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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Dude Continues to Abide

An update on the current conducting carousel.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Looking California: Gustavo Dudamel has signed an extension in the City of Angels.
Photo of the conductor courtesy Universal Music Group.
Elements of movie poster for To Live and Die in L.A. © 1985 New Century Productions.

According to a report in Musical America and the New York Times today, conductor Gustavo Dudamel has deepened his relationship with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The dynamic Venezuelan conductor has changed his title with that orchestra to Artistic Director and signed a new contract extending his tenure with the orchestra through 2022.

This tightening of Mr. Dudamel' bonds with Los Angeles comes at a time of transition in the classical world. Both the Berlin Philharmonic and New York Philharmonic have vacancies in the crucial post of Music Director, fueling speculation on blogs like this one regarding who will step onto the vacant podiums of these two important institutions.

In New York, the orchestra is facing the task of replacing Alan Gilbert, who will vacate his position at the end of the 2017 season, two years before the orchestra faces a major renovation of its home at Lincoln Center. In Berlin, this elite orchestra is grappling with the task of replacing Sir Simon Rattle, who has just signed on as music director of the London Symphony Orchestra.

Recently on Superconductor, a hastily written article speculated on the possibile candidates for the New York Philharmonic vacancy. That article made a point of including Mr. Dudamel, the most glamorous of the current generation of young conductors. Mr. Dudamel shot to fame as a product of El Sistema, the Venezuelan government-sponsored music program and became an international sensation before the age of 30.

Other, more likely candidates for the New York job include Esa-Pekka Salonen, Daniel Harding, Stéphane Denève, Jaap van Zwieden and David Robertson. Here's a quick recap of the candidates for the New York job:
  • Mr. Salonen is scheduled to serve as the Phil's Composer-in-Residence next season and was seen at last week's rehearsals giving notes to the performers for his tone poem Nyx
  • Mr. Harding finally got the Philharmonic to play the completed version of Mahler's posthumous Symphony No. 10 and has drawn strong reviews for his interpretations. 
  • Mr. Denève is a dynamic French conductor with a sense of modernism in his approach. He recently made a successful debut with the Philharmonic, and he has cool hair.
  • Mr van Zwieden has had a strong connection with the New York players and has worked wonders with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. 
  • Mr. Robertson is the lone American in this quintet. He currently enjoys a strong position as leader of the acclaimed but underrated St. Louis Symphony and is a versatile and imaginative programmer and conductor.
The situation in Berlin is even murkier, with names from the younger generation of conductors (Mr. Dudamel, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Vladimir Jurowski) pitted against an older generation of 70-something stalwarts including Mariss Janssons and Daniel Barenboim (who lost the post to Mr. Rattle the last time). When the orchestra has its first (secret) vote on May 11 of this year, we'll know more.

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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats