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Why white Van man is so wrong for the New York Philharmonic

January 27, 2016 by norman lebrecht

147 comments.


Five reasons the NY Phil got the wrong man.

1 Take a look at these names: Riccardo Chailly, Antonio Pappano, Vladimir Jurowski, Kirill Petrenko, Paavo Järvi, Daniele Gatti, Andris Nelsons, Christian Thielemann, Daniel Harding. All these outstanding interpreters were considered last year (some briefly) by the Berlin Philharmonic. None was invited to audition at the New York Phil. The NY choice was made from a shortlist of three. Too short a list and with the wrong names on it.

2 Consider these names: Simone Young, Marin Alsop, Susanna Mälkki, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, Alodra de la Parra. Yes, women who are excellent  conductors. It’s 2016. Not one came into the reckoning at the redneck New York Phil. That’s half the human race written out of the orchestra’s future.

3 And let’s not begin to ask about ethnic minorities. A decade ago the NY Phil tried to poach Gustavo Dudamel from Los Angeles. That’s the closest they’ve got to departing from an all-white script in a multicultural city (unless Gilbert counts as half-Japanese)*.

4 Jaap Van Zweden’s career up to this point has been almost as modest as Alan Gilbert’s. Zweden started out at 18 as concertmaster of the Concertgebouworkest in Amsterdam. When he took up conducting in his mid-thirties, he found jobs with Dutch orchestras and stuck with them for a decade. His first international position was with Dallas, in 2008. Since then, he has added the Hong Kong Phil to his portfolio. He has not come into the reckoning with any of the major European orchestras, not even with the Concertgebouw when they were on the prowl in the last two years. He was not, in a word, a contender. Except at the NY Phil.

5 His record at Dallas – where he earns $1.5 million – has been bumpy. Players complained of being browbeaten in rehearsals. The orchestra overspent heavily on his programs, coming to within three months of insolvency. A European tour was abruptly cancelled. Van Zweden is not an easy working partner, nor always an effective one. He is also a full league below the calibre that New York expects of its music directors. This can only go bad.

van zweeden1

UPDATE: For balance, here’s a different view.

*FOOTNOTE: UPDATE: Someone say Zubin Mehta? That was half a lifetime ago (and he was the wrong choice, too).


Comments (147)

  1. Proud mama of two hapa kids says:

    Uh. All-white script? Alan Gilbert has been music director since 2009.

    1. Peter says:

      And I remember a guy named Zubin Mehta…

      1. Madelon Michel says:

        As a dutch professional musician I am very happy for the NYPhil that this distinguished conductor is getting an orchestra that fits him! I know him as an extremely good conductor who conducted the Dutch Radio Filharmonic Orchestra and did wonderful things with that orchestra! Just wait and see! And don’t judge a book by its cover, don’t judge a conductor by his name!!

  2. Observer says:

    Actually Susanna Mälkki, along with Semyon Bychkov were the 2 names put forth by the orchestra. They were up for final consideration.

    1. Tristan says:

      Bychkov would be thr right one

    2. Charles says:

      Actually Malki had a bumpy performance with Cincinnati Symphony (and the cellists were
      laughing about something) a few years ago. That is my only experience watching her conduct. I wish I had skipped that performance.

    3. Marty says:

      You have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. Your source (if there even is one) has no idea what they are talking about.

  3. Anon2 says:

    And Alondra de la Parra? Seriously???!!! Ask any orchestra she’s worked with and I think you’ll find NY was smart not to include her.

    1. Peter says:

      You are right about that.

      1. Pentapen says:

        Alondra de la Parra?!?!?!?!?! Wow how did her name even come up here? I know she is a woman, so am I but seriously Mr. Lebrecht, just because she has management does not make her a worthy conductor…

  4. Mishugina says:

    ” Riccardo Chailly, Antonio Pappano, Vladimir Jurowski, Kirill Petrenko, Paavo Järvi, Daniele Gatti, Andris Nelsons”

    Uh Norman? These candidates are already occupied with jobs. Seriously you should throw in Valery Gergiev just for fun of it.

    1. Darryl says:

      Uh, yeah but Jaap has two jobs and it isn’t stopping him.

  5. Jeffrey Biegel says:

    Tho is not a quick decision, but surely one carefully chosen. I am sure he will do very well as he is a very fine violinist in his own right. Like everything else in life, and I’ve said it before: 10-10-10.

  6. David says:

    A “modest career” started at 18 as concertmaster of the Concertgebou? Hmm. If that’s considered modest, I’m in the wrong biz.

    1. Joost Kiefte says:

      Haha, well said!

  7. Austin says:

    “That’s the closest they’ve got to departing from an all-white script in a multicultural city (unless Gilbert counts as half-Japanese).” Is this author for real?

