New York’s next conductor won’t be American

New York’s next conductor won’t be American


norman lebrecht

February 07, 2015

The betting’s open on the next chief of the NY Philharmonic, but even at 50-1 you’d get few takers on an American contender.

First, the last two music directors, Maazel and Gilbert, have been made in the USA. Time for change.

Second, no American is presently in contention for front-line vacancies, in Berlin or elsewhere.

So who?

First in mind is Sir Simon Rattle who springs free from Berlin just as Gilbert steps down in New York. Rattle has avoided New York until now as a proverbial Babylon. He may find it preferable to the LSO.

Riccardo Chailly will be a contender if he doesn’t  take Berlin. Christian Thielemann will come into the reckoning. The New York Times is tipping Esa-Pekka Salonen, who has said repeatedly he does not wnat the responsibility of heading another major orchestra. And Gustavo Dudamel, who has already turned down New York once, will be high on the players’ list.

But there’s a long way to go between now and 2019.

rattle Berlin Philharmonic Prom 64_CR_BBC Chris Christodoulou_3




  • Herrera says:

    Won’t be Thielemans because there’s bad blood between them, the NYPhil thought he was condescending the last time he conducted there and he has never returned since.

    Won’t be Dudamel because LAPhil has Disney Hall, because LAPhil is better off financially, because he has the LA audience eating out of his hands.

    Won’t be Rattle, because who leaves Berlin for NY?

  • MacroV says:

    I could see Sir Simon coming, unless he decides he’s too old to be a music director again, and too old to lead the Philharmonic through its transition to a renovated hall. It would be particularly inspired, given he has always avoided the Philharmonic (from what I understand because he saw them behave rudely to a guest conductor in a rehearsal, but that was some time ago). Of course Muti’s contract in Chicago is also up at about the same time and I could see them going after Sir Simon, too.

  • chris says:

    Has Simon Rattle ever conducted the NY Phil? If so, not for a long time. Not sure why he would want it.

    I could see them trying to lure their incoming composer-in-residence Esa-Pekka Salonen to do it since he’s a frequent guest there but not sure he’d want the demands of an American music directorship again.

    • SDReader says:

      The Salonen scenario seems feasible, especially if the residency goes well: the NYPhil has a history in composer-conductors and in L.A. transfers.

      My 2nd guess would be Thielemann, if only to try to equal Chicago in clout. He could do it part-time, keeping Dresden and Dresden’s related Salzburg activities. He has ruled himself out for Berlin, I think.

      Chailly is committed to Milan and Leipzig, it seems. Pablo Heras Casado is a modest talent and has only just started at the Orchestra of St Luke’s. Dudamel just bought a bigger house in L.A. Robertson, while superb, has insufficient charisma. Jurowski could work. Morlot I don’t know.

  • Anon says:

    Rattle wouldn’t go to America, me thinks. Salonen would be a candidate, but probably he doesn’t like it too much. Nobody has mentioned Noseda yet. In a few years this might be his time to take this fine orchestra.

    • SDReader says:

      Mrs. Rattle wouldn’t go to America.

      • Malcolm james says:

        He has already stated that they will remained based in Berlin. Also, he said that it’s time to let his wife to do more. Even though she is nearly 20 years younger, paradoxically her career might be more time-limited than his.

  • Karajan says:

    Salonen. If they are smart, they should go all out to try to get Salonen. He is capable of building a legacy there, and he also fits the tradition of having a leading composer/conductor as the music director like Mahler, Bernstein, and Boulez…

  • Brian says:

    Non-American is a good bet, unless it’s finally David Robertson’s time. My bet is on (relative) youth.

    Vladimir Jurowski? He’s 42 and made a decent impression in his debut last year.

    Pablo Heras-Casado? He has the Hispanic background and youth, though maybe too inexperienced.

    Ludovic Morlot? Certainly a lot of buzz around him right now in Seattle.

    To the earlier commenter’s point, Rattle hasn’t conducted NY in a long time if he has at all, which all but puts him out of the running. Whoever they choose will be someone who has conducted there in the last few years.

