Yoel Levi (Hebrew: יואל לוי) (born 16 August 1950) is an Israeli musician and conductor. Recently named Music Director and Principal Conductor of the KBS Symphony Orchestra in Seoul, Yoel Levi is known throughout the world from his work at the head of many of the world’s most prestigious orchestras, his repertoire of symphonic, operatic and lyric works and his extensive discography.
Having won first prize at the International Conductors Competition in Besançon in 1978, he spent six years as the assistant of Lorin Maazel and resident conductor at the Cleveland Orchestra and went on to be Music Director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra from 1988 to 2000. It was during his tenure with the orchestra that the British magazine Gramophone applauded his impact on the artistic standard of the orchestra: ‘Yoel Levi has built a reputation for himself and for his orchestra that is increasingly the envy of the big five American counterparts in New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Boston and Chicago.’ This sentiment was seconded with the nomination of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra as "Best orchestra of the Year" for 1991/92 at the First Annual International Classical Music Awards.
Similarly, Yoel Levi has held positions with several European orchestras, where he has consistently raised performances to new and critically acclaimed levels. Having been Principal Conductor of the Brussels Philharmonic (2001 to 2007) Yoel Levi was appointed Principal Conductor of the Orchestre National d'Ile de France in 2005, a post he held until 2012, giving regular concerts in Paris, the Ile de France area and increasingly taking the orchestra on tour outside France to Spain, Eastern Europe and London, where the media praised the orchestra as being one of the most inspiring and frequently engaged orchestras in Europe.
Yoel Levi's engagements as guest conductor take him all over the world to conduct orchestras in London, Paris, Berlin, Prague, Budapest, Rome, Frankfurt, Munich, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Israel, Korea and Japan. In North America, he has conducted the New York Philharmonic and the orchestras of Boston, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Chicago, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Washington, Minnesota, Toronto and Montreal amongst others.
He is also the first Israeli to serve as Principal Guest Conductor of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra with which he has given tours of the United States and Mexico as well as a special concert celebrating the 60th Anniversary of State of Israel. Other recent tours include an extensive tour of New Zealand with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and highly acclaimed concerts in Spain with the Orchestre de Paris. Yoel Levi is frequently invited to conduct at special events such as the Nobel Prize Ceremony at the head of the Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra.
Ever since his 1997 debut in the orchestra pit at the Teatro Communale in Florence conducting La Fanciulla del West, Yoel Levi has devoted a large part of his activities to the Opera repertoire conducting Carmen at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, The Makropulos Case by Janacek in Prague, Puccini's Edgar with the Orchestre National de France. At the ASO, he conducted Mozart's The Magic Flute, The abduction of the Seraglio, and Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle. With the Brussels Philharmonic, Yoel Levi performed Puccini's Tosca, La Traviata and Madame Butterfly and recent performances have included Tosca during the Puccini festival in Torre de Lago, Italy. In France he has conducted Poulenc’s Dialogues des carmélites, Nabucco at the Stade de France for 60,000 people, with live television broadcast in Europe. Others performances have included Aida, Elixir of Love, Hansel and Gretel and La Boheme, amongst others.
Yoel Levi has made more than forty recordings on different labels with various orchestras, including the Cleveland Orchestra, London Philharmonic, Philharmonia Orchestra, Brussels Philharmonic and the Israel Philharmonic. More than thirty of these are with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra for Telarc. His recordings are devoted to the music of Barber, Beethoven, Brahms, Copland, Dohnanyi, Dvorak, Haydn, Hindemith, Kodaly, Mahler, Mendelssohn, Mussorgsky, Nielsen, Prokofiev, Puccini, Ravel, Rossini, Saint-Säens, Schoenberg, Shostakovitch, Sibelius, Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky among others.
In 1997 Yoel Levi was awarded an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts Degree by Oglethorpe University in Atlanta and also gave the commencement address. In June 2001 he was named “Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” by the French Government.
Born in Romania, Yoel Levi grew up in Israel where he studied at the Tel Aviv Academy of Music, where he received a Master of Arts degree with distinction, and The Jerusalem Academy of Music under Mendi Rodan. He also studied with Franco Ferrara in Siena and Rome, with Kirill Kondrashin in the Netherlands and at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London.