    1. Max Grimm says:

      I think so. But lets not lambaste a preferred pastime of a cynical, anhedonic misanthrope.

  8. Edward Alley, Sarasota FL says:

    Mr. Lebrecht misses the mark more often than he hits it, as in this time. While possibly not the “ideal” choice—Bernstein, Szell, and a few others are not available at this time–I think the Philharmonic made a good choice, especially given the field of “available” conductors. this is a tough time for all orchestras, give the man a decent chance, Norman!

  9. FreddyNYC says:

    Well beggars can’t be choosers…..

  10. Jeffrey Levenson says:

    In Dallas he did hire some much needed fine fiddlers – including new CM and asst. CM.

    1. FreddyNYC says:

      Would be nice if he could bring the first two stands of the first violins over – Mr Kerr to replace Frank and Mr Levinson would have a homecoming….

      1. cherrera says:

        I hope the current NY Phil concertmaster, who is young and was just appointed, negotiated a rock solid waterproof contract, because van Zweden likes to put in his own man, and he is not shy about breaking some bows doing it.

      2. TXmusiclover says:

        Jaap was a relatively unknown quantity when he was hired in Dallas, and the orchestra sounds better than ever, under Jaap himself but also under guest conductors. Never had so many electrifying concerts in one season…year after year…every time Jaap is on the podium, you expect (and usually get) an incredible concert. His guest conducting reviews in other cities seem positive. Frankly, he has conducted in Chicago so often, I thought he would have been tapped to replace Muti. By 2020 New Yorkers will realize what a treasure they have grabbed. He will be sorely missed in Dallas….and I hope our first chairs do not follow!

  11. Dieter Hahmann says:

    A profoundly annoying lack of descent critqiue and journalism.

    Point 1: So what? Shortlist of 3, Shortlist of 10, shortlist of 50 etc. No real argument.
    Point 2: Again no real argument. They should appoint a woman just for the merry sake of it? A choice should be made based on competence not gender.
    Point 3: Irrelevant and immaterial and downright ridicilous to involve ethnicity..
    Point 4: Lebrecht clearly doesn’t know a thing about Dutch orchestra’s which are among the best in Europe.

    1. Eldar Nebolsin says:

      Bravo, well said…

    2. Emil Archambault says:

      Indeed. This is a conductor who has had fantastic reviews with the Concertgebouw, the LPO, the Berlin Phil, and who in the coming months conducts in Rome (Santa Cecilia), Rotterdam, Paris, the Wiener Staatsoper, etc.

      But Lebrecht doesn’t like the NY Phil, so…

      1. ML says:

        You forgot Chicago…

    3. Marko Kassenaar says:

      Thank you for your kind words on Dutch orchestras.

      1. cornelis hofmann says:

        Dutch orchestras? what is so ‘remarkable’ on Dutch orchestras (except the KCO)…
        and J. van Zweden is, by the way, a very very bad choice. A gambler and a wrong man.

        1. John Borstlap says:

          Typical Dutch comment. That’s why their top artists go abroad.

  12. David Roth says:

    Alondra de la Parra? LOL!!!
    You were being widely sarcastic, right?

    Plus, of the women conductors you mention, only Marin Alsop would be an appropriate fit for the NY Philharmonic.

  13. John Borstlap says:

    What a serious misrepresentation. Van Zweden made impressive debuts at the Berliner and Wiener Philharmoniker, and worked with great success with the Orchestre de Paris and the London Philharmonic. That he was not invited by the Concertgebouw Orchestra has to do with the typical Dutch custom of resenting ‘a local guy’ getting successful abroad – the management of this orchestra is notoriously narrow-minded and incompetent. Van Zweden drove the Netherlands Radio Orchestra to international top level; their Parsifal of last year was a marvel, as was their Tristan, both under vZw. One of his strong qualities is his completely independent mind set which will help him through all the difficulties of the NY Phil in the coming time like the reburbishing of the hall.

    1. John Borstlap says:

      PS: Van Zweden will conduct a Lohengrin this May at the Wiener Staatsoper; soon all the great orchestras of Europe will fight for having him as a guest conductor, because he brings-in the audiences – and for good reasons.

      1. RW2013 says:

        Does this mean Borstlap will finally be played in the Big Apple?
        The only time I ever had a JvZ ticket, he cancelled, and I have never heard of anyone going to a concert just to see HIM.

        1. John Borstlap says:

          Which means you were quite unlucky on both terms.

          1. John Borstlap says:

            PS: By the way, Zweden enthusiasts go to his concerts to HEAR him not to SEE him. When the tickets of his concertante Tristan performance in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw came on sale, months before the performance, they were sold-out in a week. I was lucky to be able to wrestle a returned ticket from the box office, of which there were very few.

            http://subterraneanreview.blogspot.nl/2015/09/liberated-from-dungeon.html

  14. Peter says:

    So, Slipped Disc, nail your colours to your mast. Who would you have appointed? Your top three picks please.

