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How young conductors have changed the rules of engagement

In the December issue of Standpoint, I reflect upon the rising trend in major orchestras to hire youth over experience. Music directors are getting younger all the time. Zurich broke all records with a new stick of just 26.

So where is it all leading? Is the new generation prodigiously more talented than the old? Can the job withstand inexperience? Or does the job itself have to change? Have the ground rules changed this year? Read all about it right here.

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  1. Three main reason for this:

    1.) agents have too much power today.
    Agents are not good for music. They might be a necessity for the business side of things, but given too much power they kill music and creativity.

    2.) orchestras today are often in delusion and believe they are great without conductors and need only “a little inspiration” from the front.

    3.) music? what music? the show must go on.

    • AMEN !

    • AMEN!

    • Having a go at agents is a cheap shot. They may be guilty of many things, most of which come under the heading of advancing their artists’ careers, but being responsible for the push for younger artists becoming music directors is not entirely their fault. Orchestra managers need to take their share of the blame. They are sometimes frightened of missing the next wunderkind, and would rather sign someone too soon, than miss out.

      • Joep Bronkhorst says:

        Aren’t we missing a more fundamental concern here: i.e. that young conductors are a good deal cheaper to hire? I’m reminded of the tactics of the Palau de les Arts in Valencia, which went for the virtually unknown Omer Meir Wellber to replace Lorin Maazel (!!) when he bowed out after six years.

        Plus they get an attractive young guy on their posters, and a bit of publicity surrounding ‘the next big thing’ – and besides, how many people buy tickets to an opera at Valencia on the strength of who the conductor is?

        Plus (again) they might just strike it lucky with a genuinely talented young find.

        • But you said Wellber was appointed after Maazel bowed out, so it’s not like he got kicked out so they could hire the younger, cheaper conductor, or is it?

          • Joep Bronkhorst says:

            I didn’t suggest that. I suggested that the Palau filled the vacancy with a young, cheap conductor, rather than someone of Maazel’s calibre (and reputation). Maybe I should’ve said ‘succeed’ rather than ‘replace’?

          • There is no Reply button for Joep’s last post, so I am replying to this one. Joep said:

            “I didn’t suggest that. I suggested that the Palau filled the vacancy with a young, cheap conductor, rather than someone of Maazel’s calibre (and reputation). Maybe I should’ve said ‘succeed’ rather than ‘replace’?”

            Well, there are very few people still around of Maazel’s caliber and reputation – whatever one might think of Maazel is quite irrelevant here because he obviously has had a very long and distinguished career. From that point of view, I actually think trying someone who doesn’t have that kind of reputation (yet?) is not such a bad idea. Probably better than the Münchner Philharmoniker just booking Maazel because they have too much money and too few new ideas, or the CSO doing the same thing with Muti.

  2. I find it sad not to read Ed Gardner name in the list, especially after the MET slashing. Funny how these people are ready to take lack of ensemble and rushed tempos from Dudamel or anyone ‘exotic’ enough, but are very ready to be mean with someone who is doing all the right things and is bringing results working from the bottom to the top and not viceversa. He is not some kind of showbizz character (but he is over 30, so I guess he is not interesting).
    I expect from a great music writer as Mr Lebrecht to at least hint that media coverage is surely more important now to appoint new MD than anything else.
    Also, as someone who knows conducting, Mr Lebrecht should point out the disadvantages that these baby conductors will be facing sooner or later: conducting ensembles where one needs very little real ‘dirty work’ to bring out the best technical results they are encouraged to think that some cross-over PR programming and the occasional waiving of the baton (with sweaty hair, of course) in front of an orchestra who follows the concert master is the thing required by the job, and it is so not…And, oh, by the way, it is ok not to know the repertoire? I wonder what would happen if a young medicine student were given the chance to operate in an OR without knowing about surgery, trusting that it is not important to know everything and some energy and ambition will do.
    It also made me smile to see that age of assistant conductors was used in the article as proof of the profession getting younger. Actually, if I don’t do my maths wrong, some of the assistant conductors of these orchestras (including one mentioned in the article) and many others are almost a decade older than the titular maestros, and that should mean something about PR vs experience.

