The Greek violinist and conductor, Leonoidas Kavakos, was born into a musical family. His first steps as a violinist were guided by his parent, and he began studying violin at five years old He continued his studies at the Hellenic Conservatory with Stelios Kafantaris, one of the three important mentors in his life, together with Josef Gingold and Ferenc Rados. An Onassis Foundation scholarship enabled him to attend master-classes with Josef Gingold at Indiana University. He made his concert debut at the Athens Festival in 1984. In 1985, at age 18 (the youngest contestant), he won the International Sibelius Competition in Helsinki and in 1986 won silver medal in the Indianapolis International Violin Competition. He also took 1st prizes at the Naumburg Competition in New York (1988) and the Paganini Violin Competition (1988) - all by the age of 21
These successes led to Leonoidas Kavakos’ recording the original Sibelius Violin Concerto (1903-1904) for the first time in history, recognised with a Gramophone Award; and to the honour of performing on the famous ‘Il Cannone’ Guarneri del Gesù, which belonged to Paganini. Kavakos is recognised across the world as a violinist and artist of rare quality, known at the highest level for his virtuosity, superb musicianship and the integrity of his playing. His international career has allowed him to develop close relationships with the world’s major orchestras and conductors, such as the Berliner Philharmoniker/Simon Rattle, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Mariss Jansons, London Symphony Orchestra/Gergiev and Gewandhausorchester Leipzig/Riccardo Chailly. In the 2012-2013 season he had residencies with the London Symphony Orchestra and Berliner Philharmoniker, and he performed with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Mariss Jansons on its Jubilee tour, with a piece originally premiered by the orchestra, Béla Bartók’s Violin Concerto No. 2. In the 2013-2014 season, Kavakos makes his debut with the Wiener Philharmoniker/Riccardo Chailly. In the USA, he performs regularly with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra and Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.
Leonidas Kavakos has always retained strong links with his native Greece. For 15 years he curated a chamber music cycle at the Athens Concert Hall (Megaron) which featured his musical friends, including Mstislav Rostropovich, Heinrich Schiff, Emanuel Ax, Nikolai Lugansky, Yuja Wang and Gautier Capuçon.
In his burgeoning career as a conductor Leonoidas Kavakos has worked with the Deutsche Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, and Wiener Symphoniker, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. In the USA, he has conducted the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. This season (2013-2014) conducting highlights include return engagements with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Budapest Festival, Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra and Maggio Musicale Fiorentino orchestras, as well as important conducting debuts with the London Symphony Orchestra and Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France.
Since 2012, Leonidas Kavakos has been an exclusive Decca Classics recording artist. His first release on the label, the complete L.v. Beethoven Violin Sonatas with Enrico Pace, resulted in the award of ‘Instrumentalist of the Year’ at the 2013 ECHO Klassik Awards. The whole L.v. Beethoven cycle with Pace is presented in the 2013/14 season at New York’s Carnegie Hall, as well as in the Far East. Kavakos’s second disc with Decca Classics, released in October 2013, is of the Johannes Brahms Violin Concerto with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and Riccardo Chailly and a third disc, of J. Brahms Violin Sonatas with pianist Yuja Wang, will be released in spring 2014. During this season and next, Kavakos and Wang will give a series of J. Brahms recitals in major European cities. Following the Sibelius and other early recordings for Dynamic, BIS and ECM, Kavakos recorded for Sony Classical, including live recordings of Mozart’s five Violin Concertos and Symphony No. 39 with Camerata Salzburg and the Felix Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, for which, in 2009, he received an ECHO Klassik ‘Best Concerto Recording’ award.
For the past two years Leonidas Kavakos has curated an annual violin and chamber-music master-class in Athens, attracting violinists and ensembles from all over the world and reflecting his deep commitment to the handing on of musical knowledge and traditions.
Leonidas Kavakos is passionate about the art of violin- and bow-making, both past and present, which he considers a great mystery and, to our day, an undisclosed secret. He plays the “Abergavenny” Stradivarius violin of 1724 and owns modern violins made by F. Leonhard, S.P. Greiner, E. Haahti and D. Bague. Bows by F.X. Tourte, D. Peccatte, J.P.M. Persois and J. Henry are his most precious companions.