The Lead from L. A.

The Lead from L. A.


norman lebrecht

June 11, 2008

I left the door a foot open in my previous submission for others to nominate the Los Angeles Philharmonic as a pioneer of orchestral courage and adventure – and up she pops in the first three responses.

I couldn’t be more enthusiastic about LA’s choice of young, fairly inexperienced conductors – Salonen, and now Dudamel – in preference to the greying Europeans of the East Coast. But one might argue that L.A. is an exception that proves the rule. In a city where movies are dominant, symphonic music has to fight for every crumb of attention. Youth – Hollywood’s elixir – is one way to catch the eye. 

I once asked Ernest Fleischmann while he managed the LA Phil if there was any interface between his company and the dream factories. He thought for a long while before replying, ‘well, Walter Matthau’s a subscriber…’

As for Jason’s suggestion that ‘it doesn’t pay to ignore internal and external dissension when assessing the merits of music directors’, if that were the case Mahler would never have been boss in Vienna, nor Solti at Covent Garden, nor Boulez at the NY Phil, and the musical horizon would be coloured a uniform shade of grey.


  • robert berger says:

    David Robertson has been doing really interesting programming with the St Louis symphony, as well as Paavo Jarvi in Cincinnati,
    his father Neeme in New Jersey,Robert Spano in
    And yes, the New York Philharmonic,in spite of
    the claims by some critics that it does nothing but the same old warhorses. It’s true that
    Maazel has been fairly conservative in his programming choices, but guest conductors have
    done many interesting things.
    And the ironic thing is that the orchestra has actually played MORE new music in our time than many others in America and Europe.