    • If a tough old pro like myself can get excited by the musicianship of a conductor in rehearsal and concert, then I know that we ( Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich ) are onto a winner.
      Lionel Bringuier’s appointment had nothing to do with pushy concert agents and everything to do with player power. I am looking forward to working with our new Chief Conductor from 2014.
      I wonder how much experience Messers Realist and Boezio have of orchestral life at the sharp end, i.e as professional orchestral musicians and perhaps they should hold fire a little when it comes to sweeping generalisations.

      • Excuse-me Mr. Green
        I’m holding fire. At this point do not worth to swim against the tide. However, I really think that there is nothing different than the actual regular tendency over Briguier choice. In most ways, due to the reason Realist said.
        My experience? Many decades as a loyal menber of the audience. Does it worth? Many times I think Musicians, Conductor and Managers would be very joyfully without our presence in the hall, since always “The experience” of been on the other side of the stage is called as essential to provide any opinion. Mr. Green, What is your experience as politician or on politics? So, why do you have your opinion about it and after every election? Don’t you? What would you think about a politician that says to you: “Your opinion against the winner of the election does not worth, because you don’t have strong experience on this matter (As I Have!)”?
        Let’s shut up, dear audience members. We are a bunch of ignorant.

    • Worth pointing out that a). since at least the time of Gustav Mahler (first professional conducting position at age 20; MD in Leipzig at 26) , conductors have assumed leadership of major organisations in their 20s. There’s nothing new or unusual about youthful appointments; and b). that the Halle’s Assistant Conductor position (like similar posts with other orchestras) is a trainee post designed specifically to help a student conductor learn their craft.

      And “amen” to David’s comment. Yes – talented, enthusiastic young conductors who have the energy, charisma and commitment required to build relationships with an audience, to excite newcomers and to do all the extra-musical legwork required to help a large musical organisation build a future for itself, are always going to be popular appointments. Musicians (and audiences) who are more concerned with taking a living artform forward than with curating the dusty relics of a largely imagined “grand tradition” understand this instinctively – and respond with enthusiasm.

    • Boezio says: I find it sad not to read Ed Gardner name in the list, especially after the MET slashing. Funny how these people are ready to take lack of ensemble and rushed tempos from Dudamel or anyone ‘exotic’ enough, but are very ready to be mean with someone who is doing all the right things and is bringing results working from the bottom to the top and not viceversa.

      The thing is, it wasn’t the job of the critics reviewing the Met’s Don Giovanni to congratulate Edward Gardner for his success at English National Opera “doing all the right things and … bringing results working from the bottom to the top and not viceversa.” That would be the job of a journalist writing a profile of Gardner or an article on the current state of things at ENO (assuming that said journalist agreed that Gardner is doing a good job – as most observers seem to agree).

      It’s the job of those critics reviewing the Met’s Don Giovanni to report on the performance at hand; it seems that, according to many (though not all) observers, Gardner had an off night. That’s what the reviewers reported.

      I’m not worried – I’ve been hearing and reading many good reports of Edward Gardner for some time, and I’m quite confident that his career can survive an off night or two at one opera house.

      • Someone missed my point. I believe music critics should point more often at careers like Ed Gardner’s as serious examples of music making and solid reputation building, when writing about the young professional in the field.
        I stated I was worried that someone as Ed Gardner is not considered in an article about young conductors just because he is not PC enough or young enough (!!!) or exotic or “whatever enough” and just happens to be a great musician who does his job and inspires many other excellent musicians to do the same.
        Since I was not at the MET for that particular Don Giovanni performance I cannot express a point of view on that, but my general point remains.

        • Boezio wrote: “Someone missed my point. I believe music critics should point more often at careers like Ed Gardner’s as serious examples of music making and solid reputation building, when writing about the young professional in the field.”

          Ah – so you were referring to the article in Standpoint, not to the reviews of Gardner’s conducting of the Met’s Don Giovanni.

          More generally, music critics have certainly pointed to Gardner’s successes at ENO. For instance, I’ve never heard his work in person (only via BBC Radio 3 Online), but I’ve been very much aware of how highly his audiences, critics and fellow artists regard him.

  3. For those who understand French, the Radio francophones publiques just produced a special radio/web series on this topic, Suivez le chef! , with Lionel Bringuier, Ludovic Morlot, Philippe Jordan and Yannick Nezet Séguin, plus other guests (author and critic Christian Merlin, administrators, DGG producer…). Five one-hour programs which will all be online for listening on demand as of Dec. 5th at this address
    If you don’t listen to the series, please take a look at Yannick Nezet-Seguin’s conducting gesture in the En mouvement section… quite cool!!!!
    No doubt that these very talented young artists have to redefine their function today, and that they are part of the survival of the orchestras! I felt very privileged to host this series!

