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Zurich Tonhalle names 26 year-old music director

The Tonhalle in Zurich is to announce a new music director and a new general director later today, with a press conference in Zurich on Friday.

Slipped Disc won’t keep you waiting for the banks to open.

The music director is going to be Lionel Bringuier. He’s 26 years old, French, brilliantly gifted and Dudamel’s deputy in Los Angeles. The two young maestros share the same agent.

The gnomes of Zurich have been panting after Lionel all year. The Tonhalle orchestra is world class, the audience rich and soporific. Whether Lionel can wake them up – and slash the average age by five decades – will be his first challenge. He succeeds David Zinman, 76, after a 17 year stint.

The new intendant is Ilona Schmiel, presently of the ambitious Beethoven Festival in Bonn. She succeeds Elmar Weingarten, who is planning a rival Zurich Festival. Will Zurich ever wake up and her the music? It has never had a better chance.

Here’s Lionel on his L.A. job description:

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  1. That’s great, Lionel is a very gifty conductor!

    • Bravo for him but alas for us in Paris, as this means he won’t succeed Myung-Whun Chung at the head of the French Radio Philharmonic.

      • Since when is two jobs too much for a conductor? ;-)

      • Rosana Martins says:

        I think Frederic Chaslin would be perfect for the French Radio Philharmonic!

        • I vote for my idol John Axelrod for the French Radio Orchestra

          • John Axelrod is such a gorgeous looking Dude, I love him for anything he does!!!!!!!!!!!

          • Toenhalle Zuerich could snatch John Axelrod to become their Principal Guest Conductor. His teacher Eschenbak was Music Director of that orchestra

        • Two jobs, alright, but he is only 26 and I am not sure that the French are looking for a half-time boss.

          Why not Frédéric Chaslin, but I wonder if he has ever conducted the orchestra.

      • I saw this amazing conductor from New Zealand, Gary Brain , though he has a French Mother and a British Father. He was educated at the Berlin Musik Hochschule fuer Musik & the Conservatoire Nationale de France in Paris. A few weeks ago I was in the audience for his stunning concert in St. Petersburg. Janacek’s Sinfonietta, Prokofief’s mighty 2nd Piano Concerto topped off by Hindemiths ‘Mathis der Mahler’. The entire audience were on their feet in a flash at the inclusion of the Hindemith. They were for his previous visit for his reading of the English composer Harold Truscott’s ‘Elegy for Strings’. He topped this off with Elgar/Payne’s 3rd Symphony. I don’t know of many orchestras that throw partys, of vodka with black fish eggs and cossak dancing but they do for Maestro Brain. Now as this guy has lived in Paris since 1986 why doesn’t the Radio France Orchestra grab him. His filio of CD recordings is inpressive as are their reviews.

  2. Rosana Martins says:

    Lionel Bringuier has great talent and magnetism. His past work certainly warrants his new post!

  3. Simone Genuini says:

    It is a big shame that Zurich Tonhalle bought a conducting baby for such a demanding post. Has he conducted all the major repertoires with proven artistic depth yet? The answer is NO. The whole music business is a big joke!

    • But he makes such nice photographs and looks so good in the videos. That is what’s most important these days. Thought you might want to keep that in mind.

      • Rosana Martins says:

        You should attend some of Bringuier’s concerts before making such statements. Everything I heard him conduct was musically correct and interesting. The time has finally come when orchestras engage young music directors as well.
        Do I smell sour grapes in yours and Mr. Genuini’s remarks?

        • @Simone, @doug: there are world-famous conductors in their 70s who haven’t “conducted all the major repertoires with proven artistic depth yet”. And some orchestras – usually the most interesting ones, the ones looking towards making music for the future, rather than repeating faded glories – want rather more in a conductor than grey hair and a high-profile record contract. Listen before you judge.

      • Doug, Simone,

        No matter happens they will act like sport team supporters. If you think that the supported artist are not deeply cool and great, they attack you. They say “you don’t know him/her”, but the fact is that they don’t know you and your connections to that artist.

        If past conductors are just glory from the past, at least It was allowed to disagree or to dislike. Solti was the “Skull Screamer” to the ones in Chicago that dislike him, I can tell you without had feeling by his fans (Like myself). It was even allowed to write a book such “The maestro Myth”. However, now a days no one can dare to get even close to “the myths”.

        Let me make it clear that I’m not against young musicians. Philadelphia orchestra made a great move to Yannick Neguet-Seguin that I’ve been following since Rotterdam. However, despite the fact that I’ve been sincerely trying to follow up , I can’t stand Dudamel or L2 as same as I’m not in love with Barenboim or Gould. It is just about things I Like or dislike as I’ve been doing for many year, although in the past without the storm troopers hooligans supporters beating me up.

        Do you people really like everything in music? What is the feeling?

        • People like Simone and Doug should tell us what concerts they attended that were conducted by Lionel and what it is exactly that they did not like in his interpretations – then they would have a right to have any opinion about his appointment to this important position.

          • Simone Genuini says:

            MarK, just ask the musicians of the Orchestre de Bretagne and you will find out how low they think of Bringuier. He is also considered a snob there where he was conducting regularly a few years ago.

          • Fortunately for me, Simone, i don’t have to ask anyone because i know him and his work personally. And i am sure that the musicians of Tonhalle are well qualified to make such judgements too.

