue Reading…

Gastronomic Proof

Imagine this to get your taste buds salivating….an amuse-bouche of crab with avocado and yellow tomato gelee, brochette of squid, scampi and bacon. Followed by seared scallops with smoked tuna and a gazpacho of tomato and lemon creme. Finally, the entree arrives. A filet of deer with jerusalem artichokes and carrots, orange and red (again!), and glazed pumpkin. Finally, [...] Continue Reading…

Classical Cuisine from the Old World Summer Travels with John Axelrod

As a conductor from Houston who often works in Europe, and as the occasional food critic, I am frequently asked by friends what restaurants I would recommend in some of Europe’s great cities. Though such a subject could be a book in itself, I was very happy when ArtsHouston asked me to share some of my best-kept secrets for [...] Continue Reading…

Go-Go Thoughts

This concert is called Classics à Go-Go because it presents certain works as not only representative of the marriage of jazz and classical music into a kind of urbanist style, but also works which have become fixed in the consciousness of popular culture. Popular Culture- the phrase is a kind of misnomer. I define it as those products of [...] Continue Reading…

To Be Classique, or Not To Be

Undoubtedly, the biggest problem facing classical music – both its industry as a performing art and as a recorded product – is not the short term cash flow crises of many orchestras operating today, nor the shrinking market share of classical music product; but it is what has been described as the “greying” of the traditional audience and the [...] Continue Reading…


© 2010 John Axelrod. All rights reserved.