    1. CDH says:

      A female minority member. Any.

      The attitude of the blog-holder on the representation of musicians and conductors based upon sex and race is getting very old. It is RUBBISH in the music business, where only ability ought to count. But we all have our obsessions; this one only gets out of hand and offensive when it totally misrepresents, underestimates and falsely characterises a person simply because he is white and male. That header mentioning his whiteness is racist itself.

      1. Emil Archambault says:

        Of course not. Last month he was complaining that Noseda (not a woman, not a minority, and not a superstar in the league of Chailly/Pappano/Nelsons) was not appointed to NY.

      2. William Safford says:

        Well, that’s why the attention is appropriate, precisely *because* “only ability ought to count.”

  15. Guus Mostart says:

    Oh Norman….I think an apology would be appropriate.

  16. Marko Kassenaar says:

    With all due respect for you impressive work in the field, Mr. Lebrecht, I think you’re a bit harsh on Mr. van Zweden. Surely, he wasn’t a contender for the other big orchestras (not that we know of, at least). However, Van Zweden, abrasive or not, is known to bring the best out of his ensembles. I’ve seen many concerts and rehearsals under his baton and I was always quite impressed. And let’s not forget that for the NY Phil, you not only need a musician, you also need a streetwise maestro. Bernstein, Boulez, Maazel, Masur: gentle and gracious as they were as a person, you couldn’t fool or patronize them. Van Zweden is a tough cookie in the best sense of the word, he’s got the package.

    1. norman lebrecht says:

      You make good points. I beg to disagree. The NY Phil, big orchestra in a big town, had a chance to make a big 21st century statement. Jaap is a decent conductor, maybe a bit more. But he’s not going to change anything ecept, maybe, a shade in the Klang of the orchestra. I respect your view, but I see it as a missed opportunity.

      1. Marko Kassenaar says:

        Thank you for your courteous response. Who would have been your favorite, if I may ask?

        1. norman lebrecht says:

          They should have arranged a hearing for Chailly and Pappano… I think the chemistry might have worked. As it is, they let it be known they wanted Salonen. He declined. So they have taken the next in line.

          1. Emil Archambault says:

            And why, pray, would they have been interested? Pappano has an opera house and an orchestra, does not show any inclination to move, and does not conduct much in America.

            Chailly has Leipzig and La Scala, shows no sign of moving, and does not like to overwork himself. Plus, he too is rather absent in America.

            By that standard, they might as well have auditioned Karajan…

          2. Marko Kassenaar says:

            Pappano: I totally agree. I once visited a Concertgebouw Orchestra rehearsal, where my jaw literally dropped when I entered the hall. I had never heard such a sound from them. And being a regular at the RCO, I allow myself to think that I can hear the conductor’s personality in that ensemble. My only hesitation is that he, with his self-sacrificing work ethic and emotional vulnerability would be too ‘breakable’.

            Chailly would have been an interesting choice. Without a doubt, he would have raised the technical standard, just like he did in Amsterdam and Leipzig. He also has the muscle to withstand quirks from the NYP (not afraid of bullying people, that’s for sure), but I think he is rather content with his (future) positions in Milan and Lucerne ánd with being lauded as the world’s greatest conductor of the moment. He doesn’t need New York for his career. And he is, after all, very European.

          3. Robin Mitchell-Boyask says:

            Pappano doesn’t conduct much in America because he tends not to be invited back after making his debut.

          4. Olassus says:

            … or next but one? Are we sure Honeck wasn’t offered the job, given his comments this week?

          5. Eric says:

            I’ve heard Pappano with the NYP. He gave a decent performance of Haydn 22 and Shostakovich 10, but nothing really stood out. A few years later Rostropovich did an electrifying Shostakovich 10 with the same band.

            For the most part Chailly live has been competent, but no better than anyone else mentioned.

            I get the impression that van Zweden would be up a notch with the NYP as far energy goes.

          6. Brent Hudson says:

            I take Salonen to be a smart man.

    2. Sam says:

      He was slated and already approved by the musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to be their next MD before Muti renewed his contract.

      1. norman lebrecht says:

        Evidence, please.

        1. Sam says:

          Told to me (and other of my colleagues) by members of the CSO. “Evidence”? No — you’re not getting names nor can CSO members to go on record over this as the ballot was not for public consumption.

  17. Eddie Fung says:

    Mr Norman, try close your eyes when listening to HKphil conducted by JvZ. Just try it, before you judge.

  18. May says:

    I stopped reading this post at “Alondra de la Parra.” Seriously people, she can’t conduct her way out of an asymmetrical paper bag. Sometimes I think Slipped Disc is more of the problem than the solution to the many ails facing classical music.

