MUSICAL CHAIRS - Orchestra Music Directors

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New York Philharmonic
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New York Philharmonic

  • POWER-SHARING: Lorin Maazel’s appointment as the new music director at the New York Philharmonic came with the broad approval of the orchestra’s players. Such consensus and power-sharing is becoming increasingly common in the classical music world. "The shift of power in the orchestra has acquired a label that borrows from the jargon of grass-roots organizing: musician empowerment." New York Times 2/06/01 (one-time registration required for access)
  • THE MAESTRO SPEAKS: Meeting with the New York press for the first time since his appointment to the helm of the NY Phil, Lorin Maazel was pleasant, spoke no ill of the critics who have labelled his selection "appalling," and announced his intention to rally Big Apple audiences to the side of new music. New York Post 02/06/01
  • A CURIOUS CHOICE? Lorin Maazel has been widely despised by the musicians of orchestras he has led. And he's old. So why did the New York Philharmonic settle on naming him the orchestra's new music director? "Some critics will contend that only a man of Mr. Maazel’s experience would be able to keep a firm grip on the Philharmonic. There really isn’t anybody else out there. The idea of young conductors at the Philharmonic is absurd. These people don’t have the experience; the Philharmonic is not an easy orchestra." New York Observer 01/30/01
  • WE REMEMBER HIM WELL: So Maazel's old. So he doesn't play well with others. Three decades ago he put his stamp on the Cleveland Orchestra and you can still hear traces of his influence today, says a Cleveland critic. Cleveland Plain Dealer, 01/31/01
  • STICK TO CONDUCTING? Conductor Lorin Maazel picks up his violin for a concert in London. How'd it go? "He was almost boring. As the movement wore on, the 'almost' vanished. He was boring. He even looked it: feet and body scarcely moving, violin held stiffly beneath that leonine head. Even with Yefim Bronfman’s magic fingers, so alert to the piano part’s textures and counter rhythms, the music’s song was sinking fast. Then in the adagio it disappeared, drowned under the maestro’s lugubrious, uninflected line." The Times (London) 01/31/01
  • MAAZEL'S MONOTONY: Maazel does have credentials. "Should Philadelphia [which recently named Christoph Eschenbach its music director] be envious? Not on any level. Might it be fair to say that it's a bad week for New York, which lost the Super Bowl on Sunday and gained Lorin Maazel on Monday?" Philadelphia Inquirer 01/31/01
  • BUYING AMERICAN? Lorin Maazel is the first American composer since Leonard Bernstein to be in charge of the New York Philharmonic. But the 70-year-old Maazel has spent much of his career in Europe, and some insist his style is more European than American. The New York Times 01/31/01 (one-time registration required for access)
  • SO MUCH FOR ALL THOSE DENIALS... Two weeks ago the New York Philharmonic vehemently denied Tim Page's Washington Post story that the orchestra would hire Lorin Maazel as its next music director. Yesterday the Phil officially ended its three-year search and tabbed Maazel as Kurt Masur’s replacement, effective late next year. Washington Post 01/30/01
  • SOLID CHOICE: "Although critics have differed on whether he possesses qualities like warmth and communicativeness, there is no doubting his command of the central repertory with which the Philharmonic's audiences are most comfortable." New York Times 1/30/01 (one-time registration required for access)
  • THE WRONG AGE? Is Lorin Maazel the right conductor at the wrong age to be the NY Philharmonic's new music director? "The Philharmonic's board know that the time has come for a fresh start, for someone who can reach new audiences and broaden the orchestra's repertory, especially in contemporary music. Mr. Maazel is 70, a traditionalist with an imperious manner that seeps into his music making. Does he represent the change the Philharmonic has been saying it wants?" The New York Times 01/29/01 (one-time registration required for access)
  • SOUNDS LIKE A DEAL So does Lorin Maazel have the job as the next music director of the New York Philharmonic? Says Maazel: "The problem with saying no comment is that no comment is a comment in itself. I really have nothing I can say, other than I had not conducted the orchestra for a quarter of a century and I was very impressed, both by the quality of the orchestra and the whole atmosphere. I really enjoyed it. Whoever becomes music director will have a very wonderful orchestra." The Guardian (London) 01/26/01
  • PONDERING A MAAZEL NY PHIL: There has been a bias on the part of American orchestras against American conductors. Maybe a Lorin Maazel appointment to head the New York Philharmonic will be a wakeup? The job is likely only to be interim given Maazel's age (70). Chicago Tribune 01/21/01
  • MAAZEL IN NEW YORK: The fever of speculation this week about whether Lorin Maazel would be appointed music director of the New York Philharmonic is accompanied by an interesting coincidence. Maazel was scheduled for two concerts in the Big Apple - conducting the Israel Philharmonic and playing violin in a Brahms concert. So how'd he do? New York Times 01/18/01 (one-time registration required for access)
  • STILL A WAY'S OFF: So this week's Washington Post story saying Maazel would be offered the NY Phil job is being denied by the orchestra. But when would a music director be named? Orchestra manager Zarin Mehta said there might not be an announcement for "weeks or even months." Washington Post 01/18/01
  • DENYING THE MAAZEL STORY: The Washington Post reported that Lorin Maazel will be named music director of the New York Philharmonic. But is it true? The Philharmonic denies it. Backing off yesterday’s announcement that Lorin Maazel will succeed Kurt Masur, the New York Philharmonic publicly stated today that no decision has yet been made and the search for a music director remains open. "It's absolutely not the case. No one is close to being selected." New York Times 1/17/01 (one-time registration required for access)
  • NY PHIL TO NAME MAAZEL: After an arduous three-year search, the NY Philharmonic is set to name Lorin Maazel as its new music director. "Details of the three-year arrangement were still under discussion. Because Maazel is one of the busiest - and highest-paid - guest conductors in the world, it is likely that he will be available only for a limited time for at least his first season and possibly through his entire tenure." Washington Post 01/16/01
  • A LITTLE APPRECIATION As Kurt Masur nears the end of his tenure as music director of the New York Philharmonic, the orchestra has announced its upcoming season will be devoted largely to celebrating his 11 years at the podium. The schedule includes the release of a CD set drawn from his live broadcast performances; a retrospective book; and a three-week season finale, which the orchestra is calling "Thank You, Kurt Masur." New York Times 01/05/01 (one-time registration required for access)
  • NEW YORK PHIL HELD HOSTAGE - DAY 486: The New York Philhamonic search for a new music director drags on - indeed, the orchestra seems further away from making a decision than it was a few months ago. "I think everybody would like to get the thing over and done with. But at the same time there is a very strong sense that we have to do it right. And there are different ideas of what `doing it right' is." New York Times 12/27/00 (one-time registration required for access)

