an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me | Advertise | Follow me:

Another orchestra chooses 26 year-old conductor

It’s Tampere, in Finland, a full symphony orch with 97 musicians. He’s Santtu-Matias Rouvali, and he seems to be the optimum age for the job. We’re late with the announcement (for once), but here it is. Make what you like of the trend.

You can catch Santtu-Matias this season in Frankfurt, Paris and London. That’s fast, for 26.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. Stop the presses!

    The Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra may want to reconsider their decision.

    A much better option has been discovered.

  2. When Santtu-Matias was signed by HarrisonParrott, his agency used a different publicity photo than the one they use now. That previous photo gave people the impression that he was still in his puberty, I am not joking. Perhaps Norman could find that previous photo and post it in this blog. The classical music business is full of jokes……..

  3. And may I be the first to say:

    …too young…how can he know the repertoire…completely unproven…great maestros of the past were not even allowed to conduct an orchestra before age of 60…hair too glossy…pushy PRs…youth-obsessed media…Dudamel Dudamel Dudamel…imposed by management…we’re all doomed…DUDAMEL!…no obviously I’ve never heard him, and know nothing about his ablilities or the hiring policies of the orchestra in question, I’ve been too busy at home re-listening to my remastered pre-war Scherchen recordings for that but it’s the principle, damn’ it!

    (There, hopefully that will save us all some time.)

    • Halldor, want to know how he was chosen by the Tampere orchestra? Very very easy. One of his teachers is none other than Hannu Lintu, got it? There in the country called Finland/ Suomi, their sense of Nationalism is so high, therefore promoting another Finn has to be the absolute way, nothing else, got it?

      • No. We reported last week the appointment of a Dutch music director at a Finnish orch.

        • From time to time surely there was exception. Sergiu Commisiona was the Music Director of the Helsinki Philharmonic for a short term. Story says he wanted his photo as the cover of the city phone book, angering many Finn………..

          • For a Finnish orchestra to choose a foreign conductor is a very rare exception. Even if there is a good foreign candidate versus a totally mediocre Finnish one, the orchestra managements tend to favor the home-grown variety. Only Estonians seem to be able to break through this “ice ceiling” on a regular basis, but then, most of them speak Finnish.

  4. Mati Braun says:

    Lets not forget that there is an 8 years old conductor somewhere in Russia and he needs a major symphony job.

    • I will create a new orchestra of penguins in Lake Baikal and make him the Music Director. Inaugural concert: Schoenberg Gurre Lieder with Rundfunkchor Berlin singing prepared by Simon Halsey and a line of star studded vocal soloists. Shall we find the sponsors from the Russian oligarchs to create Lake Baikal Philharmonic Orchestra?

  5. Here’s a video interview with Rouvali, recorded a year ago in December 2011. Unfortunately it’s in Finnish with no subtitles, but he looks more or less his age and wears no diapers.

  6. Robert Fitzpatrick says: (Interview) (concert excerpt)

    An interview in English with some conducting clips and a concert excerpt.. I shall refrain from further comment except to say that I hope there’s more going on inside than I see in his external technique. I saw and heard Muti conduct at 30…this is not that. His management needs to take a long, deep breath but they are obviously distracted by the cash register bells.

    • Dear Bob, thanks a lot for putting the above video excerpts. His talent is totally mediocre, I question “based on what judgement his agency signed him?” Couldn’t Jasper Parrott notice what real talent should be in comparison with those who are just mediocre? It is so obvious that Santtu-Matias doesn’t live inside the core of the music, thus unable to carve out the musical drama, tension. All he does is just beating time like so many untalented conductors. Big shame to his agency who promotes him and several others in their roster.

      • Juno Breket says:

        Robert – thank you for the links!. It amazes me how that could happen! Newer though that Parrot could do something like that! What a shame! Such kind of conducting happens in first degree in the school. I wander this agency is really out of their mind that they can’t see obvious? There are hundreds really talented and undiscovered conductors out there! Why would they need to promote ‘kindergarden’?

        best to all,

  7. I’m a 26 year old conductor. Only two more weeks to go before I’m too old to land a major appointment!

    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      Get crackin’ kiddo. Check the important things: hair, manager, schmoozing quotient, teeth. Are you a percussionist? They seem to have an inside track. Please don’t ever work in an opera house, or play the piano for singers, or conduct off-stage ensembles as part of your training, it’s so demoralizing. Max Rudolph, George Szell, George Solti, Fritz Reiner and Riccardo Muti wouldn’t make it today…too much preparation kills the carisma and spontaneity, I guess.

      • “or conduct off-stage ensembles as part of your training”

        There is quite a bit of video evidence of Rouvali doing this. The Sibelius Academy has a “conductor band” of student players specifically for the training of conductors.

        • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

          As do several other schools I could name. By off-stage I mean serving as an assistant in an opera house and help out with the stage bands: a task eliminated today by the use of live video so that the hidden musicians can watch the conductor in the pit directly. I’m sure that Maestro Rouvali is talented, I only question the hyperbole surrounding these “emerging” conductors.

          • Oh, I see. Sorry about misunderstanding “off-stage”.

            There hasn’t actually been much hyperbole at all about Rouvali in the Finnish media, as far as I’ve been able to detect. The public broadcaster YLE did a TV segment about him in a weekly news program after the Tampere appointment earlier this autumn, but that’s about it. I haven’t heard anyone use lofty superlatives etc., and Rouvali himself doesn’t seem to have much of an “schmoozing quotient”.

          • Robert,
            We should all make questions about the hyperbole surrounding these “defenders” of emerging conductors. Every topic related to it (We’ve got 3 in the last 30 days here), they arise full of knowledge and intrinsic details, but they never have any connections with the artist. Always just altruist souls. Abnegated person replying any time to each one that say something not really great. Even against jokes. The reason is always just because they know the artist very well and think they are great.

      • One more!
        Don’t forget kid: “If you’re also not experienced on drinking, Never and ever do it too much that they need to send you home, before a rehearsal.”

    • I may not have great hair, management, or a heartwarming personal story of triumph in the face of hardship and oppression… but I’m a bass player, which makes me a better musician than anyone else and the automatic sucessor to Koussevitzky (check the bylaws). I expect the BSO will come ringing any day now.

  8. David Watkin says:

    I met him on a Panula course in Vaasa a few years ago. He is a very talented musician. Good luck to him. Regardless of his age.

    • I contest your judgement of recognizing him as a very talented musician…..beating time is enough for you? Perhaps Jorma Panula would say “saatana perkele jumalauta……:)”

    • I agree, good luck to him. But I think Panula himself would say he is too young to be with a big agency, and that young musicians need time to develop. In a way this is ironic, because Panula has done much to create the culture of the young conductor in Finland, by teaching people as young as 13. But he believes people should start a career slowly and only build up very gradually. In recent days this blog has focused on the success stories, but what about all the young people who were thrust into the limelight to soon, and are now on the scrap heap?

  9. bratschegirl says:

    A former MD of Tampere was also MD of an orchestra for which I played. That particular hire wasn’t a good move by either management. I hope Tampere has raised their standards since then.

  10. Just happened to notice that Rouvali is conducting the Finnish RSO’s Independence Day concert on 6 December in Musiikkitalo (Helsinki Music Centre). The program includes Fagerlund, Klami and, inescapably, Sibelius’s Finlandia.

    • Mati Braun says:

      I am very happy to see young people excel as mosicians.
      For me, the problem of hiring young coductors is not a question of their lack of talent but their inexperience of dealing with older musicians on daily bases,, understanding their problems and being sensitive to aging people.
      A young conductor who just begins his life should be invited to conduct major orchestras but not but it is a different thing to hand him a job.

    • Mikko,
      Just happened? Really? So, you are going to tell me that you don’t have any connections with Rouvali, right? Just happened that you got the chance to attempt some of his concerts and you got an incredible impression about him and now just happened that you remind Mr. Lebrecht about his new position, right? So, just happened that you are defending him against any comment after comment from anyone, right? Because just happened that you know a lot about him, his background, his schedule, his interpretations and skills as MD, his solid artistic intentions, his detachment of the hype mania urging for new cute faces etc etc that makes you able to reply hit-and run full of details about him. It’s all just happened by coincidence. Just Love at first sight, right?

      • I’m laughing out loud here… I meant “happened” as in happened to google for reviews of his concerts and got his schedule instead (and nearly no reviews). It just struck me as a bit unusual that the Finnish RSO has a guest conductor doing Finlandia on the Independence Day instead of Hannu Lintu, but that’s just me.

        I’m not a musician and I’m not connected in any way to the business. I’ve never played an instrument, I can’t read music, I have zero talent, and absolutely no expertise to judge any conductor’s abilities. I’m not very experienced even as an audience member. I haven’t heard Rouvali perform live and I honestly don’t know if he’s any good. I’ve heard a couple of his concerts as YLE web broadcasts and seen the aforementioned news segment on television.

        Notice that I haven’t “defended” him “against” any comments here. I posted a two-sentence comment to the other blog post about young conductors and Mr. Lebrecht made a new blog post about it. I will admit that I’m slightly excited that I managed to influence this blog that much as a total outsider. By my comment about the “schmoozing quotient” (the term wasn’t mine and it wasn’t originally even directed at Rouvali specifically), I simply meant that Rouvali doesn’t sound smooth at all, or even well-spoken in the Finnish-language interviews, and his English is pretty broken. I have a very hard time imagining him doing any “schmoozing”, but again, that’s probably just me.