    Kudos to Mr Zweden: he obviously deserves the position. It’s nice to see that orchestra still takes performing the core repertoire seriously.

  19. Emil Archambault says:

    Let me explain…
    1 All are taken with full-time jobs. By the way, last year you were ablaze with how all these candidates (Petrenko excepted, of course) rejected the Berlin Phil because they were taken elsewhere. So maybe NY was smart in not pursuing unavailable people?

    2 Of course, nearly all the women you name contravene your first criterion of experience. Only Simone Young is on a equivalent/superior level than JVZ.

    3 How many high-profile conductors of ethnic minorities have a profile similar to JVZ? And why did you not raise these objections when Noseda was appointed in Washington?

    4 Watch this blog’s next post that denounces promoting fresh young conductors without experience who didn’t “stick with” smaller orchestras for a while. And again, Van Zweden HAS conducted in Berlin, London, Vienna, Amsterdam, Rome, Paris, NY, etc. And gotten great reviews nearly everywhere.

    5 I thought the orchestra management was to blame for the cancelled tour?

    So, if I understand: if an orchestra picks an up-and-coming maestro, he’s not of good enough calibre? If they pick a top-level conductor, it’s just a boring conventional choice? This is hypocrisy in its purest state.

    1. Gregory Nigosian says:

      Maybe pedestrian and prosaic writing, rather than hypocritical?

      1. Emil Archambault says:

        No, I stand by “hypocritical”

  20. Manfred Gerber says:

    Between Vienna, Munich and Paris Jaap van Zweden has
    Conducted all Major orchestras. I repeat, all. I have not
    heard of any complaint either musicians nor Managment.
    True, he expects hard work but he also in investing all
    he can give in order to accomplish top results.
    True, its not a glamoures name yet, but New York Phil
    will be a different orchestra after six years.
    I am sure, much before that.

    1. John Borstlap says:

      The orchestra will get everything they are hoping for, and on top of that: extra glamour, and surprises.

      1. Edgar Brenninkmeyer says:

        Demanding workouts, too, called rehearsal. The NYPhil might even be noticed in their own musically conservative town beyond Lincoln Center, and might even cause some excitement among the city’s people. It will be good for the band to play across town during the seasons when Geffen Hall is, again, renovated. Then they should continue doing that when their hall is open again. JvZ may well be the needed task master to accomplish this. Good luck to him. Mind you, maybe he will give a stint at the MET and shake that house awake?

  21. Ben Legebeke says:

    Why do you look down on dutch orchestras? The Hague and Rotterdam have orchestras which are better than many in the US,including Dallas. Van Zweden is an excellent conductor and the right choice. Also some conductors you’re mentioning are very mediocre ,like Mälkki and Alsop. Nothing to compare with van Zweden.

  22. Nicolas Mansfield says:

    Whatever the opinions or disagreements: Jaap van Zweden conducted his first ever opera at the Reisopera when I was Artistic Administrator. Quite clearly the place to start! 😉 😉

    1. Guus Mostart says:

      …….you mean when I was Intendant?

      1. norman lebrecht says:

        Congrats to the pair of you!

        1. Nicolas Mansfield says:

          Thank you, Norman! Yes Guus, when you were Intendant indeed! How could I forget! 🙂

          1. RW2013 says:

            He only seems to have conducted two operas since 2010.
            http://operabase.com/a/Jaap_van_Zweden/de/7596

          2. TXmusiclover says:

            He has conducted concert perfs of operas most seasons at the DSO.

  23. Trombun says:

    What’s this crap now? Because they didn’t interview a woman this time they have written off half of the human population? Look up non sequitur if you would be so kind. And the “Redneck NY Phil”? Really? Go play in traffic.

  24. Olaugh Turchev says:

    “It’s 2016”

    Lebrecht does his Trudeau impersonation…
    LOL

  25. Mark Landson says:

    Not to say there aren’t very accomplished women and people of color who might do a fine job as music director of the New York Phil, but Jaap absolutely is a phenomenal choice. Probably the best choice! He is not below any league of music making. He is in the top echelon and at the top of his game. He took the reins of the Dallas Symphony as a good orchestra and single-handedly made it into one of the great orchestras of the world. I don’t know how much you have had the pleasure of hearing them, but it’s not just my opinion, either.

    Dallas under his baton has been providing consistently cathartic experiences for those lucky enough to have been in the hall. Is he tough on the musicians? You bet. Are they sure to be at the top of their game when he’s on the podium? Absolutely. Do they sometimes grumble about it? Yes, they do.

    But…THE MUSIC!!!!

    1. TXmusiclover says:

      I agree wholeheartedly. And as a conductor, he is very clear with the orchestra about what he is after, musically speaking.

