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Another orchestra fudges its succession

The recent history of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra has been decidedly up and down. After 22 years with Neeme Järvi, the self-designated National Orchestra of Sweden entered a dull three years with Mario Venzago before embracing the hurly-burly of Gustavo Dudamel.

Dudamel’s term has come to an end and they have spent all summer thinking about a successor. Finally, the Gothenburgers asked themselves the tired old question: who’s free?

Kent Nagano is, having just left Bavarian State Opera. So Kent joins Gothenburg under the peculiar title of Principal Guest Conductor and Artistic Advisor. In plain English, what that mean is he’ll grab the best dates and have the key say in who else plays there. Power without responsibility is never a healthy proposition.

I’m just back from Stockholm where both orchestras – the Philharmonic and Swedish Radio – are flying higher than at any time in living memory. Gothenburg, if it carries on dithering, will soon lose its national status.

Press release follows the video.

Press release from the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, 30 August, 2012
Kent Nagano appointed Principal Guest
Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
American conductor Kent Nagano has been appointed Principal Guest
Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, the
National Orchestra of Sweden. Kent Nagano will start his three year tenure in
the autumn of 2013. This is yet another step in the orchestra’s ambition to
become one of the top orchestras in the world.

Kent Nagano and the Gothenburg Symphony recently had a huge success with a performance of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung in Gothenburg: “Already in the first bars […] one hears how the orchestra is playing like one gigantic solid body, delicately tuned but also equipped with
enormous energy potential. The latter is one of the things that impress the most in this reading, Nagano’s matchless ability to hold the music
together and at the same time make the orchestra use those extra gears when needed.”
(Göteborgs-Posten, April 2012).
The chemistry between conductor and orchestra was apparent already when they did their first concert together, performing Mahler’s vast Third Symphony almost 20 years ago. Now the time is ripe for a closer collaboration. Kent Nagano comments: “The Gothenburg Symphony is a remarkable orchestra, not only technically brilliant but an ensemble possessing profound sound-color, personality and style which reflects its important and deep Nordic traditions. I am delighted and honored to have been asked to join the long list of distinguished conductors reflecting the orchestra’s heritage including Jean Sibelius, Carl Nielsen, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Pierre Monteux and Herbert von Karajan, as well as principal
conductors Wilhelm Stenhammar, Charles Dutoit, Neeme Järvi and recently, Gustavo Dudamel.