    • DLowe says:

      Jurowski would be a good choice. Versatile, dynamic and talented, right for the NY Phil. I may be wrong, but I think his contract with the LPO ends in 2017 as well…

  • Emmanuel says:

    Marin Alsop?

    • SDReader says:

      Yes, why not? Everyone seems to love her.

      • Ignacio Martínez-Ybor says:

        I don’t……

      • Don Ciccio says:

        Let’s give Marin credit for winning over Baltimore Symphony Orchestra musicians. As we know, they were not too enthusiastic about her being chosen as music director. Also, for improving the finances, and even the technical level of the orchestra.

        But I don’t like her music making. In fact, one big reason why I subscribe to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is to support the musicians, but my subscription package consists mostly of appearances by guest conductors. After all, Alsop manage to make Mahler’s 2nd and the 1st act of Walkure boring.

  • rambonito says:

    Rattle will go where an orchestra can play an accelerando probably.

  • jaypee says:

    I’d be curious to see New Yorkers’ reactions when Thielemann conducts Pfitzner or war-time works from Richard Strauss while literally banning Mahler from concert performances…

    Probably the most overrated conductor since Celibidache.

  • rambonito says:

    You have probably not attended to concerts in Berlin when he conducted Verdi, Mozart, Debussy, Tchaikovsky. Absolute highlights of the last seasons.
    And about Mahler he said that he has to wait until he feels ready for it, he has too much respect for this music.
    Please stop reading clichés articles about him.

    • Anon says:

      His Tchaikovsky was a drag. Not his thing. After all these years my respect for Karajan rises, as how he could do relatively well in such a wide repertoire, while today’s conductors are much more limited when it comes to versatility. But even Karan’s Mozart was not my cup of tea… His Bach, meh…

  • Hanna Lachert says:

    Dudamel did not turn down NYPhil, because he was not offered it…

    • norman lebrecht says:

      I have it on good authority that he was – just after he signed with LA.

      • Mario says:

        No Norman, you don’t have it better authority than the woman you are arguing with.
        She actually played there and was a member of the orchestra committee. She would know and you would not.

        • norman lebrecht says:

          I won’t argue with anonymous sources. Mine was the horse’s mouth, and several teeth for verification.

  • erich says:

    Absolutely amazed that nobody has mentioned Pappano. By then it is time he leaves Santa Cecilia and he has all the credentials.

  • Oracle says:

    Why would Esa-Pekka Salonen could be the perfect contender:
    * excellent rapport with the orchestra
    * his contract with Philharmonia end in 2017, so it would be a perfect timing to switch, should NY Phil allow him to keep his conducting weeks limited enough in order to have time to compose. He also tells in interviews to have moved back to the States with his family. He might say ‘no’ now, but let’s see in a year or two…
    * composer-in-residence season is a perfect period in order to prepare things for the MD-ship.
    * they say they’re about to renovate Avery Fisher Hall, but who knows if with the help and experience of Salonen they might eventually aim for something better and end up building a completely new, world class concert hall in New York? He’s after all one of the few conductors in the world who have the experience of doing a mission impossible – creating and fundraising together with his teams almost out of a scratch one of the best concert halls in the world. That’s a credit that few conductors have – especially knowing how important Salonen’s role was in that process.

  • M2N2K says:

    The explanation offered by AG does not seem credible. Even by recent standards, eight years is much too short a period for a youngish conductor to call “long enough”, considering that his artistic leadership of the orchestra has been quite successful. There must be some other reasons for his decision. Either he is getting an offer that he cannot refuse (your guess may be better than mine), or the NYPhil management is eager to grab someone whom they believe to be more desirable. If the latter is true, SirSR is very unlikely to be so tempted after Berlin, but a relatively “underemployed” EPS could be a real possibility. As for the Americans, probably the only person i can think of at the moment worth looking at for the NYers is DR who is doing a very fine job in SL where his contract expires in 2018.