  26. Gregory Nigosian says:

    His Chicago Symphony guess appearances (three weeks each year, for the past several years) were not-to-be-missed occasions. He should have been named the principal guest conductor some time ago. I know that would have put him in the league with Giulini and Abbado (and Boulez, though his title was a bit different). Your comments are baffling.

    1. Theodore McGuiver says:

      I like the notion of a ‘guess appearance’.

      1. John Borstlap says:

        It’s a notion mostly reserved for conductors of whom one is not quite sure whether they will turn-up or not.

        1. John de Jong says:

          That is why Valery G. has the title of honorary guess conductor in Rotterdam.

          1. John Borstlap says:

            Indeed. And that is why he has the gift of multiple presence – being engaged by 2 or 3 different orchestras at the same night.

  27. Mark says:

    I suppose to satisfy our dear Mr. Lebrecht, NY Phil should have appointed a bisexual one-legged midget of Nigerian-Brazilian-Vietnamese origin, who has previously worked at the Really Provincial State Opera in Shnobelburg, Kakania (and has hired at least 5 Asian women there)

    1. John Borstlap says:

      I try to image such conductor and what kind of repertoire he/she/it would perform.

      1. AnnaT says:

        You all are devastatingly clever.

    2. paul lewis says:

      Well said. Lebrecht seems to have joined the p.c. brigade, how boring can you get!

      1. William Safford says:

        I assume you are not the pianist of the same name.

  28. ML says:

    Maybe Mr. Lebrecht is not familiar with van Zweden’s work with the Chicago Symphony? He has been a knight in shining armor for the CSO, having arrived on a white horse to replace an indisposed Chailly in Bruckner #5. Van Zweden has been a darling with many audience members and the orchestra ever since, and there was a small Soviet-themed music festival mostly conducted by him a few seasons back. Mr. Lebrecht is most welcome to come to Chicago and experience van Zweden first-hand (he will do Brahms requiem next year). Another favorite of us concertgoers is Bychkov. Hopefully he will land a great orchestra so that his enormous talent could be better utilized.

  29. Dennis says:

    Typical white self-loathing from a PC liberal. Every race is good except whites. We need more “diversity” in everything, but only a certain kind. Apparently the half Japanese Gilbert was not “diverse” enough either. Would Mr. Lebrecht mind informing us exactly what racial or ethnic mix would suffice in order for the NYPO to have made the “right” hire?

    And don’t anyone suggest conductors should be hired on their purely musical merits. Meritocracy would just be a smokescreen for perpetuating white domination…etc etc. Snoooooozzzzzz…..

    1. Joe says:

      Please… This comment section is not exactly highbrow, but let’s try to avoid sinking to Breitbart-level inanity.

      Mr. Lebrecht deserves plenty of criticism: for being completely clueless regarding what JVZ can bring to an orchestra. I say this as someone who’s played under JVZ and two of the conductors whom NL offered as alternatives.

  30. Meg says:

    A Duth guy overspending? Get real Norman. Jaap will do the NY a lot of good. Simple as that.

  31. John Kelly says:

    Ridiculously and needlessly provocative…..but good luck browbeating the NY Phil…..

  32. Brian B says:

    Racial and gender bean-counting is tiresome and anti-art by definition. But no denying the Philharmonic’s selection is or would be inexplicable were it not for the Philharmonic’s dismal track record in the past.

  33. Kevin Scott says:

    You mentioned ethnic minorities, and you raised a major red flag with me. Many years ago in your book “The Maestro Myth” you mentioned about the hope of a possible coming of a black Furtwangler. Since then we have had many conductors of color appear with many major orchestras in the United States and abroad including, but not limited to, Andre Raphel, Michael Morgan, William Eddins, Julius Williams, Kay George Roberts, John McLaughlin Williams, Kirk Smith, Thomas Wilkins, Tania Leon, Kazeem Abdullah, Chelsea Tipton and many others. Why were any of their names not mentioned in that paragraph?

    The black conductors that emerged to have international reputations on the stature of their white counterparts – Dean Dixon, Everett Lee, Henry Lewis and James DePriest – are few and far between. With the exception of Lee, all are now deceased. Those who are current should have received the same accolades, but for some reason they haven’t. Perhaps more invites and exposure?

  34. Angry New Yorker says:

    I am surprised at how few people agree with Norman here. TBH, I am underwhelmed by this appointment. That said, I hope I am proved wrong.

    1. Edgar Brenninkmeyer says:

      The way to find out is to attend Jaap’s concerts. Then you can whine, which, in my experience, is among the favorite pastimes in New York.

      As the Dutch saying goes: “de beste stuurlui staan aan wal”… – the best sailors are ashore…

      1. MWnyc says:

        Hey! No one shall ever interfere with New Yorkers’ God-given right to kvetch!