    • That looks like an interesting series and I will try to listen to it even though I don’t understand French very well. But for some reason, I have no problem understanding the lady giving the introduction to the first episode – that’s you, right?

      The pictures are kind of interesting but it doesn’t really matter how “cool” a conductor looks in still pictures. It matters how he interacts with the orchestra. It also matters if he actually has something to “say” about the music, but of course, that is very hard to define. By “something to say” I mean that in a musical sense, although it does make me a little suspicious when I read what a conductor has to say about music and it turns out to be a lot of hollow babbling, like the following:

      which includes highlights like

      “However the music is very beautiful and this movement contains one of the most famous solos–the hunting horn passage written for trumpet”

      (well, it’s not a “hunting horn passage”, nor is it a trumpet)


      “Mahler sought inspiration in German philosophy, according to which the human rite of passage occurs at night.”

      (really? I don’t think he has much if any clue what “German philosophy” in general nor what Nietzsche in particular is about)

      “The strings are muted throughout the movement, and much of the score is given to violas, cellos, and double basses, playing sombre chords in striking contrast to the oboe.”

      (well, no, the strings are not muted throughout, and in fact there is quite a bit of high string writing in that movement – has he studied the score, even superficially?)

      and then he has a lot of really deep things to say about the 5th movement which is actually the 6th. The article concludes with recommendations for Walter and Klemperer – which don’t exist.

      Now, I am not saying that a conductor needs to have a lot of really smart things to verbally say about the music he conducts. It is very hard to talk about music, and some people are less good at that than others, which has nothing to do with their musical talents and understanding. But it makes me take notice if someone apparently has so little in-depth knowledge of the music he then happily proceeds to “conduct”. And we aren’t talking about a small irrelevant piece here – we are talking about the longest symphony in the common repertoire.

      • “The article concludes with recommendations for Walter and Klemperer – which don’t exist.”

        I meant “for recordings of Walter and Klemperer – which don’t exist”. Correct me if I am wrong.

      • “Hunting horn” has been badly translated from the French original (“cor de postillon”). But the Walter/Klemperer recommendation is puzzling. Was he referring to their recordings in general? Anyway, the article is ten years old…

        • You are correct – I found the French original and it says indeed “cor de postillon” but it also says “écrit pour la trompette”. Well, no, it’s écrit pour le posthorn. That’s not the same instrument and the cultural references encoded in that choice of instrument seem to complete elude him. But, OK, let’s not nitpick!

          You are also right in that the article was written ten years ago. Which kind of makes it worse in my book. It’s not like I think these works are holy cows which only anointed old priests are allowed to slaughter. But there are some conductors who look at scores like this one and they think there is a lot they have to understand about the music before they can do it justice and deliver a really satisfying performance, and then there are some who apparently think they are the greatest already so they can do anything. Nézet-Séguin often cites Giulini as one of his most important influences but he seems to have overlooked that Giulini felt it was of utmost important not to tackle works before he had them fully internalized and allowed his view of them to be matured.

          I remember a time when a performance of a Mahler symphony was an event, not a box some young supertalent has to check off.

          I think the reference to Walter and Klemperer is just more name-dropping.

  4. Zubin Mehta was music director of the Montreal Symphony at 24 and the Los Angeles Philharmonic at 26. So much for Zurich “breaking all records” by hiring a 26 year old.

    • Mozart wrote operas in his late teens, should I expect my 14 year old neighbor’s son dropping me a Finta Semplice-like opera any day soon? exceptions ma confirm a rule, but a general rule remains.
      Enjoy and make music with a young heart, lead with an experienced arm.
      May I also mention that hiring someone young in a secondary orchestra (I am talking about world-renowned ensembles, no offence intended) in the Seventies or Eighties is not the same as hiring someone today at the head of a first-rate and exposed orchestra? with internet, streaming and media today, comparisons are beyond ridiculous.

  5. Thank you for capturing and sharing this trend. I am passionate about symphony orchestras and classical music and excited about this movement toward more contemporary relevance as you have described in your article. I am currently researching Millennial generation engagement in symphony orchestra and classical music performance for my master’s project!

    You mention several maestros contributing to this revolution abroad, but I wonder what other examples exist in the U.S. besides Dudamel. Also, do you know of any maestras among this trend?


