Volkov's father, Alexander Volkov, was a concert pianist of Ukrainian ancestry. His mother, Professor Shulamit Volkov of The School of Historical Studies in Tel Aviv University, is of German ancestry.
Volkov studied with the conductor Mendi Rodan at the Rubin Academy in Jerusalem, before continuing at the Royal Academy of Music in London. At age 19, he was named Young Conductor in Association to the Northern Sinfonia. He later served as conductor of Young Sinfonia, the youth orchestra of the Northern Sinfonia. In 1997, he became Principal Conductor of the London Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. In 1999, Seiji Ozawa named Volkov the Assistant Conductor with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Volkov first conducted the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (BBC SSO) in 1998. He became Chief Conductor of the BBC SSO in January 2003, the youngest chief conductor appointed to a BBC orchestra at the time. He was named the Royal Philharmonic Society Young Musician of the Year in 2004, in recognition of his work with the BBC SSO. In September 2007, the orchestra announced Volkov's departure from the BBC SSO chief conductorship in September 2009. In December 2008, the BBC SSO announced the appointment of Volkov as its principal guest conductor, to commence after the conclusion of his tenure as chief conductor, for an initial contract of 3 years with 4 weeks of scheduled guest-conducting appearances. In January 2011, the Iceland Symphony Orchestra named Volkov as its 9th chief conductor and music director, effective with the 2011-2012 season, with an initial contract of 3 years. His initial contract was for 3 years, with 6 weeks of scheduled appearances in his first season and 9 weeks of concerts in subsequent seasons. Volkov concluded his tenure with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra in August 2014, following the orchestra's debut at The Proms.
Volkov has made a speciality of recording long-unperformed or never before recorded works by neglected artists. He himself has spoken of his affinity with music written "between 1909 and the 20s". Volkov has made several recordings for the Hyperion label.
Volkov and his partner Maya Dunietz have a daughter, Nadia, born in August 2007 in Israel. In Tel Aviv, Volkov and the jazz musician Assif Tsahar have established the performing venue Levontine 7.
- Kenneth Walton (2003-01-27). "Taking the baton". The Scotsman. Retrieved 2009-09-22.
- Dan Bye (2003-01-26). "Young conductor strives to bridge classical divide". The Times. London. Archived from the original on 2013-05-05. Retrieved 2007-02-24.
- Jessica Duchen (2004-11-08). "The young and the restless". The Independent. Retrieved 2007-02-22.
- Andrew Clements (2003-08-09). "BBCSSO/Volkov (Royal Albert Hall, London)". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-09-14.
- Tim Cornwell, "Top conductor to leave Scottish Symphony Orchestra" The Scotsman, 2007-09-18.
- Michael Tumelty (2008-12-10). "Working with perfect harmony". The Herald. Retrieved 2008-12-11.[permanent dead link]
- "Iceland Symphony Orchestra Names Ilan Volkov Music Director Designate" (Press release). Iceland Symphony Orchestra. 11 January 2011. Archived from the original on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-01-30.
- "Volkov verður aðalstjórnandi Sinfóníuhljómsveitarinnar". Morgunblaðið. 2011-01-11. Retrieved 2011-01-30.
- "Volkov kvaddur". RÚV. 2014-06-19. Archived from the original on 2014-07-08. Retrieved 2014-09-20.
- Erica Jeal (2014-08-24). "Prom 48: Iceland Symphony Orchestra review – energetic but imperfect debut". The Guardian. Retrieved 2014-09-20.
- Charlotte Higgins (2004-02-10). "Be very afraid". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-02-15.
- Andrew Clements (2006-12-01). "Roslavets: Chamber Symphony; In the Hours of the New Moon". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-09-21.
- Andrew Clements (2008-08-29). "Classical review: Britten, Piano Concerto; Young Apollo; Diversions, Osborne/BBCSSO/Volkov". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-09-21.
- Andrew Clements (2010-04-22). "Stravinsky: The Fairy's Kiss; Scènes de Ballet". The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-01-30.
- Matthew Westphal (2007-10-01). "Homecoming: Donald Runnicles to Succeed Ilan Volkov at BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra". Playbill Arts. Retrieved 2008-09-14.
- David Kaufman (2007-11-04). "Instant weekend ... Tel Aviv". The Observer. Retrieved 2008-09-14.
- Maestro Arts agency page on Ilan Volkov
- BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra website, page on affiliated conductos
| Chief Conductor, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
| Chief Conductor and Music Director, Iceland Symphony Orchestra
Yan Pascal Tortelier