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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

OPB: Off-Podium Betting

With Alan Gilbert's exit, who will lead the New York Philharmonic?
by Paul J. Pelkonen
A giant question mark exists at the New York Philharmonic.
Photo by Chris Lee © New York Philharmonic.
Photo alteration by the author.
The decision of New York Philharmonic music director Alan Gilbert to resign his post last week (effective 2017) has rocked the classical music world. The orchestra is facing a huge debt, the prospect of moving out of Avery Fisher Hall in 2019 and 2020 as the building is updated and renovated, and upcoming contract negotiations. Key positions including principal trumpet and concertmaster need to be replaced. Let's not even get into the issue of audiences aging out and their reluctance toward the inclusion of any music newer than Brahms.


The Philharmonic may not be looking for an immediate long-term replacement. Other orchestras have gone the route of hiring an interim maestro to step in and shepherd the ensemble through its transition, often because the desired candidate may not be available immediately. This has happened recently in Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago and shows signs of being the new way the music industry does business in the 21st century.


With all that in mind, here is a look at ten "super" conductors and our predictions (generated using this sophisticated means) of the odds on whether or not they'll take one of the most visible jobs in the music business. We're going in alphabetical order, and would remind our readers, colleagues (and our friends at the New York Philharmonic) that this list is nothing more than speculation.

Marin Alsop
Who? Trailblazing American conductor currently leading the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Plus: Eminently qualified conductor with a wide array of skills.
Minus: There's never been a female music director of the New York Philharmonic.
Odds: 40-1

Gustavo Dudamel
Who? Venezuelan firebrand, referred to in the business as "the Dude."
Plus: Good at Mahler, among other things. Young and glamorous with an international reputation.
Minus: May not want to leave Los Angeles and its plush Disney Hall.
Odds: 75-1.

Valery Gergiev
Who? Music director of the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg. Stepping down at the London Symphony Orchestra.
Plus: Versatile and exciting on the podium. Frequent visitor to New York.
Minus: Performances draw crowds of political protestors against his connection to Russian strongman Vladimir Putin.
Odds: 150-1

Gianandrea Noseda
Who? Fiery Italian opera conductor currently at the Teatro Regio Torino.
Plus:  Has made a splash in New York leading arge-scale opera and choral works like Borodin's Prince Igor and Rossini's Stabat mater.
Minus: No experience with the Philharmonic.
Odds: 15-1

Sir Simon Rattle
Who? Outgoing maestro of the Berlin Philharmonic. Next year starting a two-year Perspectives series at Carnegie Hall.
Plus: Versatility, long reputation and an international household name.
Minus: May take the job with the London Symphony Orchestra.
Odds: 20-1.

David Robertson
Who? A genial master of modern music. Currently leads the St. Louis Symphony and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
Plus: Great at new music, embracing the modern style and engaging an audience.
Minus: Lost the job last time to Alan Gilbert.
Odds: 7-1

Esa-Pekka Salonen
Who? Finnish composer-conductor in the tradition of Bernstein and Boulez. Currently at the Philharmonia Orchestra in London.
Plus: New Philharmonic composer-in-residence for 2015. A forum for his music to be heard.
Minus: Has said that he would rather compose than conduct and administrate. Still he'd be an ideal transitory conductor.
Odds: 10-1

Robert Spano
Who? Currently at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and formerly of the Brooklyn Philharmonic.
Plus: Good at a lot of things including choral music. From New York.
Minus: Not a household name outside Atlanta.
Odds: 30-1

Jaap van Zweden
Who? Dutch conductor and a regular guest in New York. Currently leading the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.
Plus: Fiery interpretations of Shostakovich and Mahler. Shows great synchronicity with the orchestra from the podium.
Minus: Feuded with musicians in Dallas.
Odds: 5-1

David Zinman
Who? American conductor and a New York native. Former music director of the Tonhalle Orchester Zurich.
Plus: Text-authentic Beethoven and Mahler. Regular guest in New York.
Minus: Belongs to the older generation of conductors.
Odds: 50-1

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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.