He studied composition with his father, Luciano Chailly, and played drums in a rhythm-and-blues band. He studied at the music conservatories in Perugia and Milan, and, later, conducting with Franco Ferrara, becoming assistant to Claudio Abbado at La Scala when he was twenty, and he made his conducting debut there in 1978.
He has worked with the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra (as chief conductor, 1982-8), the London Philharmonic Orchestra (principal guest, 1983-6), Teatro Comunale di Bologna (1986-93), Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (chief conductor, 1988-2004) and the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester (chief conductor, from 2005). He became principal conductor at La Scala in 2015 and will be La Scala's music director from 2017. He records exclusively for Decca, where he has recorded complete cycles of Brahms, Mahler and Bruckner symphonies.
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CD Spotlight. Simply Mesmerizing - Riccardo Chailly conducts Verdi choruses, impressing Gerald Fenech. '... oozing energy from beginning to end.'
CD Spotlight. Dance or Die - Gerald Fenech enjoys a disc exploring the influence of Italy on Austrian and German composers. '... performances full of rhythmic energy, explosive colours and, above all, harmonic ingenuity.'
Ensemble. Deadly Sins - Giuseppe Pennisi reports on a Weill/Brecht double bill from La Scala Milan
Ensemble. A Real Triumph - Giuseppe Pennisi experiences Puccini's 'Tosca', live in HD at the inauguration of La Scala's 2019-20 opera and ballet season
Ensemble. Strong and Intense - Giuseppe Verdi's 'Attila', opening La Scala's 2018-19 season, enthralls Giuseppe Pennisi
Ensemble. A Sumptuous Production - La Scala revives 'Andrea Chénier', reviewed via live HD projection by Giuseppe Pennisi
Ensemble. Concerts in Bucharest - Giuseppe Pennisi listens to Russian orchestral music at the George Enescu Festival
Ensemble. A Rare Butterfly - Giuseppe Pennisi was at La Scala for the start of the new season in Milan
Ensemble. A Difficult Score - The new critical edition of Puccini's 'La Fanciulla del West', reviewed by Giuseppe Pennisi
DVD Spotlight. Dramatic Truth - Giuseppe Verdi's 'Don Carlo', reviewed by Robert Hugill. '... a strong candidate for the library shelves.'
Ensemble. An Ecstatic Success - Giuseppe Pennisi visits the Sagra Musicale Malatestiana
Verdi discoveries - Tess Crebbin writes about an interesting CD by Riccardo Chailly