Juanjo Mena began his conducting career in his native Spain as Music Director of the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra. His uncommon talent was soon recognized internationally with appointments as Principal Guest Conductor of the Bergen Philharmonic and Chief Guest Conductor of the Orchestra del Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa. In 2011 he was named Chief Conductor of the BBC Philharmonic, taking the orchestra on tours of Europe and Asia and conducting annual televised concerts at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the BBC Proms. His BBC tenure featured “thrilling” (The Guardian) performances of Bruckner Symphonies, a cycle of Schubert Symphonies and set new standards for the interpretation of Spanish and South American repertoire. He currently holds the position of Principal Conductor of the Cincinnati May Festival, the longest running choral festival in North America.
Juanjo Mena has led Europe’s top ensembles including the Berlin Philharmonic, Bavarian Radio Orchestra, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, London Philharmonic, Oslo Philharmonic, Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre National de France, Tonhalle Orchester Zürich among others. He also appears regularly with all the major orchestras in his native Spain. He has conducted most of North America’s leading orchestras, including the Chicago, Boston, Baltimore, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Montreal and Toronto Symphonies, Cleveland, Philadelphia and Minnesota Orchestras, New York Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He is a regular guest conductor of the NHK Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo.
Juanjo Mena’s 2022/2023 season starts with him leading the Teatro Real Orchestra (the Royal Opera of Madrid) in its historic Carnegie Hall debut. Other guest performances this season include his debut with the Dallas Symphony and the Czech Philharmonic and returns to the Minnesota Orchestra, Bamberg Symphony, Lucerne Symphony, Dresden Philharmonic, BBC Philharmonic, Danish National Orchestra and the Oslo Philharmonic. May 2023 marks Juanjo Mena’s final performances as Principal Conductor of the Cincinnati May Festival, concluding his pivotal six-year tenure at the organization during which he has expanded commissioning of new works and put the community at the heart of the Festival.
Mena’s rich discography with the BBC Philharmonic on Chandos includes Bruckner’s Symphony No. 6, an acclaimed Gabriel Pierné release selected as a Gramophone Editor’s Choice, Ginastera’s orchestral works and new reference recordings of lesser-performed Spanish repertoire including Arriaga’s orchestral pieces, works by Albéniz, Montsalvatge and Turina, and three discs of works by Manuel de Falla. In 2012 Juanjo Mena recorded Messiaen’s Turangalîla Symphony with the Bergen Philharmonic for the Hyperion label, a disc said to “utterly redefine the terms under which past/current/future Turangalîlas need to be judged” (Gramophone).