Breaking news: Dudamel jumps ship

Breaking news: Dudamel jumps ship


norman lebrecht

March 01, 2010

One of the worst-kept secrets in the conducting world is out this morning with a press release confirming that Gustavo Dudamel has dumped his mentors.

Here’s the full story. Late last year, Dudamel’s agent Mark Newbanks became unsettled with his lack of personal advancement at Askonas Holt, an old-fashioned British agency, and arranged to join his former colleague Stephen Wright, who had bought out Van Walsum Management.

The pin-stripes at Holt went into damage-limitation, imposing vows of silence on all and sundry and wheeling out Dudamel’s closest advisers – led by Sir Simon Rattle – to persuade the young whizzkid to stay with the stable that launched him. The Dude, music director at the Los Angeles Phil and in demand the world over, is worth some $300,000 to his management over the next 3-4 contract years, say insiders. That’s big money in classical music, and big worries for Askonas Holt.

Rattle did his best at bending the Dude’s ear, and so did other Holt trusties, badgering the young conductor to stay put. But the Dude is a man of personal loyalties and Mark Newbanks is both close to his own age and a good buddy. This morning, Askonas Holt admitted defeat and announced ‘a significant change at the company’ with the loss of its fastes rising star.

Dudamel moves to Van Walsum from today and the Rattle shop is left licking its wounds. Askonas Holt publishes in its press release a list of ‘legendary figures’ and ‘fantastic … young conductors’ whom it maintains under contract. But the Dude’s move is seismic, signifiying a generational shift in power in classical management.

Wright, who started out himself at Askonas Holt, has scores to settle with former allies and an expansion plans in mind. His new business partner is Costa Pilavachi, former head of Decca and EMI Classics. The wind of change is picking up. 



  • monika strugala says:

    does this have todo anything with MUSIC?
    NL replies: Actually, yes, Monika. Music doesn’t happen without someone doing the management.

  • dwm says:

    Holt Askonas / Askonas Holt – are these two different agencies you’re talking about Norman? 😉
    NL replies: Thanks, Debbie. Written in haste and now corrected, N

  • Costa Pilavachi is a brilliant man with vision–no doubt he will bring great projects, guidance and wisdom for the future of new classical music to the Van Walsum agency.

  • Monika – I must agree w/ NL: This conductor (me) doesn’t have management and the only music I can make is that which I setup on my own. My making music relies purely on those willing musicians I can muster and some volunteers willing to help organize rehearsals & possibly even concerts. Tis a far cry from graduating college when lots of folk expected me to develop an incredible career (but many of the ‘greats’ were still active and now orchestras are hiring the ‘young’). Boy, how I wish it were different!

  • Music making of this kind and on this scale doesn’t happen without someone doing the management. Music of any kind doesn’t happen without a society educated in music, actively participating and creating music, and a society asked to be something other than “consumers.”
    “And I would advise my young colleagues, the composers of symphonies, to drop in sometimes at the kindergarten, too. It is there that it is decided whether there will be anybody to understand their works in twenty years’ time.”-Kodaly

  • Bigger than the news he jumped ship, is that is the news that this Dude of brilliance is loyal.
    Bravo Maestro.