May 2015 could be the month of Riccardo

May 2015 could be the month of Riccardo


norman lebrecht

January 02, 2015

In Milan on May 1, a new production of Turandot will mark Riccardo Chailly’s first performance as principal conductor at La Scala.

In Berlin two weeks later, a new music director will be announced by the Philharmonic. Chailly is among the favourites.

If you missed it first time round, watch my recent conversation with Riccardo right here.

chailly lebrecht1


  • Mark Stratford says:

    The list of SD favourites a couple of months ago was as below. Are there any new thoughts on this ?

    1 Andris Nelsons, newly signed with Boston.

    2 Riccardo Chailly, who is committed to Leipzig and La Scala

    3 Yannick Nezet-Seguin, under contract with Philadelphia, Rotterdam and Montreal.

    4 Kirill Petrenko, Bavarian State Opera

    5 Christian Thielemann, Dresden

    6 Others including Semyon Bychkov, Ivan Fischer, Paavo Järvi, Gustavo Dudamel.


    • sdReader says:

      Presumably they can’t “announce” someone who hasn’t privately at least expressed an interest or willingness to accept if offered.

      Thielemann has always struck me as obviously destined for the job. But this May? Seems too soon. He is in the midst of long-term Dresden plans, and related Easter plans in Salzburg. Then again, the effective starting year is 2018, right?

      • Michael Schaffer says:

        Why is Thielemann “obviously destined” for the job?

        • sdReader says:

          Because he is Germany’s first star conductor since World War II. He also happens to excel in Brahms, Bruckner, Schumann, Strauss.

          Michael, in case you are working for Barenboim, who, we are told here, is scheming to get the job for himself, my preference would be for Thielemann to stay in Dresden, where he is shaping a realignment of the standings of the two cities in Dresden’s favor and where he benefits from a Salzburg tie-in instead of one with tired old Baden-Baden.

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            No I don’t work with or for Barenboim, in fact I am not professionally connected to the world of “classical” music at all anymore.
            So my (moderate) interest in the subject is purely private, there are no professional interests connected with it.

            I also think T-man is better off in Dresden, the role as keeper (or reviver) of the good old tradition he seems to see himself in just fits better into the cultural landscape there than in Berlin. I don’t think they will ask him anyway because he is too stubborn and undiplomatic, and that means conflicts with some of the bigger egos in the orchestra is pre-programmed.

            I don’t think they will ask Barenboim either, he is very good and very professional but he somehow lacks a real artistic personality or individuality. What he does is usually very solid but rarely in any way “special” or even distinct.

            I think Chailly would be a very good choice but from what I hear, he is happy in Leipzig, he has a great orchestra there and I am not sure how much of a relationship he has with the BP. He has guest conducted them since at least the early 80s but he doesn’t seem to be among their most regular guests.

            Among all the overhyped young podium heroes Nelsons seems to be the one with the most substance and artistic individuality and the way he conducts and also conducts himself fits well with the young and chic and individualistic self-image the BP like to cultivate so I think he is the one who has the best chances to get the call.

    • Jenny B says:

      Tugan Sokhiev seems to have a great rapport with Stanley Dodds, who I beleive is a mover and shaker at Berlin – see the interview on 13 December 2014:

      Sokhiev has musical links a long way back in Russian music and I think he has a lot to offer the Berliners. He is young, and extremely attractive to look at for the Digital Concert Hall.

      I know he is Music Director of the Bolshoi, but he might be better off in Germany.

      • Andrew Condon says:

        “young and extremely attractive” – please tell me you are joking. Thats surely not much of a criteria for choosing one of the top conducting jobs in the world. I was very unimpressed with his Manfred Symphony last June. See post 1st June 2014 : Wrong Tchaikovsky ending at Berlin Phil.

        • Jenny B says:

          Sorry Andrew, I sounded like a bimbo. I listened to the interview and thought he had depth and history. I’m no expert, but the concert he conducted sounded wonderful and he had rapport with the orchestra. Someone else in this thread mentioned appearance and charisma as important for the DCH and I was musing on that.

          I watch the DCH a great deal and find it a really marvellous resource. I don’t think I exaggerate when I say it is a life enhancing experience to have that archive available with fast broadband and a big screen. Thus, like everyone on this thread I do want them to get the right person.

  • wundertier says:

    Did NL ask him how many women he appointed in the Gewandhausorchester – and before that at the Concertgebouw Orchestra – and how many he plans to hire for La Scala? And what about his opinion on ethnic minorities? What will he do about all that if he arrives at Berlin Phil? Does he condemn Gergiev? Netrebko? Kyung-Wha Chung? Apfelstrudel? Does he approve of El Sistema? Is he vegetarian? Nudist? We are eagerly waiting for answers …

  • beckmesser says:

    I have trouble with all these supposed “candidates”! I think Berlin wants someone who looks good in their online streaming videos. Thielemann, Chailly both don’t have the flair. The younger conductors don’t have the experience. Remember this job always went to people with long career records – even Rattle, though younger, had over 20 years in with CBSO.

