We have had an extensive conversation with Mikko Franck, music director designate of the Orchestre philharmonic de Radio France, whose absence from this week’s concerts provoked speculation that he had resigned.
Those rumours have now been quashed. However, the orchestra will stage a 24-hour strike on Friday, provoked by the resignation of its artistic administrator Eric Montalbetti and a general uncertainty about its future.
We caught up with the Finnish conductor at a hotel in New York and he gave us a full account of the latest Paris upheavals. His account is so frank and lucid it requires no further commentary.
Mikko Franck: I was supposed to rehearse the orchestra on Monday and conduct twice this week. However, ten days ago, I informed Radio France I would not sign the contracts for these two concerts. I explained my reasons in a letter which they have chosen not to make public.
Basically, for several months – since the arrival of Jean-Pierre Rousseau as director of music – there has been a plan to reorganise the whole music department. Not to merge the two orchestras but – just as bad – to merge the administrations of the two orchestras.
All of us – the music director Myun Whun Chung, myself the music director designate and Daniele Gatti at the Orchestre National – were not happy. It is hard to understand how two very big symphony orchestras can be run with the same management.
We were given this plan, without consultation, before the summer break. When we returned, Eric Montalbetti my very close colleague decided to resign. That left me with no-one to work with on artistic planning for future seasons.
My contract as music director starts next year. Until then, I am contracted concert by concert. The reason I am not conducting this week is because, in my opinion, the reorganisation of the orchestras does not comply with what we agreed in my music director’s contract. I will not sign any more concert contracts until this situation is resolved.
As you rightly reported, I had a very long and positive conversation with the president of Radio France, Mathieu Gallet. He has been very supportive. I have a good rapport with him. I hope we can make things work well for the orchestra.
The musicians and I are on the same page. I hope I can come back to make great music with them. I would love to be in Paris this week.