Longest lasting orchestral managers

Someone speculated the other day that David Whelton, nearing 30 years as chief exec of the Philharmonia Orchestra, must be the greatest current survivor in orchestral administration, with the exception of Avi Shoshani at the Israel Phil.

whelton china

 

And maybe not just current.

Arthur Judson sets the benchmark. He managed the Philadelphia Orchestra 1915-35 and the New York Philharmonic from 1922 to 1956 while also running America’s biggest artists agency on the side).

Has anyone managed longer?

Let start a list.

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  • David is a really ‘good egg’. He has kept the Philharmonia at the musical forefront, despite the dumbing down all around. Long may he flourish!

  • A list? Are you kidding? You’ve made it already. The revolving orchestra management door spins so fast you don’t know sometimes whether you are coming or going. One little problem and suddenly the exec is on the street. The thinking is that somehow a change of personnel upstairs solves their financial or personnel problems, instead, all it does is exchange one set of problems for another. The only model where you would have exec longevity is the Intendant model where the conductor(s) is an employee of the orchestra exec. Otherwise, the charismatic, glamorous conductor, who walks on water in the eyes of the Board and who has been given the authority to drive the orchestra financially into the toilet has only to whisper behind the scenes. You see, the members of the board, business leaders themselves who live by numbers, look at the orchestra’s “numbers” and who do you think gets the blame? The conductor can step in front of a board and blather about Mahler 3 for thirty minutes and the board gets all moist in their underpants. See the problem?

    • Is there anywhere on this blog that someone would not feel comfortable depositing a bitter rant bearing a tangential relation to the topic at hand?

  • How about John Edwards of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Nick Webster of the New York Philarmoni?. Both were supremely capable, though not necessarily held with great affection. And as I think about it, both are probably in the middle tier of longest serving orchestral managers.

  • Siewert Verster has been Orchestral Manager of the Orchestra of the 18th Century for 34 years (since its foundation in 1981).

  • Ian Maclay has to be a serious contender for the title – I recall he started at the RPO after he left college, and aside from a brief period at the BBC I can’t remember a time when he wasn’t at the RPO. Ian IS the RPO!

  • Sandra Parr has been at the RLPO since the late 1980s, in a range of roles, and is still only mid-career. But presumably we’re only after Chief Execs here?

  • Not the longest tenure, but Ernest Fleischmann was very influential at the LSO and later on at the LA Philharmonic (where he was responsible for getting Salonen).

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