          • MarK,
            I did not make any statement about Bringuier, because I did not listen to him ever. However, concerning the ones that a said “dislike”, I can tell you a list of concerts and records (Gould just records). In the case of Barenboim, many concerts in Chicago and some of them I’ve liked (Bruckner, Schoenberg and Wagner), but many other that I did not. About Dudamel, first on Feb 2009 Philharmonia Mahler/Mozart. Sep 2009 Gothenburg and again Mahler. July 2011, two concerts with Simon Bolivar at Sala São Paulo with Mahler, Ravel, Evencio Castellanos, Carlos Chaves and Stravinsky. L2, March 2007 Chatelet with Chinese composers/Liszt. May 2012 at Sala with Schubert, Liszt, Chopin. Besides many records of these 4 guys .They are just examples among others that I do not appreciate, but they are not targets to me. The reason why I did not appreciate then? It just because I did not feel really good listens to the music they were producing. Are you expecting me to provide technical reason to dislike something? I think you’re not. I can provide it, but what is the point? I can remember one of the first concerts of Abbado as MD with Berlin Philharmonic. There are many reviews that point out sort of technical mistakes on that, one of than is David Hurwitz that start saying that ” Berliner Philh. do not fit for Mahler” and make some points about mistakes of the wind section etc. (See the review on There are reviews that clear state that Dudamel sounds like Cartoon soundtrack, due to his constantly changes of dynamics in every composer (See Peter Dobrin at Philadelphia Inquirer). However, both statements are not the reason why I’ve deeply like that day in Berlin and that did not appreciate quite everything I had listen of Dudamel. Please, I’m not saying that it is about you or Simone or Doug, but sometimes I think musicians cannot think outside the box (Including me). There are a lot of people in the audience that cannot talk about any technical matters or even been able to explain reasons, but they can like or dislike something. What we are supposed to say to someone that goes to a concert for the first time and they just like or dislike something? That he/she opinion do not matter, because they are amateurs freshmans? They will call us all snobs and they will have merit on it.

    • Rafael Rosenfeld says:

      Dear Simone Genuini

      As a principal cellist of Tonhalle since 1995, I can tell you that I have had the pleasure of working with many fantastic conductors – Solti, Haitink, Sanderling, Sawallisch, Janssons, Blomstedt, and of course Zinman, just to mention a few. Rest assured that the orchestra has thought very carefully about this decision, that our goal is nothing more than working with somebody who brings depth, inspiration and warmth into our work, who understands how to get the orchestra to play at it’s best and give something to the audience.

      Obviously Lionel Bringuier is very young and has not had the possibilty of learning and developing all the repertoire. But the impression he gave us is that he understands amazingly well what he is doing, is a very sincere musician and that not only for his age, but compared with most other conductors that we have experienced.

      The appointment of him is actually a decision which is not induced by the mainstream business, otherwise we would have had to take someone who has already a bigger career, but instead we voted for someone who we believe will go a long way with us, developing a new partnership as we had it with Zinman for a long time.

      Naturally, in any situation like this one is never sure what comes out, there are so many factors involved in how things develop, but I think the orchestra is extremely optimistic that this will be a very fruitful thing, for music, the audience, the orchestra and Bringuier as well!

      Rafael Rosenfeld

    • Simone, there is a difference between a conducting baby (YouTube is full of those) and a young man who has been conducting since his early teens, won a major competition before he was twenty, and has been carefully building his career ever since. Knowing him, I think he has what it takes! Time will tell.

    • I sense some sour grapes and envy from Mr. Genuini, who I believe is also a conductor. The orchestral players in Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich really pushed for Lionel’s appointment. This was not a management-driven decision. He is an excellent musician and a pleasure to work with.

    • Martin Locher says:

      Mr. Genuini most certainly has not heard Mr. Bringuier conduct the Tonhalle Orchestra. I have and literally jumped out of my seat in joy when I read the wonderful news for the “culture space” Switzerland.

  4. Michael Hurshell says:

    First of all, congratulations to the young man. However I’d like to add: “Resident conductors” all over the States would love to have this job description (video). Practically never happens. But if an agent is involved… In any case, we shall see how it develops in Zürich. It appears to be ok these days to have a music director with no repertory… an interesting change from earlier days. Then again, if one peruses reviews of concerts (let alone opera performances) – globally – one seldom finds anyone talking about such things as tempo, transitions, or color. Or breadth of repertoire. It’s all about “freshness” or “youthful energy” etc. And the audience doesn’t seem to know or mind. Why shouldn’t looks be enough…? – This does not augur well for the development of orchestras, folks. And if orchestra managers believe a young conductor will bring in a new, young crowd of subsribers… I’m afraid it’s not that simple.

  5. Lucky Zurich getting Ilona Schmiel! Many congratulations to her and to the Tonhalle Orchestra!

    • Indeed! She has been running Bonn Beethovenfest fantastically for many years – interesting and daring programs. And she is great with the sponsors, so Zurich is indeed lucky.

  6. Mr. Lebrecht, I would like to point out that yo got David’s age all wrong. Tonehale is a really great ensemble under David that I am sure it will be greatly missed.

  7. Congratulations to Lionel. They’ve had a venerated and established maestro for many years now, so why not try something new with a young conductor of promise. Good appointment.

    • I have played in LA Phil many times with Lionel conducting, ever since he was an assistant, and I think he is just a first class talent!!! Wonderful choice for Tonehalle in this “youth movement” of orchestra podiums.

  8. harold braun says:

    He is definitely the best conductor of the young generation,he just lets the music speak and is very wise for a 26 year old.And,he doesn`t conduct for the gallery.I think he`s even better than “the Dude” or Yannick.

  9. Sorry guys, he’s overrated.

    I’d rather watch Lionel Blair in panto

  10. Rosana Martins says:

    I believe Bringuier made his Proms début in 2010 with Nelson Freire as soloist:

  11. Speaking of David Zinman …

    He makes his home at Cape May, New Jersey. The NJ shore, as many of us know, suffered enormous damage from Hurricane Sandy.

    Norman, perhaps some of your contacts might be able to let us know how Maestro Zinman and his family are doing … ?