  • NYMike says:

    It won’t be DR – NYP musicians are not impressed. If EPS’s word is to be believed, it won’t be him. SirSR will guest here in future seasons…….AG doesn’t want to go through the rebuild of AF and orchestra relocation for the necessary two years. A “completely new world-class hall” somewhere else is out of the question.

    • M2N2K says:

      Which “EPS’s word” are you talking about exactly? It is certainly possible that DR will not be the chosen one for the NY Phil, but in my opinion he deserves a better chance than any other American to be considered for the job. If however you think that only those conductors who impress orchestra members the most can ever become their music directors, you are mistaken.

  • Don Ciccio says:

    There’s a fellow named Manfred Honeck. Just saying…

  • Nick Rogieri says:

    How come no one has mentioned Jaap van Zweden? He seems to be gunning for the big guns these days and is taking the world by storm, no?

  • Brian says:

    If it were up to me, I’d move heaven and earth to entice Andrew Manze to lead the Philharmonic.

  • phlrdfd says:

    I like Honeck too, but he is locked into his Pittsburgh job until at least 2020. That’s too long for the NYP to wait. And I don’t think he’d take a second job with an American orchestra while he is still in Pittsburgh.
    I think Salonen and Jurowski are the best choices among those who may possibly accept. I can’t see Rattle accepting in light of not having conducted there. He’s always said he isn’t interested in a job in the U.S. He used to guest conduct in Philadelphia regularly, but hasn’t even done that in recent years (although I read a quote, I believe from Nezet-Seguin indicating that he’ll be coming back in future seasons; I would guess after his BPO commitment is over). I also can’t see Thielemann getting it both for political reasons and because I don’t think he’s conducted there in many years. I don’t think Chailly has either. As others have said, I don’t think it will be a conductor who has either never conducted there or hasn’t been there in over a decade.

  • baron z says:

    I think you are ridiculous to say “it is time” for them to not hire another American. James Conlon would be ideal, for one. I have respect for Chailly, which I cannot say for most big-name conductors.

  • Zach says:

    Am I the only one who is hoping, begging for Slatkin??
    A few reasons:
    1. Charisma, charisma, charisma. He has that spark that can inspire musicians and audiences alike to want to come with him for the ride. In a recent performance with the NYPhil in which he conducted Bolero, he spoke from the stage about all the most interesting facets of the piece, complete with musical examples from the orchestra– just like Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts. Unlike Gilbert’s talks from the stage about Nielsen, Slatkin’s was well-rehearsed, engaging, and not in the least condescending.
    2. At that point, he will be year-to-year with Detroit– and we all know the trouble the city of Detroit has been going through as of late.
    3. Slatkin is at home as a New Yorker, but would not be at home as a Berliner.
    4. I’ve seen Slatkin rehearse an orchestra. He’s the consummate seasoned professional rehearser.

    The single downside to Slatkin is that he will be aging. He may not want to relocate at his age. He has the disadvantage of being compared to Maazel or Masur because of this. However, in this time of relocation, the orchestra needs an established face more than it needs a fresh start to retain the continuity and prestige of the orchestra.

    My money’s on Slatkin. Please please please.

  • Curtis Rittenhouse says:

    Reliable sources say the next music director will be Dutch and none of you are even warm.

    • Curtis Rittenhouse says:

      Correction only one of you. My apologies. The NYP has historically been a tough group to please. The story recounted in their history of how they ganged up to get rid of Artur Rodzinski lingers in the mind. Those players are long gone but that New York state of mind lingers on. Whoever takes them on will have to similarly have a steel spine and his wits about him. The reward could be exceptional music-making for New Yorkers. Let’s hope so.

    • Curtis Rittenhouse says:

      Sorry. One of you is right. My apologies. The NYP has historically been a tough group. Just read the story in their history of how they ganged up to get rid of Rodzinski. Those players are long gone but a New York State of Mind lingers on. Someone who had once been the respected leader of a major orchestra could command this outfit. Now having established his own style and a solid reputation, this could be a winning fit and lead to some outstanding music making. Let’s hope so.