    If I were to pick one of the younger guys, I’d go for Petrenko.

    • erich says:

      The Berliners have a real dilemma. Not one of the candidates mentioned is ideal. Chailly is probably the most experienced, with the broadest repertoire and he has an exclusive recording contract. He is not, however, Mr.Charisma. Nelsons has just taken Boston on and although he is a workaholic, running both would be a really tough call – and he’s young enough to get it next time round.Petrenko is brilliant but has a smallish repertoire and has problems coping with pressure. A no-no in Berlin. Thielemann has the core BPO repertoire at his fingertips but precious little besides and is also a nasty piece of work. Nezet-Seguin is another workaholic but also has time on his side to deepen his interpretations. Dudamel is one-dimensional but, of course, charismatic and media friendly. Too early by far. It would still be better for the BPO to take an experienced caretaker for a few years, develop the relationships with one of the above and then decide later. Jansons would be my first choice, but one hears Barenboim is machinating in the background…..a mistake in my opinion.

      • Max Grimm says:

        Barenboim can machinate all he wants, he’ll be 76 years old in 2018, hardly a preferred age of the principal conductor for a high-energy ensemble as the Berlin Phil.
        Jansons will be 75 years old then but given his at times less than stellar health….
        From a purely musical and personal standpoint, I too like the Berliner Philharmoniker-Jansons pairing best.

        • Anon says:

          Barenboim could be a stop gap measure by the Thielemann opponents in the orchestra, a “transition pope” for a few years, until one of the younger ones (Dudamel etc.) has brought himself up to shape for the post. A possible but not too likely scenario.

    • Jim says:

      The online videos are a relatively small part of who they are. I doubt that would figure into their decision much.

  • Mark says:

    ==one hears Barenboim is machinating in the background

    But apparently he was seriously machinating during the end of the Abbado era which made it all the more striking when Rattle got the job without any lobbying.

    [PS: these SD Captchas have suddenly got much more difficuly to enter ! ]

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      How do you know what “lobbying” and “machinating” Barenboim or Rattle did or didn’t do in the background?

  • Pandora says:

    “Remember this job always went to people with long career records…”

    Not true. Furtwängler was 36 when he got the job. Karajan was 47 years old.

  • J. says:

    I still think that is going to be Andris Nelsons. People talk about Boston but well, his supposed Berlin tenure would only begin in 2018-2019, I guess, and around then there’s only one contract year with Boston (if I’m not wrong). He can manage both for an only year. He is my bet.

    • RW2013 says:

      Nelsons MUST stay
      in the U.S. and A. !!!

    • sdReader says:

      Not enough charisma. Rattle was already a mistake in that regard, and Berlin cannot afford another!

      • Michael Schaffer says:

        You may not find Rattle “charismatic” and I don’t either but I think plenty of people do think he is quite charismatic and smart and awesome and all that. He has mastered the art of making pretty simple and banal statements in a way that most people can understand them but the way he says stuff often makes it sound like it’s some really deep insight and then people are happy because they think they just heard and understood something really deep.

  • Barbara says:

    Thanks for including the interview video. Very interesting

  • Mark says:

    A few experienced conductors not mentioned include Vanska. Solomon, and Welser-Most. Jurowski is a mention too.

  • Michael Schaffer says:

    That’s because the point of the exercise is to discuss who might realistically become the next principal conductor of the BP, not just throw around every name of every conductor you may have heard of.

    And who is “Solomon”?

  • Mark says:

    Meant EPS (Solonen), but auto correct kicked in. I don’t see a front runner, but the BP musicians know who has what it takes (and not).

  • beckmesser says:

    It’s SALONEN … and I’ve always wondered whether he could be a “dark horse” for the Berlin job.

    Abbado was described as a dark horse in 1990.

    • Alexander Hall says:

      They would be off their collective rocker if they did that (“sie wären mit dem Klammerbeutel gepudert” is an equivalent German idiom originating in Berlin, which is why I chose it as being singularly apposite in this context). Anybody who has watched Salonen at work over any length of time will know two important things:
      (1) He doesn’t do warmth.
      (2) He is hopeless in the standard German repertory.
      Give him Stravinsky and Mahler and most 20th century and contemporary works, and he’ll turn in a reasonable performance, but that is not what the Berlin Philharmonic can live on.
      Plus the fact that he has hardly ever done guest appearances with them (and who is really surprised at that?)

      • sdReader says:

        I think (1) + (2) are really the same problem, but he was successful in Los Angeles for a long time and is still welcomed back there, and as far as I know the Philharmonia Orchestra is happy with him.