    • Mary Zinman says:

      Thank you for your concern. Our house survived beautifully and we were truly blessed. ALL is well.

      Mary Zinman

  12. Frank-Michael Fischer says:

    Official press release:
    “Ilona Schmiel, seit 2004 Intendantin der Beethovenfeste Bonn, übernimmt ab 2014 die Intendanz der Tonhalle Gesellschaft in Zürich. Dies teilten die Stadt Bonn und das Beethovenfest Bonn mit.”
    So it will be Ilona Schmiel then, who will follow Elmar Weingarten.

  13. Maybe Lionel is the exception to the rule. But…
    Wake up and smell the media business; at La Scala recent productions have been entrusted to Barenboim’s assistant (now music director in a medium but important South European opera house) who made such a disaster that they abolished (I believe for the first time in the theatre history) conductor’s curtain call to avoid the booing – not to mention a personal letter written by Zeffirelli to newspapers to denounce the guy for being unfit for the job. At the same theatre (La Scala!) a 20something year old with good energy and a lot to learn has conducted a standard repertoire opera in which a major singer walked out of the production and, according to orchestral players and Facebook audience, not a single performance went by without a major problem of ensemble or balance. He is of course called back for next season. Funnily enough, a famous conductor made his debut at La Scala at twice the age of his young assistant, who had by then already made HIS debut at the same theatre,. Another, famous and maturer conductor was denied a call back because it was felt that the audience was not warm enough towards him.
    A major italian orchestra which used to be directed by Riccardo Chailly is now directed by a chinese woman who can beat ok but nothing more (and please, I am not racist or misogynist, I just happen to have ears) ; a major opera house in Italy has nominated a 30ish year old music director who does not even hide to ignore any standard repertoire (in fact, he is proud of it, feeding the myth of the bon sauvage for the radical chics), but he is Venezuelan, and cute, so that is all right – despite losing his way half through a performance of Rigoletto (not exactly Pierrot Lunaire) and having half the orchestra and chorus finishing ahead of ten bars than the rest of the cast on more than one evening. After conductors like Sinopoli, De Burgos and even Inbal, the National RAI orchestra in Italy is going (musically) down the hill just because they have nominated a young and talented conductor on the rush of a good series of concerts; unfortunately he has no idea of how to make an orchestra grow or even just stay at the same level he found it at.
    One should remember that Leonard Bernstein had to wait many years after his sensational NYP debut to be given a position; major talent, particularly in conducting, takes its time to reach a certain level and to keep it.
    One thing is to give a young conductor a chance with concerts and opera productions (based on musical worth and not media coverage), which is great, but to entrust a musical direction of a theatre or a major orchestra to a young and inexperienced conductor just imagining how does it look on the news is really sad and, more than anything, a terrible shrugging off of responsibilities and artistic mission. And eventually it will prove to be against the young conductor’s best interest.
    Good luck to Lionel, he has on his side the fact that in this business musical result is completely irrelevant. But God help him when he’ll turn 30… how to sell him afterwards?

    • Boezio, you are talking about Daniele Rustioni and Andrea Battistoni??

    • Alot of them have rich parents. Give them a baton and they’re in.

      We can have only one klieber every 40 years or so, the rest of em are in designer kitchens with their iPads.

    • Boezio,

      Developing your last example. There is Guido Cantelli. In a note written to Cantelli’s wife Iris in 1950 after four of Guido concerts with NBC Orchestra, Arturo Toscanini said:
      “I am happy and moved to inform you of Guido’s great success and that I introduced him to my orchestra, which loves him as I do. This is the first time in my long career that I have met a young man so gifted. He will go far, very far”.
      He was supposed to be NY Philharmonic new MD instead of Bernstein on 1958. His first major appointment for MD was La Scala on 1956. 1 week before he passed out. He was 36 years old. Bernstein was 40 on 1958.

    • boezio,

      I have seen or heard too many middle-aged and older, experienced or even “famous” conductors mess up to accept your observations as a general rule. Many young conductors do just fine as music directors; don’t forget that, especially nowadays, they are not alone at their task. There’s always the artistic manager, or general manager, or whatever his/her job title may be, supporting them and helping out where they may be lacking some experience.

      - “Good luck to Lionel, he has on his side the fact that in this business musical result is completely irrelevant. But God help him when he’ll turn 30… how to sell him afterwards?”

      Why so bitter? Lionel has on his side that, unlike others his age, he’s never given in to being hyped (conducting all Mahler symphonies in two weeks, for instance). He’s still got plenty of room to show what he’s capable of past 30.

  14. Carolina Page says:

    When Lionel Bringuier stepped in mid-concert at LA Phil to substitute for an injured Dudamel, conducting a brilliant Tchaik 6 with no rehearsal whatsoever, it was clear that he was someone to watch.

    • Right now, we’ve got 46 comments and we’re not even talking about the wunderkind MD of LA Philharmonic. Now we’re talking about the assistant wunderkind that is gifted enough to be a great MD of any major orchestra (It is just a coincidence, or in LA Lionel is really one of the apostle?). Everything from LA Orchestra Shine so bright in recent years that is eclipsing the poor rest of the world. The ones that cannot see it, they just envy or they don’t read LAtimes (Poor guys!).
      That lady, Ms. Borda. She is a genius!