    2. John Borstlap says:

      Most of the people who are negative about JvZw are people who either are entirely unmusical or have never heard him, or both. You cannot please everybody, and least of all with musical qualities. Classical music is a fundamentally subjective art form, where objective truth can only be reached through subjective experience.

  35. Ben says:

    Are we sure Norman L wrote this, or Norman L is just a pen name used by some unknown, clueless, ultra-feminist woman who uses the darkest corner of an London coffee shop as her dwelling?

    1. Emil Archambault says:

      No, this is perfectly coherent with the uninformed uncritical biased opinions that are found (sadly) all over this blog, which is generally well-informed.

  36. Judith Petra says:

    How offensive…what’s wrong with a modest career anyway? Have you ever heard the Netherlands Radio Orchestra play? Would love to hear the NY Phil. top that…one day…under Maestro van Zweden’s baton.

  37. Andrew Zaplatynsky says:

    I have not spoken to any orchestra musicians who are fond of Marin Alsop (I have not worked with her). At the same time I have heard universal praise for Joanne Falletta. Why was she omitted from the list of suggestions?
    That point aside, this is a rehash of the phony controversy surrounding the Academy Awards. PC has invaded the world of symphonic music.

    1. Ilio says:

      Audiences here in the 808 don’t seem to think much of Falleta’s conducting. Musicians here seem to appreciate her because she volunteered to act as Musical Advisor. Some other musicians elsewhere have complained about her time management skills in rehearsal.

    2. I heard Alsop in Dallas. She totally does not get Brahms.

  38. philippe vandenbroeck says:

    van Zweden’s passage through Belgium as Chief Conductor of the Royal Flanders Philharmonic (2008-2011) was totally unremarkable.

    1. John Borstlap says:

      That was also my impression and something really puzzling.

    2. Sam says:

      … aside from the fact that the musicians there wanted him back after Edo de Waart arrived.

  39. Alexander Hall says:

    Norman, it’s all right to have favourites but I’m surprised that the first female conductor you mentioned in your list was Simone Young. Hamburg was very glad to see the back of her as Intendant and GMD of Hamburg Opera (if you speak to insiders there, you will hear how high-handedly she treated musicians and backstage staff). When she debuted with the LPO many years ago her constant swaying on high heels and incessant smoothing back of her hair was obviously so disconcerting to London’s musicians (never mind the absent musical qualities) that she was never invited back. She is clearly not on an upward trajectory.

    1. Txmusiclover says:

      OMG the dancing and hair! Simone Young drove me crazy when she guest conducted the DSO recently and the concert was nothing great. I have never heard such a weirdly depressing Jupiter in all my life….

  40. Charles Bogle says:

    ANNND. . .politically correct reactionary racism begins! Yes, let’s choose a conductor based on race or gender—forget about all those other silly factors, such as, oh, ability, philosophy, ideas, direction, rapport. Nonsense.

    1. John Borstlap says:

      It will not be long till one is seriously hadicapped by being male, white, and brilliantly gifted. When this forms a suppressed minority, PC culture will veer automatically towards the other end of the scale and support this minority untill we are back at square one.

    2. Kevin Scott says:

      Your point, however reactionary, is one that calls out the PC crowd as opposed to those who genuinely believe that something is totally rotten in the industry.

      There are a number of men and women of color who fit the standards and, in some cases, excel over those who belong to the status quo, but are never, ever given the opportunity because of fear, ignorance, pre-conceived notions (“Black people don’t belong in the concert hall except when they’re playing jazz, rap or gospel. They have no business playing white man’s music!”) and/or simply never been exposed to the chapter of their contributions to classical music. Put all of those factors together and you have the deck stacked against you before you even conduct the orchestra with your preparatory beat!

      Those who have made it to the pinnacle of their career as a conductor are to be lauded and treasured. Those who have not continue to keep their eye on the prize until it is time for them to claim it.

      As for John Borstlap’s comment, it only echoes the saying “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Perhaps, but for now the status quo needs a bit of shaking up. We’re seeing it at the Oscars, so maybe it’s time to see it in the concert halls as well.

  41. David Boxwell says:

    Not to mention his name is so hard to pronounce by real Americans! It’s like an ethnic slur followed by an ad for something you put in coffee!

    1. John Borstlap says:

      It’s Yahp van ZVAY-den.

      Source: NY Times 27/1/16.

  42. Peter says:

    And let’s NOT look at London or Berlin, say, because we’ll have to hang our heads in shame when we see how many women and racial minorities have been named principal conductor of the orchestras in those diverse and cosmopolitan cities.

    1. Peter says:

      these cities are so diverse, they can actually afford to be good.