    - Catherine

    • Hi Catherine
      Apart from Dude, I can’t think of another in the US, where orchs are risk-averse.
      best, N

      • richard hertz says:

        yes yes orchestras are so much more progressive and riskier in other places. like germany with their sexism and most of asia with byzantine operating procedures.

    • What is “Millennial generation engagement”?
      Getting the thousand year olds engaged? ;)

  6. “Look around and you will find that conductors are getting younger, day by day. ” But is there any statistic evidence?

  7. It’s true that young conductors have been hired, from time to time, as long as there have been orchestras. But I think the reasons for doing so are different today. Today, it’s part of a generalized trend to update the image of classical music. This could be a bad thing — except, fortunately, there’s some excellent young talent out there, ready and willing to step up. Now is the right time for a changing of the guard …

  8. It's That Steve Again (ITSA) says:

    Briefly, as I’m about to run out of available time: I think that in part, perhaps largely (I don’t know – needs further study) the explanations pertaining what we’re seeing here are to be found in marketing and sociology.

    I think they are part of broader socio-economic shifts we are observing society-wide, which includes the heavy focus on young entertainers, such as we see in the various “reality”/talent shows. Thought I’d plant this thought for follow-up by me and/or others.

  9. Two of our most eminent conductors – Gardiner and Rattle – started in their early twenties. And don’t forget a certain Felix Mendelssohn conducted the St Matthew Passion when he was twenty. If he had waited for his ‘maturity’ he would have died before he reached it!

  10. Appointments may simply reflect the financial stringencies of the time

  11. I think it has to be kept in mind that while there have always been conductors whose work gained attention and who achieved distinguished positions at a fairly young age, in previous generations most of these came out of a system were they started coaching singers, rehearsing choirs, conducting offstage bands, maybe taking over a repertoire performance here and there, and all that under the very demanding circumstances in theaters where they had to learn and master a big repertoire and be able to work in situations where they had to be able to improvise, follow singers who have problems, fix the kind of ensemble lapses that just happen in opera performances under such conditions. So by the time they were 30, they already had many years of hardcore pro experience under their belts.
    Many of the younger conductors of today may have years of practicing in front of the mirror with a CD running, but they rarely have that kind of experience.

    On the other hand, orchestras in general have gotten drastically better, at least from a technical point of view, in the last 3 or so decades, so they often simply don’t have the kind of technical and ensemble problems anymore that require a lot of experience to fix. That may sound like a generally good thing because orchestra and conductor can go more or less directly to the actual music making, on the other hand, I feel that a lot of these young supertalents do lack the technical skills and the detail understanding of the process of music making in a large ensemble that would enable them do “get in there under the hood” and achieve results that have musical depth (whatever exactly that may mean).

    Often, it seems to me that they are just doing their thing, the orchestra provides the soundtrack to that, but there isn’t really much interaction going on. That became very clear to me when on two following days, I heard the Filarmonica della Scala in Berlin under a young supertalent from South America (sorry, I forgot his name – no, it was not Dudamel), and then the next day, the Gewandhausorchester under veteran conductor Inbal. The supertalent didn’t really conduct the orchestra. He just stood there and painted the music in the air in the kind of flowing, abbadoesque way many of them imitate these days. But there wasn’t much correlation between what he did and what the orchestra did beyond basic parameters like tempo. In the middle section of the second suite from Daphnis et Chloé, he actually conducted the flute soloist (almost an insult, that, I think), pantomiming the music while the basses, which have that recurring upbeat pizzicato which provides the cornerstones for the flute solo were left guessing exactly where those actually were. So they weren’t even looking at him. They looked at the flute soloist, trying to pizz together while allowing him the space he needed for his solo (which was excellent, BTW).
    The next day I saw Inbal doing Shostakovich 8 with the Gewandhausorchester. He didn’t act the music. He directed the orchestra. He gave them the information they needed, created a space in which they could perform the music, reacted to their playing, the substance of the sound, and finetuned the performance as it was unfolding. One doesn’t see that that often anymore these days.

    • Ghillie Forrest says:

      That would be Diego Matheuz. He is Principal Conductor at La Fenice and Principal Guest at Melbourne and in Bologna with Abbado’s Orchestra Mozart. SO he may come by his abbado-isms honestly…

    • richard hertz says:

      sure – the two people you saw prove a point about the totality of entire generations and their worth.

      yesterday was always better than today, and today will always be better than tomorrow, right?

      let’s just all give up.