  15. In response to rgiarola who addressed to me a lengthy comment on October 31: most of it has nothing to do with what i wrote. Did i say anything about Dudamel or Barenboim or Gould in my comments here? No. Did i ever say that you or anyone has no right to dislike something that you heard? Of course not. Although in case of Glenn Gould i can say with certainty that he was a genius, whether you or anyone else likes his recordings or not. Did i ever mention anything about “technical” reasons? Not at all. That is not what i am talking about.
    This post is about Maestro Bringuier and the Tonhalle, and all i am saying is that those who have never seen Lionel in performance should not criticize his appointment to this important position. That is an obvious point and by the way i am not the only one who expressed it here. There are several harsh “critics” among the many comments here and not a single one of them claims to have seen Lionel in concert (or rehearsal, for that matter). On the other hand, there are several comments above here by people who actually have seen him perform, and all of them without exception have nothing but praise for his work. That should tell us something, shouldn’t it? As for Dudamel, it’s a completely separate subject, but for now i want to remind you of just one relevant detail – Lionel for hired as assistant conductor and then promoted to Associate for the LA Phil not by Gustavo, but by Esa-Pekka Salonen. Later he was again promoted to Resident Conductor – that time already by Maestro Dudamel.
    As for relative value of opinions on musical matters – everybody is entitled to have one about what they heard, but for me the opinions of good musicians will always have more validity – on average and in general – than the opinions of people with much more limited musical knowledge. How can it be otherwise? This has nothing to do with snobbism and everything to do with simple common sense.

    • Mark,
      In fact, you’re right. You did not say it. However, my reply was concerning your question to Doug and Simone: “People like Simone and Doug should tell us what concerts they attended that were conducted by Lionel and what it is exactly that they did not like in his interpretations – then they would have a right to have any opinion about his appointment to this important position”. Is it necessary to explain what it is exactly that they did not like? My reply to you was just because probably I’m a person like Simone and Doug. In this case, I felt myself included in your question. Actually, I’m probably like you also. That’s the only thing related to my answer to you.
      Now, I’ve got a new doubt. All these people attempted concerts of Lionel. Does someone know about him as MD? Is there anyone here from Castille y Leon à Valladolid ? I think It is the only place that he had been acting as MD until now (Started on 2009 ? If not, please correct me). Did he already make a incredible evolution of the orchestra on the musical fundaments, repertoire, brand, relationships with musicians, management, union etc ? I don’t know, Do you ?. Conductor’s activities are part of MD activities, it is the opinion of Carlos Kleiber that spends a brilliant career as freelancer since 1973. According to Richard Osborne’s book “Conversations with Karajan”, Kleiber told Karajan that he do not want to assumed any new MD position, because he believes that It require different skill that perhaps, He (Kleiber) would not enjoy to exercise anymore. Simone and Doug were questioning if Lionel got or not experience enough to be MD of a major orchestra, but not about his skills as conductor. I think no one knows the answer at this point (Perhaps even at Valladolid). In this case, let’s wish good luck to Lionel since we are all want to listen good music. That’s the best thing we can do. However, don’t you thing that we ‘are putting to early someone in the frontline? Someone that can be huge with proper development, but we’re taking out it since this person now is under a new high level of pressure. I don’t know, but I hope we’re not doing it with him.

      • Alborada del Gracioso says:


        I can address your questions. I am a member of the Orquesta Sinfonica de Castilla y Leon in Valladolid, Spain, where Lionel Bringuier has been Music Director for the past 3 yrs. I am very familiar with his fine work.

        You make a good point – conductor and Music Director are 2 distinct roles. He does both well. He’s a brilliant conductor with intelligence and insights far beyond his yrs. which make him an excellent music director. With experience, this will only improve.

        The past 3 yrs. we’ve had with Lionel Bringuier as our Music Director have been inspiring, exciting and rejuvenating.

        Congratulations to the Tonhalle on this excellent appointment!

        • Alborada,

          Como estas? Bien? No hay problem. I saw your message talking about it, 2 second after I’ve send this question. No one better than you from Valladolid could tell us about him as MD. Thanks.

      • No, rgiarola, Simone’s first comment was specifically about Lionel’s not having conducted enough “with proven artistic depth” and Doug’s was about nothing in particular. Neither one of them said anything about other responsibilities of a music director. But in any case you now have a good answer about it right here from a well-informed source – AdG. As you can see, the trend continues – not a single negative comment from anyone who has actually seen Lionel on the podium. And if you think that every “experienced” conductor can be a great music director, you are living in a dream world. However, being an outstanding musician is still a central requirement for a music director and while hiring a young one is of course a gamble, it is definitely a safer bet when the musicianship is of high quality, no matter what is the musician’s age.

        • Simone Genuini says:

          MarK, artistic depth comes with maturity and maturity comes with age. You can’t argue this fact. Even Lenny Bernstein at 42 years old taking NY Phil wasn’t the same Lenny 10 years later. That was why Harold Schoenberg butchered him in his critics during Lenny’s early Philharmonic tenure. My point is please give time to those conducting babies to grow and to mature without much pressure no matter how talented they are before taking such prestigious positions like the Toenhalle Zuerich. He could take this job when he is 45 or 50 years old. My God, have people gone insane trying to proof who can be the fastest runner? Music profession is not a beauty contest nor a sport game. Zinman was 59 years old when he began in Zuerich with whole lot more experience incomparable with Lionel. Of course there is this argument when people say the orchestra wants an adventure from the new Music Director but this has nothing to do with the person being fully mature!

          • No need to argue with Simone because what she is saying about maturity coming with age is certainly true. However, we are not talking in general here, but about a specific case. Still, it is quite likely that Lionel at 36 will be a better conductor (and music director) than he is now at 26. And at 46 – even better still. But in that case his price will certainly go up and so will the demand for his services, which means that by that time some of the world’s leading orchestras who can afford him will be after him and he might not be available for Tonhalle at all. By the way, while maturity certainly comes with age, it is also true that some of the other attributes that are valuable for a principal conductor tend to actually diminish with age. The most important point though is this – if you don’t know Lionel and have not seen him conduct, you have no idea what you are talking about. Go to his performances and then criticize all you want. Meanwhile, here are a couple of examples from recent past. In 1962, a major American orchestra hired a 26-year-old to be its Music Director. He improved the quality of the orchestra considerably and after 16 years departed to take on an even more prestigious job leaving his orchestra in much better shape than it was when he arrived. In 1980, a major British orchestra hired a 25-year-old to be its Principal Conductor and Artistic Adviser (later changing the title to Music Director). He improved the quality of the orchestra considerably and after 18 years departed to take on an even more prestigious job leaving his orchestra in much better shape than it was when he arrived. It is a safe bet than not a single person in either organization regrets making those choices.