  43. The Very Rev Alexis says:

    Why do I feel, in reading mr lebrecht’s totally misinformed “critique” of Maestro Van Zweden, that I’m listening to the Caterpillar in “Alice”.. arrogant, care-less, and self-absorbed… he should take another puff of his hookah… it might at least temper his affect, and certainly do no damage to his intellect.
    PS…. the Phil has rarely played with the enthusiasm and vigor as they did recently with Mr VanZweden . I’ll be renewing my subscription in confident hope of many wonderful, gimmick-free, performances ahead!!!

    1. John Borstlap says:

      There is a reason why JvZw is so good at Bruckner and Brahms and Beethoven: entirely gimmick-free music, without frills and pleasant effects, and where every note is filled with authentic, concentrated intensity. It’s the durable marble of the art form.

  44. harold braun says:

    Disgusting comment.Cynical,self aggrandizing,pretentious….van Zweden has done excellent work in Dallas,as one could also hear in Europe on tour…he may not always easy to get along with….but this doesn’t diminuish his status..The woman conductors mentioned here,I am sorry,but they don’t compete.And two of them are definitely arm chair conductors….couldn’t believe it when I saw them in concert…if the orchestras wouldn’t have been so supportive,the concerts would have ended in a disaster…

    1. RW2013 says:

      Let me guess – Tyla and Parra I’d say.

      1. harold braun says:

        Yep…how did you know?

        1. RW2013 says:

          The other three old frumps are more experienced.

          1. AnnaT says:

            Wow–old frumps? And your beloved gentlemen on the podium make everyone swoon, of course. Or rather, they don’t, but they don’t get nasty, petty comments for it either. Shame on you.

  45. Annelies Prins,operasinger says:

    First go to the concerts,let Jaap work with the orchestra and after some months give your comment.It’s not fair to judge if you simply don’t know this fabulous conductor.I wish Jaap van Zweden al the best in New York.”Toi,toi” as we say in The Netherlands.And to the New Yorkers I say: Enjoy the time he”ll be with you.Close your eyes when you listen and the music will speak….

  46. Robert Riska says:

    I have watched the transformation of the DSO, under Maestro van Zweeden, from a good orchestra into a world class orchestra. He will probably do the same for NY, which has not flourished for years. You really need to do some fact checking before you write articles as inaccurate as this one. I know, and have worked with members of DSO. Yes, he is firm and demanding in rehearsal, although never the tyrant. Musicians have a great respect for him. His conducting style is concise, devoid of the flagrant ostentation so often found in ‘great’ symphony conductors. Of the list of names you submitted, Jaap van Zweeden is the equal of any, and superior to most. He has an extraordinary sense of great phrasing, tempi and timing in general, and imparts that in every performance he conducts. Dallas is losing a truly great conductor and his shoes will be hard to fill. As to the race and gender issue, if they are not equal, then neither is of importance, so what’s the issue?

    1. John Borstlap says:

      Bam. Entirely to the point.

  47. Bill Gross says:

    The real thing to watch will be his relationship with the orchestra members. His dust up with the DSO members almost got to the NLRB before cooler heads in management stepped in. Did JVS learn anything? One can only hope so. Texas is not a strong union state. The NY Phil is in union territory. It can get nasty if history repeats. If he did learn about dealing with people. It will be good for all.

    1. Ilio says:

      Hey the Philharmonic musicians thought Masur was a bully, but put up with it for the years he was MD. Don’t think that JvZ is any worse.

      1. John Borstlap says:

        JvZw is not ‘a bully’. He is intense, insistent, maybe impatient sometimes, and immune to routine which often gets hold of orchestral players.

        1. norman lebrecht says:

          Have you spoken lately to players in the Rotterdam Philharmonic?

          1. John Borstlap says:

            I attended rehearsels with the Dutch radio orchestra. They were outstanding in all respects, and utterly professional.

        2. Tweettweet says:

          Trust me, he can be a bully. It did not get personal, but he can be very harsh on individual orchestra members.

          1. John Borstlap says:

            Even conductors are human. I can imagine that when a flutist cannot get a simple phrase in tune after 6 times during rehearsel, exasperation breaks through patient civility (source: interview with ‘the bully’ in Dutch newspaper).

          2. Sally says:

            It would seem, John, that you’ve not actually spoken to many musicians about their experiences with him from the other side of the podium. Far you being able to convince you otherwise (as it would seem JVZ has you on his personal praise payroll), I can tell you that his treatment does often border on bullying and is not only reserved for those who cannot get a flute solo correct after 6 attempts. The job is always completed, yes, and the results are taut, but his method is not at all pro-musician. Asserting that by majority it is the unmusical or unaware who are negative of him and his style and effect is ad hominem at best.

    2. cherrera says:

      Toscanini used to make all first desks re-audition every year at the Philharmonic. I think JvZ should re-institute that. Show ’em who’s boss.

      Seriously though, the “dust up” with Dallas was essentially that, JvZ demoting some senior put underperforming string players (or should I say second-string players).

      Look, it’s like the Oscars, the Academy is filled with old white men who hang around way to long.

