Donald Runnicles

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Sir Donald Cameron Runnicles OBE HonFRSE (born 16 November 1954, Edinburgh, Scotland) is a Scottish conductor.

Life and career[edit]

The son of William Runnicles, a director of a furniture supply company and a choirmaster and organist, and Christine Runnicles,[1] he began his education at George Heriot's School in Edinburgh, moving later to George Watson's College which offered a specialised music education facility, followed by the University of Edinburgh and St John's College, Cambridge. He studied for a year at the London Opera Centre.

Runnicles began his operatic career as a singers' coach and assistant conductor in Mannheim, Germany.[2] He became Generalmusikdirektor of the city of Freiburg, Germany in 1989. Referring to the 10 years he spent in Germany, Runnicles has said

"I have to breathe this air, this Wagnerian air. It was life-changing and that love affair with Wagner led to what was influenced by him: the Bruckner, the Mahler."[3]

In the USA, Runnicles served as Music Director and Principal Conductor of the San Francisco Opera from 1992 to 2009.[4] After the conclusion of his contract, he is scheduled to continue to work with the company as a guest conductor.[5][6] Runnicles has served as Principal Guest Conductor of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra since September 2001, and his current contract there runs through 2014.[7][8] From 2001 to 2007, he was also Principal Conductor of the Orchestra of St. Luke's. Runnicles had been offered the title of Music Director of the Orchestra of St. Luke's, but he declined the title.[9] He became Music Director of the Grand Teton Music Festival in September 2005, having been appointed that August.[10] His Grand Teton contract was extended through 2011,[11] and subsequently to 2019.[12]

Runnicles first conducted the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (BBC SSO) in 2001.[1] In October 2007, the BBC SSO announced the appointment of Runnicles as their next Chief Conductor in September 2009, for an initial contract of three years.[13][14] The BBC SSO appointment marks Runnicles' first principal post with a British orchestra.[15] In September 2011, the BBC SSO extended his contract as chief conductor through 2015.[16] In October 2014, the orchestra reported the scheduled conclusion of Runnicles' tenure as chief conductor in September 2016.[17] His final concert as the BBC SSO's chief conductor was on 28 August 2016,[18] and he now has the title of conductor emeritus of the BBC SSO.

Also in October 2007, the Deutsche Oper Berlin announced the appointment of Runnicles as their next Generalmusikdirektor, effective August 2009, for an initial contract of five years.[19] In December 2016, the company announced the newest extension of Runnicles' contract with the Deutsche Oper Berlin until 2022.[20] In addition to his conducting posts, Runnicles also holds an honorary doctorate from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, as of February 2011.

Runnicles has two daughters, Ashley and Tamara,[2][21][22] from his past marriage to the violist Elizabeth Prior.[23] and an older daughter, Alexandra, from a previous relationship. He is married to the Canadian pianist Adelle Eslinger.[24]

Honours and Awards[edit]

In 2019, Runnicles was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.[25] Runnicles was knighted in the 2020 Birthday Honours for services to music.[26][27]