        • Simone Genuini says:

          Remember that when Simon Rattle took Birmingham, that orchestra was a provincial orchestra. Simon built it to become a world class orchestra. He devoted his artistic life only to that orchestra and was in no rush to jump to another more prestigious post. That’s a genuine great example for a young immensely talented conductor to hone his/ her craft and to become a mature artist. Unfortunately the music business today is really about business and about the hype around it. Birmingham is seen as a very prestigious position when Andris Nelsons got the job.

          I really don’t understand, if Lionel has a really great success and great chemistry in Valladolid, why does he have to leave that post after only 3 seasons? Why not stay with that orchestra for 15 – 20 years and build it to become one of the great orchestras in the world? Why does he have to make such big of a jump to direct such a prestigious internationally renown orchestra at this stage of his life? Why not let him learn all the major repertoire quietly for some more years without much international scrutiny?

          Artists agents, medias love hype of “young stars”. For instrumentalists this is OK because when they are young, they are at their best playing their instruments. But for conductors, for God sake, this is a manipulation of greed to make money for those behind the screen. Putting a Dudamel in LA, a Bringuier in Zurich, a Nezet-Seguin in Philadelphia, a Nelsons in Birmingham etc…mean lots of cash flow to the accounts of the agencies of those artists. As young and as talented they are, this is manipulation of music “business”!

  16. Alborada del Gracioso says:

    Lionel Bringuier, in addition to his LA Phil work & major guest conducting engagements, has served successfully as Music Director of the Orquesta Sinfonica de Castilla y Leon in Valladolid, Spain, for the past 3 yrs. We are a professional full- time orchestra near Madrid. Maestro Bringuier completed his contract with us in June 2012.

    Here is our 2012-13 programming to offer an idea of who we are:

    Jesus Lopez-Cobos and Vasily Petrenko, our 2 Principal Guest Conductors have assumed artistic leadership of our orch. since Maestro Bringuier’s departure until a new Music Director is confirmed. We are also conducting a search to replace our General Manager, Felix Alcaraz, who will begin as Technical Director of Madrid’s prestigious Orquestal Nacional on Nov. 7.

    We have been extremely pleased with Lionel Bringuier as our Music Director. His artistry, maturity and professionalism have inspired & taught us tremendously. Repertoire? He’s conducted an enormous quantity of both standard rep. & premieres with us during his 3 yrs. with us. He’s brought in exciting soloists, intriguing new works & has been consistently a delight to work with!

    Being a Music Director in Spain, esp. for a young foreigner, is no small task. Maestro Bringuier always met his responsibilities, as daunting as they must have been at times, with grace and dignity.

    Among his many contributions, he took a special interest in the orch. training of Spain’s younger generation of musicians. He piloted our Orchestral Apprentice program in conjunction with the Salamanca Conservatory, selecting by audition a handful of talented students who trained and performed with us each season. You will see and hear these students playing with us in this 2011 rehearsal video:

    From Valladolid, Spain, we, the musicians of the Orquesta Sinfonica de Castilla y Leon, wish our Maestro the very best of luck with his well-deserved appointment in Zurich!

  17. Nonsense. I can’t think of any good reason to have a person who hasn’t lived enough yet to lead an orchestra as its principal conductor, other than marketing. No doubt he is a terrific musician and highly talented, but leading an orchestra requires much more, and a 26th year old can’t provide it.

    • Yes Minor7th [redacted]

    • Martin Locher says:

      Minor7th, that’s like saying a child can’t perform a Mozart concerto or drive a car. Age is an overrated factor.

      • Petros Linardos says:

        Totally agree. Age is overrated. People should cheer Bringuer’s appointment if they believe in his musicianship, not because of his age.

  18. If the valodolid gig is free now, I’m on it! Let’s go to nice restaurants! Nice hotels! I’m worth it! Everything gets known: I’m 37 now, I was 26 then…. Time for a comeback! Listen to the music…

  19. Once again, Simone is right – no two cases are identical, which is exactly my point: we shouldn’t judge one situation by referring to others without knowing the case that is being discussed. Sure, the Tonhalle is right now probably a better orchestra than CBSO was then, but it is still not one of the world’s best and so the difference is not that huge. And of course no genius ever can do in Valladolid what was possible in Birmingham: the former is a truly provincial town (population about 300000) while the latter is a major city with over a million inhabitants. That is a big difference, especially considering the state of Spanish economy these days. There is no doubt that Sir Simon made many smart choices, but don’t forget that some of them were dictated not so much by musical and/or career considerations as by the circumstances of his personal life. And we will never know what would have happened if his choices during those years had been different. Maybe he would have matured even faster into an even greater conductor than he is now… We will never know that. As it is, the CBSO was lucky and Sir Simon did very well for himself too. Fortunately for me, you haven’t commented on my American example. But – once again – no two cases are identical. Which is why those other conductors that you keep mentioning are largely irrelevant to the Lionel-Tonhalle case. If one or more of those are bad choices – and that is often highly subjective and therefore arguable – it does not mean that any other choice is necessarily bad too. Besides, mistakes have been made with hiring music directors, regardless of age – hiring an old(er) pro may seem like the safest choice but those are not always the best ones to make.