      • I didn’t say this example “proves” anything. But I think it illustrated my point quite well.

        Nor did I say that “yesterday was always better”. In fact, I pointed out that the general level of orchestral playing today is much higher than it used to be, didn’t I?

        • Well said. One should also mention that some of the old maestros are not following their predecessor’s example in having the right youngsters to push.
          My point: Toscanini had Cantelli (who proved himself great even when young)
          Votto had Muti and Steiinberg (both great when young)
          Bernstein had Tilson Thomas, Mauceri and Ozawa
          Today, Abbado has Matheuz (the guy who admitted in his interviews not to know Beethoven symphonies because it gives you the bon sauvage frisson and who get losts in performances of Verdi at La Fenice) and Barenboim has Wellber (who has won the award of most booed conductor at La Scala and is half a joke among orchestral player in Europe).
          So maybe the mentors are to blame too?

          • I very dimly remember reading somewhere that Matheuz conducted an opera from memory (at La Fenice?) and got lost so someone had to bring him the score. I don’t recall the source for that though. Do you happen to have a source for the interview about Beethoven?

          • Very good memory. The opera was Rigoletto at La Fenice (a theater which had appointed him as MD the same very year of this performance…good to know that even in the official press release he was called Abbado’s pupil a hundred times, just to make it clear…). He insisted on conducting from memory (you know, as a truly great conductor, of course, as seen on TV…) and he needed to have someone bringing him the score half the way through it. He was lost.
            There are at least three prominent people in the music business who can tell you that because they were there. Of course memory lapses can happen to anyone (Karajan with Meistersingers in front of Hitler is a funny one), the problem was that his performance was all over the place, with serious problem of ensembles and clear difficulty in mastering the basics of pit-conducting.And it was not just a night off. This level of amateurish performance was there for his Traviata too, and for the televised New Years eve concert on RAI TV.The message? posing as a conductor has become the equivalent of being a conductor in these days. I have been looking for the interview which he gave in 2008 for his debut with Abbado’s orchestra in Bologna where he said more or less that he was excited to discover Beethoven’s symphonies for the first time giving his imminent debut with the orchestra. I have not found it yet, it may be just in Italian, but it’s out there somewhere.

      • Kincaidiana says:


        Wonderful observations on Matheuz and Daphnis! The spot you mention is notorious for bass ensemble – at least one major recording I can think of has a stray bass entry. Your report is terrific and you make some great points.

        Ghillie, thank you for identifying the conductor. Our orchestra will have Matheuz as a guest conductor
        soon and it’s interesting to know a bit about him.

        • Yes, Ghillie was correct – it was indeed Matheuz who I saw with the Filarmonica della Scala. Or maybe not *with* them, but he was there on the podium, too…so good luck with that!

          I didn’t choose those examples because Inbal is old and therefore good and Matheuz is young and therefore bad. It was just so striking to see them both in action on consecutive days.
          The example I gave with the flute solo in Daphnis was just one of many very obvious ones. They also did Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto (with Znaider). You know the place in the finale where the soloist has a short quasi recitativo moment then he takes off with the strings all playing offbeats – that didn’t work out at all because of lack of useful input from the conductor. Znaider turned around and played to the orchestra and got things organized that way (he is also a conductor, BTW). Less obvious but perhaps more significant to me was that the first piece, Liadov’s Enchanted Lake, didn’t happen at all. That’s a pretty tricky piece with not much of a melodic surface to shape or pose to. It’s all just subtle shifts of harmonies and colors. The performance was a mess, just an uncontrolled muddy stream of sound. It is in such places that the orchestra needs a really competent conductor to to balance the textures and bring out the elements on which the musical development hinges. That didn’t happen at all.

          • A brilliant post, it really makes one hope for the future of music when you realize there are people out there who can tell the difference.
            Now, Mr Lebrecht, when are you going to give exposure on your website to this travesties of conductors who are given important position of music director around the world? One should expect at least from you not to shy away from revealing an inconvenient truth and say that the Emperor is naked.

          • richard hertz says:

            you absolutely did choose the conductors on the basis of age to make a point.

          • richard hertz says:
            December 3, 2012 at 11:44 pm

            “you absolutely did choose the conductors on the basis of age to make a point.”

