A principal conductor with just ten concerts?

A principal conductor with just ten concerts?


norman lebrecht

January 23, 2014

The new season announcement from the London Philharmonic Orchestra downgrades what ought to be its most important role to that of little more than passing traffic. Vladimir Jurowski will conduct just ten concerts in the season. How do they justify that? Either the rising Juro’s on his way out, or the title has become meaningless. Or both.

The power behind the LPO sits behind a desk. His name is Timothy Walker and his title is Chief Executive and Artistic Director. Maestros need not apply.

Press release below.


London Philharmonic Orchestra announces 2014/15 Royal Festival Hall season

Season at a glance:


  • Rachmaninoff: Inside Out is the most extensive celebration of Rachmaninoff’s music ever undertaken in a season with 11 concerts including the complete symphonies & piano concertos (in all versions), the opera The Miserly Knight, the choral masterpiece The Bells, rare performances of the cantata Spring and orchestral songs as well as a selection of other much-loved and rare orchestral works


  • Magnus Lindberg announced as new Composer in Residence with premieres of two important new works, including a specially-commissioned piece for soprano Barbara Hannigan and a second piano concerto


  • Other major commissions and premieres are by out-going Composer in Residence Julian AndersonHarrison Birtwistle(in his 80th birthday year), double-Oscar winner James Horner, BASCAwinner Colin Matthews and Emmy-nominated Benjamin Wallfisch


  • Ten concerts with Vladimir Jurowski, Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor, including most of the premieres as well as many programmes focussed on Rachmaninoff and his contemporaries


  • Distinguished visiting conductors include Marin Alsop, Christoph Eschenbach, Andrew Manze, Juanjo Mena, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Vasily Petrenko, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Vassily Sinaisky and Osmo Vänskä


  • ·         Robin Ticciati makes his LPO debut at the Royal Festival Hall consolidating the Orchestra’s relationship with new Music Director of Glyndebourne


  • Strong showing for pianists includes Pierre-Laurent AimardYefim BronfmanKatia and Marielle LabèquePiers Lane, Nikolai Lugansky, Maria João Pires, Lars Vogt and nonagenarian master Menahem Pressler


  • Outstanding young talent includes pianists Behzod Abduraimov, Narek Hakhnazaryan, Pavel Kolesnikov and Igor Levit; violinists Alexandra Soumm and Ray Chen; and conductor Ilyich Rivas


  • Author Michael Morpurgo and composer Colin Matthews team up for major new work for children, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, conducted by Jurowski, plus other brand new works for children by Benjamin Wallfisch on Roald Dahl’s Dirty Beasts



Timothy Walker, Chief Executive and Artistic Director, said:


“Through uncompromising live performances of Rachmaninoff’s major works for orchestra, given by the best imaginable conductors and soloists, I think audiences will not only take pleasure in the much-loved melodies, colourful orchestrations and powerful atmosphere of this great Russian composer’s music, but also really experience its sincerity, impeccable craftsmanship and brilliance.


I’m delighted that Magnus Lindberg, one of today’s most inventive and inspiring creators of orchestral music, becomes our new Composer in Residence and we continue our commitment to new music with premieres of two new works by him, alongside others by Julian Anderson, Harrison Birtwistle, Colin Matthews, James Horner and Benjamin Wallfisch. I’m also pleased to welcome back so many distinguished artists and to introduce so many young and talented performers.”



  • David H. says:

    Thirteen visiting pianists in one season? They seem to specialize in piano concertos.

  • RW2013 says:

    Tugan Sokhiev has, with the DSO in Berlin, seven programmes (with double performances twelve concerts in total).

    Just for comparison…

  • sdReader says:

    U.S. standard is 12 weeks of work, i.e. 12 programs, over the course of the main season. (Muti in Chicago does less, by original agreement.)

  • Ryan says:

    But 10 concerts is a THIRD of the entire season! Isn’t that enough?!?

    • David H. says:

      30 concerts in one season? Is that a part time orchestra?

    • David H. says:

      Those were different times before the age of the jetset conductor, but revealing:

      In his ten years as musical director in Dresden 1923-1933, Fritz Busch conducted in average 100 performances – concert and opera – per year. THAT’s a chief conductor…

      Now compare that to today’s frequent travelers that make the agents wealthy and the music poor.

      • Sally Funnell says:

        But this is 30 concerts IN LONDON, yes? It doesn’t include any of the other UK venues LPO visits, or all their international touring, or of course their summer season in Glyndebourne? And they share the hall time with the Philharmonia. Doesn’t strike me as too much short-changing…

  • Mark Stratford says:

    The “Barenboim Project” announced for 2015 with 10 Schubert sonatas sounds more interesting

  • WelshBoy says:

    This sounds like sour grapes, Norman, seeing as Esa-Pekka is only doing 5 with the Philharmonia!

  • Alan Turtle says:

    I think Esa-Pekka Salonen is only conducting four London concerts in the current Philharmonia season at the Royal Festival Hall (plus a few elsewhere).

  • MacroV says:

    Well, that’s ten programs. As everyone knows, the London orchestras generally do one-offs, not 3-4 performances of each program. I assume he has more concerts with them on tour somewhere?

  • It looks like Osmo Vanska will wind up as chief of the London Philharmonic. The ineffably egregious board and management of the Minnesota Orchestra still refuses to reinstate Maestro Vanska even after ending their lockout of the musicians. You can’t create fictional villains like this.

    • anon says:

      From a selfish perspective, I would love to see Vanska take up a position in Europe, but I do not think the LPO management are that much better than the MOA. In 2011, Timothy Walker, who is still the “Chief Executive and Artistic Director”, suspended four players for signing a petition (whilst I disagreed with the petition itself, I believe that orchestral musicians are entitled to freedom of expression). I hope that Vanska would have the sense to steer clear of another totalitarian regime (as I have, by not attending LPO concerts, no matter how interesting the programme).

      • Dave T says:

        Are you by chance just short on cash? I’ve come up with all kinds of lame excuses for not going to concerts over the years (too cold, not enough sleep, cousin’s brother-in-law is in town) but never because I didn’t approve of the manager or board members. Hmm… I’ll have to try that sometime.

    • NYMike says:

      Reinstating Vänskä in Minnesota would be dependent on CEO Michael Henson’s departure. At he moment, It’s anybody’s guess whether this will come about.

  • Moneypenny says:

    Why on earth would Vanska go back to Minnesota? He’d have to negotiate a new contract, and I’m sure that after the turmoil of the last couple of years he just wants to move on

  • squirrel says:

    I think that “Robin Ticciati makes his LPO debut at the Royal Festival Hall consolidating the Orchestra’s relationship with new Music Director of Glyndebourne” is one of the most odious sentences I’ve read, stylistically and substantively, thus far in 2014.

  • Alexander Hall says:

    It is more than a little surprising, given all the recent vitriolic comments posted from people all round the world about the incompetence of Christoph Eschenbach as a conductor, that he has been given yet another date with the LPO in the new season. When you look at the list of guest conductors, however, you realise that he is in good company. Decades ago the LPO prided itself on getting some of the biggest names in classical music to come and conduct them. That no longer seems to be any ambition of theirs.