    • Simone Genuini says:

      In 1962 LA Phil wasn’t the same LA Phil when Gustavo took over in 2009 (nor was it the same LA Phil when Esa-Pekka took in 1992) in terms of prestige, finance, hype etc. LA also wasn’t the kind of artistic town for classical music like what it is today back in 1962 thus at 26 years old Zubin didn’t have the scrutiny like his successor today. There was also no internet in those days thus news came much later to the wider public and people couldn’t know how one did this or that or how with the speed we have today.

      Great to Zinman the Toenhalle is really a superb orchestra today (in 1995 when he started the orchestra wasn’t playing the way they play today). In my opinion it is somewhat pompous to say that the Toenhalle is still not one of the world best (they are indeed one of the best in Europe). I have heard the Toenhalle with many great conductors of maturity and they sounded totally first class. In the current state where Zinman prepares to leave his orchestra, I don’t think a boy of 26 (no matter how gifted he is) can measure to the work of a venerable Maestro. Lionel needs the time to grow thinking and rethinking (failure, despair are parts of growing mature) his Beethoven, Brahms, Mahler etc…..not just trying out one idea here, one idea there in front of this great orchestra hoping it would excite the musicians and the audience. It would be entirely different if he would be 45 or 50 years old after years of study, after being Music Director of lesser prestigious orchestras while keeping up his guest conducting dates with major orchestras. His appointment was made after only appearing with the Toenhalle in 2 concert programs; guest conducting date is very different than being their chief conductor. People will now expect him to show his view on the great standard repertoires plus many other things and he has to be ready for that, can he??……………

      • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

        Your point is valid in my opinion. Perhaps a saner route for Zurich would have been to appoint the obviously gifted Lionel Bringuier as Principal Guest Conductor for 3 years and to ask Zinman to stay on as MD for 3 years with each gradually changing roles until LB became MD and Zinman became MD Laureate (or emeritus) with occasional appearances after those 3 years.

        Philadelphia, in my opinion, made the same miscalculation with Charles Dutoit and Yannick Nezet-Seguin. In the early 1970s, Ormandy had “discovered” Riccardo Muti and invited him to guest conduct for several consecutive years in Philadelphia; then in 1977, Muti was appointed Principal Guest (3 year contract) and in 1980 became MD (much to Ormandy’s dismay since the process was quicker than he expected). One hears that there was no love lost between the “sorcerer” and the “apprentice.”

        • Simone Genuini says:

          When Haitink began as Principal Conductor of Concertgebouw in 1959, the arrangement was that he and Eugen Jochum shared the conducting responsibilities, both as Principal Conductors. Jochum being the older Maestro made sure the transition was done in the smoothest way possible and kept the level of the orchestra in the highest possible standard in case his “younger” colleague couldn’t lift up to the expectation. That was a really wonderful arrangement and it gave the time for Haitink to mature and to build his own relationship with the orchestra within 5 years without over pressure on his shoulder. Eventually Haitink took over the orchestra as their sole leader in 1964 and the rest was history………

          I believe giving the chief conductor post to a 26 years old Lionel to take over the venerable Zuerich Toenhalle in its top shape today is unreasonable (the orchestra is not the Zuerich Toenhalle of 1995 when Zinman began) and frankly quite cruel to Lionel’s development as an artist. He has not been tested long enough to show the orchestra that he is able to bring artistic maturity with constant result. It would be seen differently had this appointment been made with the Bern Symphony Orchestra or the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana, just to give examples. This is the mistake of the way music business is run today, too much hype, too much medias involved. Great arts don’t need these factors too much, we need more quality, more depth from our podium stars………Once in a lifetime there was a Furtwaengler, a Karajan, a Kleiber but unfortunately today the music business wants to create all at the same time too many new Dudamels, too many new Rattles. Those conducting babies aren’t even ready mentally to be exploited but the machine behind them keeps pushing (thinking the public are blind and stupid) because as long as the money keep coming, there is business. Sorry to say, the general public don’t know this because our young generation grow up more in the culture of rock and pop music. How many children today are taught to read poetry, to read Latin, to read Shakespeare, to appreciate the great music in great depth? When artist managers promote a “new” Dudamel like a pop star with good photos, good publicity, the general public get excited as if a new Messiah is born. But in return what we hear from the artist, the musical result is almost always banal, boring, nothing to do with what the composers intended…………why can’t we learn from the example of people like Clara Haskil, Edwin Fischer, Richter, Guenter Wand, Giulini etc??…………..

    • The differente between Valladolid and Birmingham, as someone who has honestly Werkes in both Places, is Thus: monee! Birmingham and cbso hired me for £,£££… Whereas valodolid hired me for €€€… The difference was, making 10 times as much money — I was 29 when I got a huge amount of money in cbso and I was 28 when I toured through vallodlid — I had no desire to stick around in vallodlid , but I would have stayed in cbso… Old wisdom: Groucho Marx: “wouldn’t want to be a member of any club that would have me …”

      Plus, valodolid has spook memories of Franco …

  20. Ok guys, let’s put it like that.
    Yes, nowadays music (arts… Life?…) is a lot about business and unfairness, etc… and yes it does frustrate a lot of us, me included. I therefore understand the bloody reactions of some people without validating them, though.

    Lionel Bringuier is different. This young man is much more intelligent than most of us. Since he also is very human and humble, most of people do not notice his astonishing intelligence. He is an incredible musician, should I remind you he entered Paris Conservatoire in cello at 13 I believe? He is that kind of conductor who can sight read Berg’s Kammerkonzert (small thing to conduct, right? ;-)) and create better music than a conductor who knows it by memory.
    The musicians always loved playing with him and that is the best tribute a conductor can ever get.
    He is 26. But a Lionel Bringuier being 26 is an “average conductor” being 45. He matured faster than us, good for him, and great for the music!!!

