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How to be an Artistic Advisor

It’s the new hip appointment at orchestras that are too indecisive to appoint a music director (see yesterday’s post).

Andrew Litton has just taken up the post in Colorado. He explains what it entails.

Not a lot, apparently.

Maybe Boston should try one. They are no nearer to appointing a music director than I am to becoming Lord Chief Justice.

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  1. Pekka Kuusisto says:

    Another way of looking at the trend where orchestras hire artistic advisors, artistic partners and such could be that maybe the orchestras want to be more democratic in their decisions = the musicians themselves having more say in what’s happening and how a band should be developed. I think this is a healthy development.

    There are (in my humble opinion) quite enough situations where the chief conductor / artistic director gets mentioned before the orchestra, as if he or she would be the main ingredient and not the musicians. This is a bit backwards, no?

    • I believe that orchestras are finding it hard to choose a new Music Director/Principal Conductor because a democratic decision takes time, and very few conductors have anything much to say about the music these days. Today’s orchestral musicians are increasingly being allowed a big say in picking our next chief conductors, and so we wait until that rarity comes along…..A conductor who knows what he is doing. We have found one at the Tonhalle orchestra in Zürich to replace David Zinman, but I mustn’t reveal his name until negotiations are complete and an official announcement is made.

  2. Norman, I don’t think that appointing an Artistic Advisor is quite as indecisive as you have been suggesting. Finding the right artistic director can take time and appointing the wrong person is far worse than appointing nobody at all – with the wrong person morale amongst the players can quickly fall, and getting out of contracts can be expensive.

    The LMP itself faced this dilemma for three years whilst it tried to find the right replacement for Andrew Parrott. Our relationship with Gerard Korsten has been a wonderful one but it took time for the players to find someone they were happy with, and who they could put their trust in, and the other runes had to be sound as well. A good artistic director needs to have chemistry with his or her band, and this chemistry is often hard to generate spontaneously or quickly.

    Another thing to consider is that, with concerts and conductors often booked up to two years in advance, it can be a couple of years before you can start inviting in potential replacement candidates.

    Although when I came to the LMP, I came in at the end of that interregnum period and was able to appoint Gerard reasonably quickly, if we had not settled on Gerard, I would have wanted to appoint an interim artistic consultant instead. Unless you have a brilliant artistic planning mind within your orchestra or management, you do need someone to keep providing inspiration, ideas and artistic energy and inspiration to your players to keep the artistic health of your organisation on-track.

    And I don’t think you should underestimate the job of artistic planning, as Andrew Litton will be doing with Colorado. It is immensely time consuming getting the right balance of music for your players and your audience, of fitting in the right soloists, right conductors for the right concerts. I only have 8 main concerts to programme at Fairfield and it takes ages to get it right. And getting it wrong can be disastrous for the box office.

    • I don’t underestimate the job, Simon. Indeed, I myself once helped out the LMP with consultancy over a new music director. But most orchestras have plenty of time to make up their minds. Appointing a non-md is a mark of collective indecision and other, deeper malaises.

      • I really don’t agree that most orchestras have plenty of time, Norman. As I say making the wrong choice can be catastrophic, and appointing a consultant buys an orchestra time to make the right decision without a sense of urgency. It is perfectly possible that over a two year period you might not find the right person and if you don’t better not to appoint at all in my view.

        • John Parfrey says:

          Colorado Symphony knew it needed a new music director in July, 2008 (the date the announcement appeared in the local press) and probably some time before that. I’d think four years is probably more than enough time.

  3. Paul D. Sullivan, Arlington/Boston US says:
    • Could well be. May help explain why you’re still without a music director.

      • Paul D. Sullivan, Arlington/Boston US says:

        Since Levine has left as part time conductor, they have managed to get back subscribers and better attendance at Symphony Hall. Levine, with his health issues, seemed to get very erratic in his conducting last two seasons. I don’t think the management want to make the same mistake again, so I imagine they will take their time.

    • what an apt name for an artistic director…..

  4. Martin Bookspan says:

    A weak and inappropriate “joke” on Tony Fogg’s name, David. Tony is an extraordinary musician (a superior pianist) and a connoisseur of the repertory. The Boston Symphony is graced by his presence and fortunate indeed to have him as its Artistic Administrator.

  5. The Boston Symphony means very little to the general culture of the city . At one time it did have a
    solid standing but that was long gone- now it is the elephant in the room . Its faithful audience what ever is left of them always hoping for the great days to return. The main aim for all orchestra administrations whatever the
    titles “artistic what nots to whatever ” is to preserve their high salaried jobs .

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