  1. ^ a b Tim Cornwell (10 October 2009). "Interview: Donald Runnicles – Conducting electricity". The Scotsman. Archived from the original on 2 February 2013. Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  2. ^ a b Stephen Moss (11 December 2002). "Remember my name". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 September 2008.
  3. ^ BBC Radio 3's Performance on 3, 26 January 2010
  4. ^ Ben Mattison (16 November 2004). "San Francisco Opera Music Director Donald Runnicles Extends His Tenure". Playbill Arts. Retrieved 21 December 2007.
  5. ^ Matthew Westphal (18 September 2006). "Donald Runnicles's Contract at San Francisco Opera Will Not Be Renewed". Playbill Arts. Retrieved 21 December 2007.
  6. ^ Joshua Kosman (16 September 2006). "Runnicles won't renew contract with S.F. Opera". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 3 October 2007.
  7. ^ Ben Mattison (21 September 2005). "Atlanta Symphony Extends Contracts of Spano and Runnicles". Playbill Arts. Retrieved 23 December 2007.
  8. ^ Rosalind Bentley (18 January 2012). "Runnicles extends ASO contract". Access Atlanta. Archived from the original on 21 January 2012. Retrieved 19 January 2012.
  9. ^ Allan Kozinn (3 February 2002). "A Courtship of Conductor and Orchestra". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 December 2011.
  10. ^ Emily Quinn (29 August 2005). "Donald Runnicles Named Next Music Director of Grand Teton Music Festival". Playbill Arts. Retrieved 23 December 2007.
  11. ^ Joshua Kosman (2 October 2007). "Opera's Runnicles to lead BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 20 November 2007.
  12. ^ "Maestro Runnicles Renews Grand Teton Music Festival Contract Through 2019" (Press release). 9 July 2014. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  13. ^ Tim Cornwell, "Conductor back after 18 years to lead BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra". The Scotsman, 2 October 2007.
  14. ^ Matthew Westphal (1 October 2007). "Homecoming: Donald Runnicles to Succeed Ilan Volkov at BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra". Playbill Arts. Retrieved 14 September 2008.
  15. ^ Kenneth Walton (6 May 2009). "Donald Runnicles interview: The return of the prodigal son". The Scotsman. Retrieved 22 September 2009.
  16. ^ "Donald Runnicles extends his contract with the BBC SSO" (Press release). BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. September 2011. Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  17. ^ "Donald Runnicles to become BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra's Conductor Emeritus" (Press release). BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. 22 October 2014. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  18. ^ Kate Molleson (29 August 2016). "Gurrelieder review – almighty blast of Schoenberg rounds off festival". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  19. ^ Matthew Westphal (31 October 2007). "In Sudden Appointment, Donald Runnicles Named Next Music Director of Deutsche Oper Berlin". Playbill Arts. Retrieved 1 November 2007.
  20. ^ "Vertragsverlängerung mit Donald Runnicles" (Press release). Deutsche Oper Berlin. 7 December 2016. Retrieved 13 December 2016.
  21. ^ Frederik Hanssen (1 November 2007). "Die Stimme eines Herrn". Der Tagesspiegel. Retrieved 3 November 2007.
  22. ^ Michael Tumelty (4 October 2007). "Now he's conducting electricity". The Herald. Retrieved 20 November 2007.[permanent dead link]
  23. ^ "Conductor returns to the source". The Times, 1 March 2009.
  24. ^ James Ehnes (27 September 2017). "Violinist James Ehnes on the Majestic Sights & Musical Moments at the Grand Teton Music Festival". Strings Magazine. Retrieved 12 October 2020.
  25. ^ "Dr Donald Cameron Runnicles OBE HonFRSE". The Royal Society of Edinburgh. 15 March 2019. Retrieved 15 March 2019.
  26. ^ "No. 63135". The London Gazette (Supplement). 10 October 2020. p. B2.
  27. ^ "Birthday 2020 Diplomatic Service and Overseas List" (PDF) (Press release). Government of the United Kingdom. 9 October 2020. Retrieved 12 October 2020.
  28. ^ "Gluck Orphée et Eurydice Berlioz version: Larmore, Upshaw, Hagley, Runnicles". Donald Runnicles. 4 June 1996. Retrieved 30 August 2017.
  29. ^ "PUCCINI, G. : Turandot (San Francisco Opera, 1994) (NTSC) - 100089". Naxos Records. Retrieved 30 August 2017.
  30. ^ Pasles, Chris (15 December 1993). "TV REVIEWS: Kiri Te Kanawa in Strauss' 'Capriccio'". LA Times. Retrieved 30 August 2017.
  31. ^ "Strauss: Four Last Songs; Wagner: Wesendonck-Lieder; Berg: Seven Early Song". Donald Runnicles. 21 March 2000. Archived from the original on 30 August 2017. Retrieved 30 August 2017.

External links[edit]

Cultural offices
Preceded by
Sir John Pritchard
Music Director, San Francisco Opera
Succeeded by
Nicola Luisotti
Preceded by
Sir Charles Mackerras
Principal Conductor, Orchestra of St. Luke's
Succeeded by
Pablo Heras-Casado
Preceded by
Eiji Oue
Music Director, Grand Teton Music Festival
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Renato Palumbo
Generalmusikdirektor, Deutsche Oper Berlin
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Ilan Volkov
Chief Conductor, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Succeeded by
Thomas Dausgaard