  • THE BEAUTY PAGEANT CONTINUES: Continuing the recent public auditions for the next music director of the New York Philharmonic, Christophe Eschenbach stepped in for the ailing Kurt Masur this week. How'd he do? New York Times 11/11/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

  • THE NY PHIL SWEEPSTAKES: The name-the-next-New-York-Philharmonic-music-director game continues. Peter G. Davis takes a look at the contenders. "I wouldn't count out anything in this latest crazy round of musical chairs. When I left Barenboim's hotel suite, who should be ushered in, with a hungry look in his eye, but Zarin Mehta?" New York Magazine 10/02/00

  • THE STAR ORCHESTRA ADMINISTRATOR: The New York Philharmonic lost out on its bid to hire Riccardo Muti as its next music director. But Zarin Mehta, the orchestra's new top executive has some important orchestra-building of his own he'd like to accomplish. The New York Times 09/17/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

  • WHO WILL LEAD US: A few months ago there was a lot of hoping that Riccardo Muti might be persuaded to be the next music director of the New York Philharmonic. Here's one critic who's quite glad he didn't get the job. New York Times 08/20/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

Boston Symphony Orchestra

  • OPEN SELECTION: In the old days, music directors of American symphony orchestras were chosen amid secrecy and in consultation with only a select few insiders. No more. "It would be virtually impossible today for a major orchestra to name a music director who had not previously appeared as a guest conductor and survived the evaluating scrutiny of the players." Boston Globe 02/11/01
  • LEVINE TRYOUT? Now that the orchestras of New York and Philadelphia have settled on their new music directors, eyes turn to Boston, where James Levine is rumored to be the top candidate. Levine conducted in Boston this week in what is being considered in some quarters as a tryout. Levine got a warm reception... Boston Globe 02/03/01
  • TALKING THE TALK: Boston Symphony management has been talking with Levine about the job. "But they said that considering the range of difficult issues to be resolved, including orchestra work rule changes sought by Mr. Levine, the talks could continue through this year or even into 2002." The New York Times 02/03/01 (one-time registration required for access)
  • WAITING FOR LEVINE: The speculation surrounding the possible appointment of James Levine to the Boston Symphony Orchestra music directorship will reach a fever pitch this week when the man himself comes to town to conduct Mahler's Third. The BSO is far too venerable and aristocratic to ever be declared "in crisis," but it has suffered artistically in the last fifteen years, and many see Levine not just as a replacement for Seiji Ozawa, but as a potential savior. Boston Globe, 01/28/01