      1. Gerhard says:

        One of the least intelligent posts I have ever read here, and this means a lot. A conductor who really needs an annual reaudition of the first chair players to evaluate their level should be the first one to go. But the rest of your comment implies that you think bullying is the way to acheive meaningful artistic results. You are lagging quite a bit more than half a century behind. Are you in favor of beating children regularly as well?

  48. Insider Musician says:

    INSIDER INFO: the musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra had already voted and chosen JVS to be their next music director, but when Muti decided he wanted to extend his contract there they had to take the contract off the table. The NYP’s gain is a disappointment to the future of the CSO. I shake my head in disbelief at Slipped Disc and will stop following this tabloid blog.

    1. ML says:

      One obvious drawback of this appointment is that Zweden may not be able to come to Chicago while he is MD at New York.

    2. Txmusiclover says:

      Indeed, seeing Jaap’s successes in Chicago, I was sure the poaching would come from there rather than NY. I felt a little bad for Jaap when Muti was extended, because I saw what could have been. But of course I am glad that loss kept him in Dallas a little longer….

  49. Juergen Geier says:

    Norman, you seem to be disappointed by two completely unrelated things–that Van Zweden is not a minority candidate, and that he’s not one of the high profile world Maestros. So your hiring criteria for the Phil position is either a white guy with a great resume or a minority candidate who might not be established. Either way, you seem to be preoccupied with “making a splash,” rather than conductor’s relationship with the ensemble

  50. Darryl says:

    I think woman should be included in the decision as much as men, however why would minor conductors like Mirga and Alondra be included? Just to populate the woman’s list and that’s it. Marin is on that level as far as career development but to include the ASSOCIATE conductor of LA in the same list as the music DIRECTOR of Baltimire???????

    1. M2N2K says:

      Including the Associate Conductor of LA makes perfect sense when she is also the Music Director of Birmingham.

  51. Helene Kamioner says:

    I think it should have been Jimmy Conlon or Michael Tilson Thomas.

  52. GB says:

    Van zweden is an amazing very talented conducter…time will tell..but personaly i know he will be more than great ..and they are lucky 2 have him…:-)

  53. Frederic says:

    Alondra de la Parra is an embarrassment, and I laughed uproariously when I saw her name listed here. I played under her once – she had absolutely no idea how to conduct one of the most standard repertoire concerti (didn’t know the tempi, didn’t know the cues, asked the musicians to do things that were simply neither stylistic nor even possible in some cases) and threw the biggest temper tantrum imaginable after the performance when the orchestra and soloists basically decided to ignore her. A WASTE!

  54. Tom Varley says:

    My two cents is the NY is lucky to have him. He’s extremely talented.

    Here’s a link to a review of a 2010 Philadelphia Orchestra concert I heard under van Zweden – it was superb!

    http://articles.philly.com/2010-11-06/news/24954040_1_rachmaninoff-symphony-haydn-philadelphia-orchestra

  55. Peter Kirchner says:

    What about Osmo?

  56. John Borstlap says:

    To answer Sally above: Rehearsel behavior and musical result are two different things; people who are negative about JvZw’s result, yes, I call them unmusical and that is not an ad hominum attack but an observation. I never said that people who objected to his rehearsel style were unmusical. I have spoken to musicians who worked under him and they were unanimously positive; I have attended various (long) rehearsels and there was no ‘bullying’; I don’t think my presence would have inhibited him, and these rehearsels were very professional and intense. But I can imagine that on other occasions, such people can get exasperated and irritated and be unpleasant. Players are no saints either and a conductor is as dependent upon the players as the other way around.

    But talking about ad hominum attacks: I find this utterly silly:

    “….as it would seem JVZ has you on his personal praise payroll”, as if a positive opinion about a performer could only be insincere. I have defended vZw against incorrect, and primitive criticism, where music is concerned.

  57. Karl Fiedler says:

    The opinion in Berlin of Jaap van Zweden, after his debut with the BPh in 2013, was positive. High octane, very intelligent, complete package, were the attributes after the concert. He reminded some of Donald Runnicles, who is extremely successful at the Deutsche Oper. There was a sense that he is on an upward trajectory and there is no surprise here that he now landed a high-profile conductorship.

  58. Marko Kassenaar says:

    It’s also funny that a lot of people seem to miss the ‘white van man’ pun (if intended). ‘White van men’ are known to be the worst, most abrasive, ill-behaving van-driving bigots in London traffic (although Amsterdam is rapidly catching up with that tradition). It seems to me that Mr. Lebrecht categorizes Jaap van Zweden as such, be it as banter, and at the same time uses the image to make his diversity point. Well played, Mr. Lebrecht. It took me some time before the coin dropped.

  59. Robert says:

    This is a political post! It has nothing to do with music.


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