Kent Nagano will start as Artistic Advisor with immediate effect, teaming up with the
orchestra and administration in the upcoming months. As Principal Guest Conductor,
he will be working six to seven weeks each season with the orchestra, starting in the
autumn of 2013. After five successful years with Gustavo Dudamel, now Honorary Conductor of the
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, including projects such as a Beethoven symphony
cycle, several world premières and European tours, the orchestra is ready to take
another step to the top.
Managing and Artistic Director Helena Wessman says: “We are very happy for this
collaboration with Kent Nagano. We’ve had five fantastic years and are now fortunate
enough to continue this successful journey with such a distinguished conductor as
Kent Nagano. His ideas are inventive and bold, so we are very excited about working
with him.”
The orchestra is thrilled about the appointment of Kent Nagano: “It is a great honour
that Kent Nagano has accepted this position with the orchestra. This will give the
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra the strength and possibility to develop further, as
well as seeking new horizons. I am very happy!”, says concert-master Per Enoksson.
The orchestra and Kent Nagano have made one record together, in 2003, works for
voice and orchestra by Swedish contemporary composers Hillborg, Boldemann and
Gefors, featuring mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter (Deutsche Grammophon
Kent Nagano is renowned for interpretations of clarity, elegance and
intelligence. He is equally at home in music of the classical, romantic and
contemporary eras. In September 2006 he became Music Director of both the
Bayerische Staatsoper Munich and Orchestre symphonique de Montréal.
At the Bayerische Staatsoper Kent Nagano will conduct the World première of
Jörg Widmann’s opera Babylon, the German première of George Benjamin’s
opera Written on skin and two cycles of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen in
the 12/13 season. Other productions of the season will include Poulenc’s
Dialogues des Carmélites, Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, Wagner’s Tannhäuser and
Tristan und Isolde. Furthermore, Kent Nagano will conduct the world premières of a
Piano Concerto by Wolfgang Rihm and a new work by Unsuk Chin in concerts with
the Bayerisches Staatsorchester.
In September 2011, Kent Nagano and the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal
inaugurated their new concert hall that was built by award-winning architects
Diamond & Schmitt and Ædifica in cooperation with Artec Consultants Inc. Highlights
with the orchestra include the complete cycles of Beethoven and Mahler
Symphonies, Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder, concert versions of Wagner’s Tannhäuser,
Tristan und Isolde, Das Rheingold and Messiaen’s Saint François d’Assise.
As a much sought after guest conductor Nagano has worked with most of the world’s
finest orchestras including the Vienna, Berlin and New York Philharmonics, the
Chicago Symphony, the Dresden Staatskapelle and Leipzig Gewandhaus. He has an
ongoing relationship with Sony Classical and has also recorded for Erato, Teldec,
Pentatone and Deutsche Grammophon as well as Harmonia Mundi, winning three
Grammy awards. The Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1905, has earned a solid
international reputation during the last three decades, under the leadership of Neeme
Järvi and Gustavo Dudamel. The orchestra has made a string of successful
recordings, in total over a 100, for BIS, Deutsche Grammophon and Chandos, and
made acclaimed tours in Europe, USA and Asia. “One of the world’s most formidable
ensembles”, wrote The Guardian. A key factor of this success was the pioneering
Volvo sponsor deal, celebrating its 30th anniversary next year, which allowed the
orchestra to expand and to record and tour internationally.
The Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra is also garnering national and international
recognition for its leading-edge projects and ambitious educational programs, with
resident composer Paula af Malmborg Ward and resident director Svante Grogarn
heading a two-year children’s concerts project. Together with Gustavo Dudamel, The
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra are also co-partners in El Sistema Gothenburg, a
Swedish equivalent to the famous Venezuelan music education system. This autumn
sees the first “Digital Concert Hall” in Sweden, with numerous concerts from the
Gothenburg Concert Hall being transmitted on the web and cinemas in Sweden to
reach new audiences. Honorary Conductor: Gustavo Dudamel. Principal Conductor
Emeritus: Neeme Järvi. Principal Guest Conductor (2002-2013): Christian Zacharias.
The Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra – The National Orchestra of Sweden – is
owned by The Region Västra Götaland. Crown Sponsor: Volvo. Main Sponsors:
SEB, Göteborgs-Posten & SKF. Main Donor: Stena.
For interview enquiries with Kent Nagano, please contact:
Stefan Nävermyr, editor
+46-31-726 53 45
Helena Wessman, Artistic and Managing Director
+46-703-11 64 74

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  1. Whilst Gothenburg is officially the ‘National’ orchestra of Sweden, pretty much everybody in Scandinavia outside of Gothenburg acknowledges that the Swedish Radio is the best orchestra in Sweden.

  2. Petros LInardos says:

    How is the Gothenburg Symphony doing musically, after 5 years under the world’s most hyped conductor?

  3. Stuart Green says:

    Ask the Halle members what they thought of Cxxt Navajo as they christened him.

  4. Emil Archambault says:

    Oh come on. Kent Nagano is doing an amazing job in Montreal; appreciated by the musicians, liked by the critics, adored (literally!) by the public. He sold out all his Montreal concerts last year, inaugurated Montreal’s new Concert hall and just organized (on August 11th) a “Cool Classical journey” of 20 45-minutes concerts in Montreal’s Place des Arts, which was a tremendous success.

    I, for one, have in the past few months heard him conduct an excellent Dvorak’s 9th and an amazing Symphonie Fantastique (hailed as a great success by the critics, in Charles Dutoit’s former stronghold).

    Besides, an artistic advisor is better than no artistic guidance at all. The Göteborg Symphony has a long-standing partnership with Neeme Järvi (Conductor Laureate) and sounded magnificent last spring when I heard them. This partnership should serve both parties, I expect.

  5. Sture Carlsson says:

    GSO is not a “self-designated National Orchestra of Sweden”. The orchestra was given that title by the Swedish Parliament in December 1996.

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