            Well – duuuuh! Of course I chose one very experienced and one little experienced conductor to illustrate my point. However, I didn’t just say this guy is young therefore he automatically is less good than the older guy who automatically is much better. I explained exactly *why* I thought that, and the many responses I got demonstrate that that also came across to people who know a little bit about music making themselves. It may not have made much sense to you, but I can’t help that.
            Do you have something to contribute to the thread other than sniping in from the sideline?

    • Excellent post Michael!

      • Thanks. I guess my main point is that the balance between orchestra and conductor or just the relationship in general between them has shifted quite a bit in past decades. Orchestras have a much higher general level of playing today than even 30 or so years ago. There have always been highly distinguished orchestras but the number of orchestras which can deliver very competent and technically polished performances of even the most difficult repertoire today is much greater than it used to be.
        Orchestral musicians, with the few exceptions of those highly distinguished ensembles, used to be tools for conductors who they commanded to do their every bidding. They used to execute the will of the almighty conductor, not necessarily play music.
        With the general level of technical expertise and training so much higher these days, many orchestras are more like big chamber ensembles with a lot of highly qualified musicians in them, so the relationship between conductor and orchestra has become more that of a partnership. A conductor can expect to encounter more musicians who have a lot of their own input to offer, so while the purely technical skills of the modern conductor may not be as critical as they used to be, with orchestras able to autopilot through almost everything anyway, the situation now is that there are a lot of orchestras ready and able to react to highly nuanced input from the conductor, but on the other hand, it also means that there are a lot of performances actually running on autopilot while the young inexperienced conductors focus on striking poses in front of the orchestra.
        So we now often have a situation in which there is no real partnership between orchestra and conductor either, but not because the orchestra is merely there to execute the conductor’s will, but because the conductors often have nothing much to contribute to that partnership.
        I hope that makes at least some sense!

        • richard hertz says:

          well, that does make more sense.

          still, young conductors now have no hammerlock on striking poses to look pretty. this has always been a “thing” in the business.

        • Geoff Miles says:

          I couldn’t agree more with much of this. Just the other night we made a short YouTube survey of the early recorded history of the Berlin Phil.. Nikisch, Oskar Fried, Furtwängler. So much has.changed since those days. On a superficial level you could say that.orchestras then were less technically assured (although there is plenty of recorded evidence which one could use to dispute that). What is definitely true is that the performance focus was different. One feels that both orchestra and conductor were on a voyage of discovery – sometimes incredibly succesful, sometimes less so, but generally interesting and not what one has grown to expect. There seems to be a feeling within the industry that we need to recapture some of that essence of discovery. That is positive. However, as Michael asserts, we don’t necessarily achieve that by putting an inexperienced conductor in front of a modern orchestra within the timescale of a modern production schedule. Unlike some commentators I don’t believe this magic performance element has been lost in the mists of time. It occurs whenever a group of musicians are given the psychological space and the will to find it. How many conductors (young or old) have the force of personality to provide these elements within the context of a chock-full extended concert season, and with an administration that is simultaneously trying to drive down costs, solve ever complex production or touring logistics, secure continued funding and attempting to market on a decreasing budget? There are some extremely talented young conductors coming in to this industry, but they cannot on single-handedly solve the fundamental existential issues that our orchestras have to face.

  12. Ghillie Forrest says:

    Yannick Nezet-Seguin became MD of Philadelphia in September. At 37, he looks like a veteran: he has of course been at Rotterdam for seven years and has been Principal Guest Conductor of LPO for five. And his first MD job, with Orchestre Metropolitaine de Montreal, began in 2000 (when he was 25) and has been extended yet again.

  13. Could the anomaly lie in the contrary – that orchestras were reluctant to engage younger conductors in the recent past?

    • Interesting point, particularly given the examples listed above of conductors hired in their 20s decades ago.

  14. Norman writes in the original article:

    “The winner of the first Carlos Kleiber prize, a gifted Greek called Constantinos Carydis, responded to the overwhelming burden of expectation associated with the most perfect conductor of all time by cancelling all engagements for a year and taking an unscheduled sabbatical.”

    Isn’t cancelling exactly what one would expect from the winner of a Carlos Kleiber prize? I am not sure he got that quite eight though. He should have cancelled some engagements, and walked out of others without notice. But he is just beginning, so let’s not be too strict on him!