    I deeply believe it is beautiful that the musicians of the Tonhalle gave his chance to Lionel Bringuier. They are right. (And as we know, Switzerland is not the kind of country to take unconsidered risks, right? ;-)

    Why should we wait for him to be half dead before becoming MD of a major orchestra if he can do it at 26?
    Let’s be clear : should we discredit genius for a question of age or experience?

  21. Lukas Fierz says:

    Just for the record: In 1906 at the age of 27 years Volkmar Andreae was appointed principal conductor of the Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich. He stayed until 1949. Highly respected in Europe he was the first to record the complete Bruckner Symphonies and performed a lot of then modern music. Mendelssohn had the same age when he started with the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig. In the 19th and early 20th century life was short and it was quite usual to get leading positions in the twenties. The crucial question is not age, but the ability to electrify the musicians and the public. I have attended several concerts with maestro Zinman and was never electrified. Old age is no guarantee for an artistic experience.

    • Simone Genuini says:

      Life was so different back in 1906, people in NY, London, Paris, Tokyo etc wouldn’t know how the young Volkmar did this piece, that piece….good or bad results were only confined to the people who heard and worked with him directly. Today we live in digital era where everything is exposed thus people’s expectation are much higher from so called podium stars. Today everything Lionel does in Zuerich can be instantly read or transmitted to every part of the world in a second. It is almost as if he is always naked in front of the whole world, having to be ready to offer his best interpretation of Beethoven, Brahms, Mahler etc and whatever else you expect a chief conductor must do. I think the trend of the music business to push for youngsters, in this case a 26 years old conductor to have to proof himself in front of such a venerable orchestra at this stage of his life can be very damaging for his natural development

  22. Mark,

    Your American example, Zubin Mehta’s appointment to LA Phil in 1962 isn’t exactly a stellar precedent here.

    Yes, Mehta was 26 when he was appointed LA’s Music Director, but it was only because their Music Director Designate, the older and more experienced George Solti, up and quit because Mehta was named his assistant without consulting him (Solti).

    One can only wonder how LA Phil might be sounding now had Solti taken over leadership instead of Mehta. We certainly know how Chicago turned out. . . .

    • The reason for Zubin’s appointment is well known but it is irrelevant to this discussion. The relevant part is the result – 16 years of solid leadership and a significant improvement of the orchestra. As for Chicago – by the time Solti got there, it was already a great orchestra after 10 years under Fritz Reiner. And Solti, while technically very efficient and a smart conductor, never impressed me as a particularly interesting musician. That’s just a personal opinion of course but i know that it is shared by many.

  23. There so much repeated irrelevance in Simone’s comments that it would take a long time to respond to all of it, so i’ll just make a couple of minor points. Of course LA Phil in the 1980s and later was not the same as it was in 1962, but most of the credit for it belongs to the (at the time) 26-year-old “boy” who subsequently spent very productive 16 years leading the orchestra as its music director, which is precisely my point. As for scrutiny, there is indeed too much of it sometimes – so let’s scrutinize less and listen to the music more. By the way, calling Lionel a boy shows complete ignorance about the subject of this discussion. The Tonhalle (which we all agree is a very good orchestra) appointed as its music director not just “a 26-years-old conductor” but one very specific young man named Lionel Bringuier. Reading comments by people who actually know him and his music-making (such as by MB and by several others above here) is a pleasure.

    • But Lionel Bringuier is no Zubin Mehta, not even close!!! Totally overrated, mediocre Roussel symphony from the Proms concert

      • If you heard the same piece with the same orchestra conducted by ZM when he was the same age as LB at the performance you are referring to, then your comparison is a valid one person’s opinion.

        • MarK

          One thing is clear to me now. You’re really in love with Lionel (Musically). Feverous advocate defending him against any comments (Even when it is not a direct attack to Lionel). However, at the end no one knows how things will run between Lionel and Zurich. Actually, does not matter the name and age of the new MD and level of experience. No one got better than a guess about future results of this kind of relationship with any orchestra. What is your connection with Lionel? It’s seems your very close, since the inference is that you had been attempting a lot of his concerts and knows a lot of his artistic/technical skill etc.

  24. Capriccio says:

    Charles, it’s the Roussel symphony that’s mediocre, not Lionel.

  25. You have really figured me out, rgiarola. For the record: Lionel and i are neither relatives nor friends and my only “connection” to him is the fact that i know him and his conducting personally, but i already mentioned that in one of my previous comments without trying to make any secret out of it. In my opinion, this knowledge makes me more likely to have an informed opinion about the subject of this discussion as compared to someone who has never seen the man. However, you won’t find anywhere in my comments here as much as a single word describing my opinion of Lionel as a conductor (or even as a person, except that calling him “a boy” shows nothing but ignorance of the one using that kind of language). All i keep saying here is that people who don’t know anything about him except his age should not pretend to know better than the Tonhalle does what is and isn’t good for that orchestra.
    As you can see, comments by those who do know him and/or his conducting are overwhelmingly positive here, and when one negative comment appeared above, i did not argue or try to contradict it in any way, but instead wrote that such opinion may actually be valid – not much “advocacy” in such response that i can detect at all. In fact, i absolutely agree with you that we have no idea how things will turn out with him in Zurich and that is why i have quite deliberately avoided making any predictions about it. My wish of course is for the best – for his and for the orchestra’s sake, but ultimately for the sake of the music. Let’s give them a couple of years and time will tell.

    • Mark,
      I’m convinced. Actually, I will be at the end of April in LA and by coincidence I found that Bringuier will be conducting a “casual Friday” on 26th, along his country fellow Thibaudet (Saint-Saëns/Ravel). I’ve acquired yesterday a ticket (Front Orchestra Row AA 144). I will arrive there with an open heart. So, let’s stand by and wait until there. Perhaps, if you are at this concert, we can drink a beer and talk about the concert.