Royal Opera House

  • NEW OPERA HOUSE DIRECTOR CONFIRMED: Ending weeks of speculation, Tony Hall has been confirmed as the new executive director of the Royal Opera House. Hall will leave his position as BBC news director to replace Michael Kaiser, who left ROH in December to head Washington’s Kennedy Center. BBC 1/11/01

  • PROCEED WITH CAUTION: Hall will certainly have his work cut out for him. The Royal Opera House has gone through five executive directors in as many years, and the pressures, hurdles, and media scrutiny are sure to be intense. "The job is the definitive bucket of warm piss, as Lyndon Johnson once described the post of American vice-president, and anyone who takes it on can expect to fail." The Independent (London) 1/12/01
  • WHAT’S IT WORTH? Hall’s new salary has already become a matter of great contention, amid speculation that he negotiated the largest salary in Britain’s entire subsidized arts sector. "If he has secured a package close to his BBC salary, it is likely to cause anger in the arts." The Telegraph (London) 1/12/01
  • DIVA-PREPAREDNESS TRAINING? Is Hall, who’s spent his entire career at BBC News, prepared for the eccentricities of a performing arts organization? "In the next few weeks he will have to master ballet and opera repertory and prominent personalities, remember the technical names for bits of machinery, and learn how to deal with artistic temperaments." The Telegraph (London) 1/12/01
  • PEOPLE’S OPERA: Hall has been urged by the ROH Board to "focus on openness and accessibility," an acknowledgment of the continuing criticism of the Royal Opera as overpriced and elitist. The house became the subject of intense political debate over whether public money - in this case, a $125 million grant from national lottery profits toward the lavish refurbishment of its 1858 horseshoe-shaped auditorium - should be spent on such a project." New York Times 1/12/01 (one-time registration required for access)
  • AN IMPOSSIBLE JOB: Why would anyone want the job of running London's Royal Opera House? The place has run through five directors in as many years. The board is feisty and meddlesome, and the public isn't so well disposed towards the company. "What that leaves for the ROH chief executive is little more than shuffling schedules and making sure the floors are swept. Most people who want to run an opera house do so with a view to having some influence on what happens on stage - inserting a fancied singer here, a favourite ballet there." The Telegraph (London) 11/22/00

  • A COUPLE OF BIG JOBS: Britain's top two opera company jobs are currently up for grabs. The post of executive director at the Royal Opera House is giving headhunters fits since it's such an impossible job. Meanwhile, the top job at smooth-as-silk Glyndebourne came open this week. The Guardian (London) 11/10/00

  • SHORTLIST: The leading candidates to be the Royal Opera House's next director... The Times (London) 11/07/00

London Philharmonic

  • PUZZLING WELCOME: The London Philharmonic held a day-long celebration to welcome Kurt Masur, the orchestra's new principal conductor. But the performance roster was a multi-cultural stew that had virtually nothing to do with Masur's esthetic. "What on earth is the poor man being welcomed to? An orchestra or an agenda? A concert series suited to his musical character, or a musical re-creation of the Millennium Dome?" Sunday Times (London) 09/24/00

  • TRYOUTS: Kurt Masur withdraws from two weeks of subscription concerts with the New York Philharmonic, citing health reasons. No big deal, but the orchestra's choices to replace him happen to be two conductors rumored to be in the chase to succeed Masur as the NYPhil's next music director. New York Times 09/22/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

  • KURT MASUR'S PHILOSOPHY OF MUSIC: Masur directs his first concert as principal conductor of the London Philharmonic on Saturday. “Listening to the greatest music is equivalent to what a Buddhist monk is doing if he meditates for hours, independent from the surrounding world. I would like to bring people to a point where they feel that they need to go to a symphony concert, just as a Christian needs to go to church." The Telegraph (London) 09/14/00

  • MAESTRO VS ORCHESTRA: This weekend Kurt Masur takes up his new post as principal conductor of the London Philharmonic. The relationship between the traditionalist maestro and the experimenting and pragmatic LPO could generate sparks. Good thing. Perhaps "the bizarre, almost century-long seclusion of orchestras from the real energies of cultural life is coming to an end. The orchestra is about to become interesting, a place of argument and contestation, just as it was in the Romantic era." The Times (London) 09/12/00