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          There are quite a few in the orchestra who think Salonen is just a poser, a competent time beater but someone who can also loose control when he tries to get more involved. I saw almost throw the LAP in Sibelius 2 once, and I hear the same almost happened in Berlin in Sibelius 7.

  • Anon says:

    The answer is relatively simple.
    It’s the economy, stupid…
    The majority of the Berlin Phil members will vote for the conductor with the greatest prospect of additional earnings for them. This issue is more important than ever, since after Karajan’s death the additional earnings from touring, festivals, media royalties etc. have taken a sharp plunge.
    Thielemann controls a few keys to additional earnings (new years concert, Salzburg, DGG) as does Dudamel. The rest of the names – regardless of their artistic merits – doesn’t sell as well and is therefore only second choice. Mark my words.

    • sdReader says:

      You are probably right, but shouldn’t the “prestige” of the Berliner Philharmoniker be rubbing off on its Chefdirigent, fueling sales, and not just the other way around, or has it all been exhausted with Simon Rattle?

      • Anon says:

        The Berlin Phil thought so, but the reality is that their own prestige doesn’t translate to sales as much as they hoped. Their DCH is not making any money. Their self-promoted Schumann cycle with Rattle is a flop. They have learned the hard way, that the public wants a leader figure at their helm, who they can glorify and identify with. Thielemann is probably the most promising candidate in that regard, followed by Dudamel. Both are very different musicians and personalities though. Very different…

  • John says:

    The comments above would indicate the obvious… that opinions, prejudices, illusions, stupidities are no substitute for having anything like a clue. Whomever the orchestra
    chooses it will have to make do with. A survey of BPO subscribers has Thielemann the choice hands down, but the decision is also not their’s. And were Carlos Kleiber still alive,
    not at his acutal age but 50 to 60, say. Would he be eliminated from the list because of his
    ‘limited’ repitoire? O dear….

    • erich says:

      One things needs to be remembered. the nature of the job has changed in the last years. It is no longer sufficient just to conduct a certain number of concerts. There is the additional aspect of educational work and outreach, which is the domain of the Music Director as well. That is why someone like Dudamel, Nelsons or a younger less conservative candidate might be considered more suitable – otherwise the orchestra would need to hire someone alongside the winner to take on such Tasks. And who would want to play second fiddle to a Thielemann or Chailly??

      • sdReader says:

        Good point. Most of that work should be assigned to an associate. Surely there are many who would happily play a supporting role to Thielemann or Chailly.

    • DESR says:

      Sadly (and I yield to none etc) Kleiber would have been excluded by his limited repertoire, or rather, they would ask him again (as they did in 1989) and he would decline again. In part out of unwillingness to deliver what is needed from a Chief Conductor of the BPO, which is inevitably a fairly wide repertoire. (That is not to say that he was not capable of extending it, nor that he was simply ignorant of an enormous number of pieces; simply that for whatever reason he was unwilling to do play this game.)

  • Robert Kenchington says:

    I think the best solution is to have a series of eminent guest conductors for a few seasons and decide which – if any of them – might be a suitable music director after that. Conductors are important, but orchestras more so. The BPO has its own distinctive sound and style which still bears the influence of Furtwangler and Karajan. Moreover, the orchestra is self-governing and can manage quite well without a permanent maestro – as the Vienna Philharmonic have done for some 70-odd years. This way the orchestra can keep its options open while they play the field. Besides the kind of conductor they need – but the kind of conductor they would despise – does not exist any more…

    • Anon says:

      I don’t think there is anything of Furtwängler still alive in todays BPhO. And there is barely anything of Karajan alive there either. It’s the way time goes by. They are probably the worlds best orchestra, if you use the average individual class of each player as a benchmark. Yet to become a great orchestra you need also to develop under a common artistic vision your intersubjective orchestral skills, and there is the challenge for the Berlin Phil…

    • sdReader says:

      The BPO has had a “series of eminent guest conductors for a few seasons” and should, with several seasons’ notice from Rattle, be in an educated position to decide.

      Whether they can get the man they want — and we all know who that is — is another question!

      • Robert Kenchington says:

        Know we don’t ‘all know that is’ I’m afraid. And why should the BPO engage anyone at all if they don’t wish to?

        • sdReader says:

          I take issue with your idea that they need to research the field, not with your suggestion that they could actually do without!

  • Robert Kenchington says:

    How do you know the BPO don’t need to ‘research the field’? Do you possess some superior knowledge that we mere mortals are not party to? If not, please tell me how?

    • sdReader says:

      Because the work of the 15 to 20 conductors who could possibly be considered is already known to the players, and much of that knowledge will have come from direct experience of it. ALL contenders show up in one Berlin venue or another over time.

  • Michael Schaffer says:

    There are quite a few in the orchestra who think Salonen is just a poser, a competent time beater but someone who can also loose control when he tries to get more involved. I saw almost throw the LAP in Sibelius 2 once, and I hear the same almost happened in Berlin in Sibelius 7.