Don’t want to play Maestro’s comeback? You can opt out.

Don’t want to play Maestro’s comeback? You can opt out.


norman lebrecht

February 25, 2015

Charles Dutoit’s return to Montreal next year has not been universally applauded, reports Arthur Kapitanis in the Gazette. It is being quietly intimated that any musicians who have bad memories can drop out of the concert. Here’s what Arthur writes:


‘I think this will be a great concert and I am very much looking forward to it,’ Stéphane Lévesque, principal bassoon and president of the OSM Musicians’ Committee, said in an email.

Lévesque would not directly confirm rumours that musicians who harbour hard feelings would be given the opportunity to opt out of the concerts.

‘The administration has been supportive of the fact that Charles Dutoit’s return may still be a difficult topic for some,’ he said. ‘We are discussing with management how to best accommodate and be supportive to our colleagues.’

It is a measure of the sensitivity of the matter that the Musicians’ Committee has instructed players not to talk to the press.


  • Milka says:

    Mr. Dutoit must indeed need the money to sacrifice personal dignity by such an
    ambiguous return .Ego rules the day..there is that observation about old fools .

    • MacroV says:

      I’m quite sure Mr. Dutoit doesn’t need the money – he is still working very regularly with top-level orchestras. Maybe he’s just decided that his exit from Montreal was very unfortunate, could/should have been handled a lot better, and he, a lot of the OSM musicians, and a good part of the audience would like to mend fences after 14 years. Doesn’t need to be anything more than that.

  • 110 says:

    Great conductors are rude, abrupt ,in a way like great chefs.(Toscanini and so many)
    Dutoit will return Montreal to be the great orchestra that used to be.I remember the glowing sound ,the superb wind section.
    Montreal is”The “single ensemble that is capable to make you listen to the Ravel Bolero.
    Good luck maestro!

    • chris says:

      “Great conductors are rude, abrupt ,in a way like great chefs.”

      Aren’t we painting with a broad brush…? How about Giulini or Abbado?

    • Iain Scott says:

      I had the misfortune to hear three concerts conducted by Dutoit. They were among the most miserable musical,well actually that is the point,unmusical performances I have attended.
      The sound he draws from the orchestra- any orchestra- is brash and bright.
      Any excuse for a cheap musical thrill is used.its a performance that’s all about him.
      Personally if there was a tribunal for crimes against music he’d be in the dock.
      My sympathies go to the musicians.

    • Greg from SF says:

      I must take exception to your comment about great conductors being rude.
      To wit…..
      Van Beinum
      ….Have I made my point?

  • Jim says:

    Since when does anyone in a professional orchestra (and I assume they think of themselves individually also as “professionals”) pick and choose who waves the stick in front of them in a guest conductor role? Get over it. You are a pro. Play your instrument. So you don’t like Dutoit? Sorry. He was there for years, and as such, is part of your legacy as an orchestra. This isn’t the first time you have had to endure someone you don’t like as a conductor–and it certainly won’t be the last. If you don’t like him THAT much, be thankful that it is one concert only.

    • Charles says:

      The history between Dutoit and the musicians of the OSM isn’t so simple… Dutoit made a point of humiliating individual musicians in rehearsal (some would say to the point of violating labour rights), made them work so hard that musicians were regularly getting sidelined by repetitive stress injuries, and was generally very ungrateful for the great results he was consistently getting from the players. For some, he was worth all that, but for others (especially the ones who had to go through targeted humiliation), I think he’s a chapter of the OSM’s history that they never wanted to look back on. Now, that being said, there are many new faces in the ensemble since Dutoit left, and my understanding is that most of the players are fine with Dutoit’s return.

  • Janis says:

    Whether he’s “good” or not doesn’t matter to me. This is music, not life or death, no matter how very, very central to the universe we musicians can think we are. There is no excuse for being a son of a bitch, plain and simple. I don’t give a damn about Greatness or whatever BS excuse people want to use. I prefer to quote to other far better musicians:

    Michael Morgan: “This isn’t brain surgery. No one will die if we stopped in the middle.”

    Doc Severinsen: “We’re the clowns. We’re troubadours.”

    I don’t really care who will get ticked off at my next observation, but the attitude that the Greatness and Importance of What We Do is so enormous that we can excuse someone being a rat bastard is what is ultimately behind all of the various offenses in this little monastic enclave, including the sex abuse. When you think that you personally keep the universe rotating by your efforts, you can excuse a lot of shit that in any civilized society would get you thrown in jail. Another great musician, Beverly Sills, once said that art is the signature of a civilization — not the way some people practice it, it’s not. It’s the perfect excuse for barbarism.

    Yallz blow into pipes and bang on strings for a living, people. In no way, shape, or form does that stand as sufficient excuse to behave like a monster.

    I was quite pleased the day he split from Philadelphia, my favorite and hometown band. It’ll be a better day when he retires.

  • Daniel Farber says:

    Dutoit was a consistently welcome presence as guest conductor with the Boston Symphony during the endless water-boarding of the Ozawa years. (In fact, he is back there this week, with the great violinist, Julia Fischer, in a rare American appearance.) I wish him the best in his kiss-and-make-up venture in Montreal. One wonders if the Boston Symphony’s management will ever offer an olive branch to James Levine. The latter is guest-conducting in Philadelphia next season.

    • Milka says:

      Why should they offer anything to Levine – he received a good salary for part time work,
      and was no worse or better than those of his ilk .

  • Brian b says:

    Hey, say what one will, he’s the only one able to persuade Argerich to perform with any reliability. That alone must be worth something in the great Book.
    But from what I gather, the OSM owed Dutoit a great deal more than he owed them. He put them on the map and was responsible for their stellar Decca recording contract. Since and before then they seem only to make news for going on strike or rebel against their music director.

    • MacroV says:

      I lived in Montreal and heard the OSM a lot in Dutoit’s last year and the following year. I can say that the OSM sounded magnificent with him – and just as good after he left.

      Dutoit/OSM was one of the great brands in the music world in the 1980s and early 90s. But I would say that was much less a case of him making them a great orchestra (they were already a fine orchestra under Zubin Mehta and the late, great, underappreciated Franz-Paul Decker), than clever marketing by Decca that made the OSM the “world’s greatest French orchestra.”