  15. veni vidi audi says:

    I partially share Boezio’s opinion and would like to add some of my observations regarding on how
    “young conductors change the rules”. NO! The newtworks behind them change the rules, ignoring the long established evaluation criteria which should be applied, as they are, among others, expressive insight, stage
    presence, sense of musical style, conducting technique, allure, etc.
    And, in fact, what really matters the culture of emotional communication.
    Gustavo Dudamel as a talented young man, needs some years to balance his performance between excessiveness and reflexion. But by being promoted too early and over-rated, he is exposed to the danger of missing this process. Let’s hope for the best.

    I highly recommend Tugan Sokhiev, as a conductor who went successfully through this development and
    still young, in his thirties, is at the start of a world-career. Very impressive.

    • Veni,
      I’ve attempted 3 nights at Luzern on 2010 with Sokhiev in an all-around Schumann Festival along, Argerich, Maiska and Rachlin. The concertos and Symphonies. At the beginning of this year he was with Toulouse in Brazil, 2 different programs (Mussorgsky, Ravel, Liszt, Berlioz and Debussy). I agree. He is the one that I can really see very impressive evolution without hype, hysterical reviews and hooligan supporters. I would like to see him doing contemporary music.
      Unfortunately , Sokhiev was on 2003 the youngest conductor to be MD of a well know Opera House (Welsh). He was 26, but things did not work out at all. According to the management of the house: “Had he stayed there is a danger he would have ripped the heart out of the company. There was discontent among the chorus and orchestra about his lack of experience in conducting opera. People had taken on trust his capacity to do stuff outside his native Russian repertory. But even when he did Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, a lot of people felt it wasn’t very special.”

      Will be all manager fair such in Welsh concerning a real evaluation if talent is really outweighing inexperience? I don’t think so. In the case of your quote about Dudamel, there are too much investment on him that prevent any analysis that would convey to a failure.

  16. Possibly part of the trend, Tampere Philharmonic (a 97-piece band in Finland’s second-largest city) recently appointed Santtu-Matias Rouvali, 26. He’ll start officially in autumn 2013.

    • yay!

    • Mikko Frank was 23 when he started as MD of National Orchestra of Belgium on 2002 , and 25-year-old at the helm of Finnish National Opera. It was 10 years ago. He will be both artistic Director of the Opera and General Music Director at the Finnish National Opera, until 31 July 2013. No news from Finland regarding Rouvali.

  17. We need MarK to weigh in his view in this subject. I wonder why he hasn’t come up yet in this discussion….(too busy negotiating more Music Director posts?)

  18. Hi all,

    Well, I’m new to the artist management business, though I could stand accused of supporting young artists in my days as editor of Gramophone. But I felt it was important to let young talent be heard, and some of those whom we did support have gone on to illustrious careers, not least Messrs Dudamel, Ticciati, V.Petrenko etc. That doesn’t just go for conductors, of course. Benjamin Grosvenor was signed by Decca after a great write-up in Gramo.

    My view is, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Andrew Litton reminded me recently, when I pointed out that during my formative years in Bournemouth he was conducting many of my first Mahler symphonies etc, that they were his first too, as a conductor. He was 27 when he got that job and a very good fist he made of it too! It comes down to what is right for the artist as an artist. There is one young conductor I’m working with quietly now, he wants to finish his studies and I support that wholeheartedly so haven’t even put his name on mycompany’s website. In the meantime I’m mentioning him to a few people so that when he’s ready, he will have a few connections to draw on and get his voice heard, as it were. Maybe he won’t feel ready until he’s 30, others might feel ready at 26. It’s when the issue is forced for whatever reason that there are problems.

    Some of you had a go at agents – I can’t speak for other managers but anyway this is my philosophy when it comes ot this, and that’s how I work. But as I say, i’m new to this side of the business…!

    All the best,

  19. You are half right Pierre: yes – i am very busy these days, but no – definitely not with negotiating. You “need” me, really? That’s very touching, but i think you are doing beautifully here without me. In his article, NL made several good points. There are a few valid observations in some of the comments too, but unfortunately it takes quite a sizable amount of time and effort to find those pearls of wisdom in the midst of all the silly blather that is so prevalent around here.
    Responding to every little nonsensical pronouncement is not among my top priorities right now. Making music together with very good musicians – regardless of their ages – is much more interesting for me at the moment and rewarding too. If and when i have more free time on my hands, i may choose to elaborate a little on the subject of this post, but i doubt that it will happen any time soon, so don’t hold your breath. And by the way, i represent, and speak for, no one but myself.

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