Pittsburgh Symphony

  • JANSONS STAYING PUT: That sigh of relief you hear is from Pittsburgh. After months of speculation that he would leave the PSO for a more high-profile job elsewhere, music director Mariss Jansons has reaffirmed his commitment to the Steel City. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 02/13/01

  • JANSONS TAKES NEW ORCHESTRA: Mariss Jansons, music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony, and often mentioned as a leading candidate to take over the New York Philharmonic, has agreed to become music director of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, one of the top ensembles in the world and currently led by his Pittsburgh predecessor, Lorin Maazel. The appointment does not rule him out of the NY Phil job should it be offered. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 01/13/01

  • A NY PHIL AUDITION: Pittsburghers love Pittsburgh Symphony music director Mariss Jansons so much they've been on a letter-writing campaign to try to convince him to stay, after his name popped up as a candidate to be the New York Philharmonic's next music director. This week Jansons conducted the New York Phil, and everyone was there to check him out. New York Times 11/02/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • A LITTLE SHOW OF AFFECTION NEVER HURTS: The Pittsburgh Symphony is alarmed that its music director Mariss Jansons has been mentioned often as a possible candidate to run the New York Philharmonic. So the orchestra has contacted orchestra supporters and asked them to write to Jansons and ask him to remain. "We believe the Pittsburgh community has to show Mariss its affection to balance the only reason he'd go to New York, which is prestige. Artistically, New York is no better than the PSO." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 10/19/00

Philadelphia Orchestra

  • PHILADELPHIA ORCHESTRA'S NEW MUSIC DIRECTOR: After a long search, the Philadelphia Orchestra has chosen Christophe Eschenbach as its new music director. "Mr. Eschenbach, 60, music director and chief conductor of the NDR Symphony Orchestra Hamburg since 1998 and music director of the Orchestre de Paris since September." The New York Times 01/09/01 (one-time registration required for access)

  • NEW PHILADELPHIA MUSIC DIRECTOR? There are signs that the Philadelphia Orchestra's long search for a new music director might soon be over. Recent contenders? "Many members of the orchestra would love James Levine to be named. Occasional guest conductor Christoph Eschenbach is now on the lips of informed pundits. There's the possibility that Vladimir Ashkenazy, who will guest conduct later this season, could be a dark horse. Likewise for Neeme Järvi. Then there are names discussed in months past, but not lately: Christian Thielemann and Riccardo Chailly." Philadelphia Inquirer 10/01/00

General Interest

  • 34 CONDUCTORS FOR ONE: Toronto Symphony music director Jukka-Pekka Saraste leaves the orchestra at the end of this season. But the orchestra will not immediately replace him. Instead, 34 conductors will fill out the 2001/02 season. The orchestra's director says "it would be wrong for the symphony to make a quick decision about replacing Saraste." CBC 02/10/01

  • PLAYING IT SAFE: Three American orchestras are about to inherit new maestros, after complicated two-year searches for quality leadership. Christoph Eschenbach goes to Philadelphia; Lorin Maazel may (or may not) take New York; and James Levine is likely to head to Boston. Yet, is anyone really enthused about these appointments, each a relatively "safe" foray into the past rather than a daring look ahead? "America may have the mightiest orchestras in the world, but its concert life may soon become duller than Belgium's."The Telegraph (London) 1/17/01

  • LOOKING FOR LEADERS: Sydney's two largest professional orchestras are embarking on an international headhunt for new music directors, after the announcement that John Harding is leaving his post at the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. The Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra has been without a permanent concertmaster for more than two years. Sydney Morning Herald 1/16/01

  • ST. PAUL'S NEW DIRECTOR: The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra has named Andreas Delfs, 41, as its new music director. Delf is also the music director of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and will retain that post. New York Times 10/24/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • HANDICAPPING THE MUSIC DIRECTOR SWEEPSTAKES: The "Court of Musical Euphemisms and Factual Economies" is now in session. Sorting out the twists and turns of choosing music directors for America's major orchestras is a mysterious game. "For reasons I have never fathomed, US coverage of serious music seldom delves below the veneer of stability and tends to reiterate every last euphemism and half-truth without so much as a cocked eyebrow. Such complacency nurtures a system rich in abuses and absurdities." The Telegraph (London) 10/04/00







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