        So, feel free to criticize any young conductors or anyone else, I’m not going to have anything to add.

  11. He made his CBSO Debut over a year ago – 27 Oct 2011.

  12. I love Norman’s sentence above “You can catch Santtu-Matias this season in Frankfurt, Paris and London. That’s fast, for 26″.

    Yes Norman it is fast for 26. It has to be fast moving from one city to the next, he can’t stay long in one city otherwise his pampers would be full, his Mama has to be ready to change them….:)

  13. Is it his non-conservative hairstyle or his obvious joy of music? Or simple envy of youth, or of getting a job?

    The tone of some comments in this thread is disgusting. “Kid”, “pampers”, “take care when drinking” – all of which is said, sure, I totally believe it, only in order to preserve the high culture of classical music.

    Martial, rgiarola: would you tell Mr. Rouvali the same directly to his face? I’d say no. So why do you it here? As a substitute for something?

    What I saw in the videos was a conductor forming a good orchestra sound and sensitive music arcs, having good accompanist skills, and using no single show element detracting from the music. His movement style on stage is a bit unusual, but doesn’t disturb me. At large, a good conductor, from what the videos show (my subjective perception, other perceptions at your liberty). Yes, sure, some of his press photos are a bit ridiculous. Agreed. But does that diminish his ability to make music? He doesn’t take these photos on stage, I think.

    What makes you go berserk with this appointment? No one says he is the ruler of them all. “A fresh and exciting conductor” is the agency’s claim. So what?

    FYIO – disregarding that rgiarola won’t believe me, as even Mikko’s knowledge of a public concert in Finland scheduled for this thursday makes him suspicious, I never heard of Mr. Rouvali before. And it’s been quite a while since I was 26.

    • Oh yes Sperling, I say what I wrote here straight in his face. And this is for you, if your judgement on him is so positive then I understand why Jasper Parrott took many mediocre people like this kid. Sad for classical music, people are unable to spot “REAL” talent

  14. Sperling,

    The problem is not directly connected with Rouvali or Mikko, but with the same behavior as many times a young conductor is announced here as new MD of somewhere. Standard. I don’t know Mikko, but less than 2 weeks ago during a similar announcement for other young blood (Truly common recently); we got other person playing the same role of Public relationships/defender. At that time the person insisted that no connections with the artist exist, but latter two other people said that he was a manager in charge to deal contracts. I don’t kwon Rouvali, but again will we have to believe in a wunderkind (Total vulgarization of the word)? Or that there is no need any more for experience in this role? Concerning “drinking” it was a joke using a recent post by Mr. Lebrecht (Not related to Rouvali). At the end, the only thing we can consider regarding these pranks is that some people are not taking serious the recent fashion and specially the make-up idea as “changes in the MD role”.
    Otherwise, Maybe Rouvali is a real wunderkind, but what a hard times to be one. Good luck for him (No Prank here). However, if Rouvali would not be able to understand the context of all these comments, it’s seems that he took himself too much for granted.

  15. Texas Peach says:

    If he had been born in the southeastern United States with middle class parents, he’d be teaching high school band like the rest of us. Just sayin.’ Oh, and “Bless his heart!”

    It’s amazing that European and Asian conductors can get so many opportunities, and pretty much the only options young American conductors have are youth orchestras, starting their own orchestras, community orchestras, college orchestras, and public school orchestras. God didn’t make us Americans less talented.

    And I’d love to see him in front of a mediocre high school orchestra. Pretty sure he doesn’t have that skill set.

    • Galen Johnson says:

      Another option for young American conductors is to learn German, and outsource themselves…never underestimate the “exoticism” factor when it comes to conducting jobs. Hiring the super-young as music directors is just a recent twist. And remember, as I’ve often said, the Dresden Opera hired Fritz Reiner, then 26, as their chief conductor. But then, he was Fritz Reiner.

  16. Juno Breket says:

    I feel for Tampere Orchestra……There will be big struggle time because of this agencies and music employment structure. Stupid…unfortunately ;(

  17. Here’s a video of Rouvali conducting Sebastian Fagerlund’s violin concerto with the Finnish RSO, recorded in Helsinki yesterday. The concerto had its premiere in Tampere in September, then conducted by Hannu Lintu. The soloist is Pekka Kuusisto. (And no, I’m still not Rouvali’s manager.)

    • Juno Breket says:

      That’s a lol! He conducting stars in the space or orchestra!? I mean – those hands are really non-educated that’s for sure.

an ArtsJournal blog