      • A seat in the very first row for a symphonic performance? Why?? Both aurally and visually, it is one of the worst locations (and therefore the worst value) in any large auditorium, particularly such as the Walt Disney Concert Hall, with its super-clear non-blending acoustics and great views of the entire orchestra from most seats except for those in the first couple of rows. And why the Casual Friday evening concert with its abbreviated program if you could hear the full one that adds Messiaen’s beautiful Les Offrandes just 18 hours later on Saturday afternoon (or attend the Sunday matinee if so inclined)? On the other hand, your choices would enable you to become intimately familiar with the conductor’s and the pianist’s preferences when it comes to socks and also to evaluate the quality of ironing of their pants – so i guess that may be a considerable advantage, especially when the shoes worn by such a memorable dresser as Jean-Yves Thibaudet are operating the pedals right in front of your nose.

        • It is quite fully booked and I will not stay for too much time in the city. Well, let’s say that I will listen quite like the same thing the musicians will be.

          • What individual musicians (including conductors) listen for and actually hear is never exactly the same thing as what listeners are ideally supposed to hear, and when a large symphony orchestra is performing those two aural realities are not even close. If that abbreviated concert is the only one you can attend, the still available seat in row H would be a great choice and, if you like to be close to the stage, one of the two in the center of row C would be particularly wonderful for you. All audience levels in the Walt Disney Concert Hall are raked quite considerably which means that one’s view is practically never obstructed by a person in front, unless your name is Thomas Quasthoff and you are shorter than either Henri Toulouse-Lautrec or Danny De Vito (but then you can grab a bunch of free program brochures in the lobby and sit on top of them with a reasonable degree of comfort), or if there is a seven-footer (213 cm or taller) sitting right in front of you, but that is highly unlikely because unfortunately neither former nor present basketball superstars usually attend symphonic concerts in LA, although a couple of them came pretty close in recent years: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has been seen occupying an aisle seat during a number of WDCH events featuring jazz greats and Pau Gasol has been spotted as a guest of Placido Domingo at a few LA Opera performances across the street in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Anyway, i do hope of course that you can manage to enjoy the concert wherever you sit.

  26. Mark,

    You’re definitively funny. A little full of itself in the surface, but definitively with good intentions. Thanks anyway.

  27. Would’ve been much worse if my “surface” was “full of” something other than “itself”, but in any case your ability to see beyond it is admirable. However, we are digressing terribly – neither my inner content nor your perception of it should be the subject of this discussion. If and when the comments in this thread return to LB or Tonhalle and reveal something new about that, i may become interested again.

  28. I was born n New Zealand from French/English parents. I took to the piano at four, then also the horn, cello and percussion instruments especially timpani. I was a member of the National Youth Orchestra prior to being awarded (at the age of 18) a scholorship to study all of the above instruemts (minus the horn) but added conducting at the Staatliche Hochschule Fuer Musik in Berlin. I was taken in as a private student by Raphael Kubelik lessons were at his home in Switzerland. Following many years of study, the above and all general music subjects, I was let loose on the musical world.

    I played in the BBC Training Orchestra (in Bristol) also with the National Orchestra of Wales and the Ulster Orchestra and finally the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden as timpanist (their regular was on a world tour with Ben Britten).

    Finally I was appointed Principal Timpanist and percussionist with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, a fine band I might add in which I played for 25 years. I founded a performance in schools programme giving concerts in schools, usually to an audience of some 800 + kids. This I also did for 25 years.

    Finally in 1989 I was travelling on a jumbo jet (United Airlines) from Auckland to Chicago. I had been doing a course in clinical psychology by correrspondance & it was time to physically show up to the university.

    We boarded the jumbo at Auckland. I had treated myself to first class for the first time in my life. A man tried to stuff a huge metal case which he could barely lift, into the overheard locker on the opposite side of the cabin where I was seated. The purser saw him a forbade him to try to place such a heavy object in an overhead bin, “I will store it in the luggage hold where it belongs” she commented.

    Just near Hawaii the jumbo (an old one as United had bought up Pan Am’s routes and was using their unserviced planes), hit a large air pocket. The luggage locker burst open & the entire contents fell on me.

    I put up my right wrist to deflect the heavy metal case from striking my head. It pulled my wrist right back breaking it and came to rest on my right foot which it also broke. The crew did little but offer me an asprin & ran for cover. The plane put down in San Francisco (as I said I was headed for Chicago). I was taken to hospital and following a long operation in which wires and metal were inserted into my wrist I contracted septicaemia.

    This infection cost me a month in intensive care during which I nealy died such was the severity of the infection.

    Upon eventual return to Wellington and further operations, surgeons announced that I would never ‘play’ again.

    Such was my following that when the airline turned their back on me (totally indiffient) the media came to my rescue. Because of the schools concerts I had given I had, over the 25 year period, performed to about 1 million kids. They came home & talked & I discovered I had an almost heros status.

    The media took on the airline printing daily front page stories & the TV as well. In the meantime I had had the good fortune to perform in the schools at which the French Ambassador’s children attended. He sent for me asking if I could hold a light baton & if so he could offer me a high level fellowship to ‘retrain’ as a conductor in Paris. That was nearly 30 years ago. This is well documented by Wikipedia etc. The offending airline did settle for a truly ‘Micky Mouse’ sum. But as I was only in my early forties I took the Ambassadore’s offer and once more was reuitied with Raphael Kubelik. I have never trurned back. But arthritis turned in !

    Norman keep up the good work on airlines. I found out this particular one anyway, was very devious indeed but it would take a book to let out all the facts. There never was a court case only an enquiry about cabin safety.

    Gary Brain

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