Exclusive: Paris appoints British music director

(We have been sitting on this story for a month, waiting for the contract ink to dry. Now, all can be told.)

The Orchestre de Paris is about to announce Daniel Harding as its next music director.

It’s a subtle, sophisticated, highly promising appointment.

Harding, 39, is a vastly accomplished conductor who was mentored by Rattle and Abbado, conducts regularly in Vienna and Berlin, but has yet to land a major international band. His children live in Paris, he is fluent in French and au fait with the culture (his predecessor Paavo Järvi never got past parlez-vous). Harding will take a much-rejuvenated orchestra into new musical territory.

The OdP have a history of turbulent relationships with conductors, an ability to give a Gallic shrug to the best of musical intentions. But they have many foreign players nowadays. As a group, they generally appreciate Harding and enjoy his agreeable, collaborative rehearsals and the combustion he adds in performance.

In sum, the delicate balance seems well-adjusted.

Daniel Harding may be the first Englishman to conquer Paris.

daniel harding

He is presently music director with the excellent radio orchestra in Stockholm.

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  • Ljubisa says:

    Excelent news for Paris! Best possible…

  • […] confrère et ami Norman Lebrecht annonce en avant-première la désignation de Daniel Harding au poste de Directeur musical de l’Orchestre de Paris à partir de la saison 2016-2017. Il prendra la suite de Paavo Järvi qui avait annoncé, […]

  • Ray Richardson says:

    A great appointment and what surley will be a winning combination; his work with The Mahler Chamber Orchestra augurs well. Realy exciting news.

  • herrera says:

    Best of luck to Harding. I don’t think Eschenbach and Jarvi did much to burnish the reputation of the orchestra, perhaps even to dull it. Given the city’s place in the European classical scene (geographic and cultural), and now with a spanking new Philharmonie, Harding is well poised to take the orchestra into a new golden age in the 21st century. And if France goes ahead and merges the Orchestre National de France and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, then the Orchestre de Paris will have that much more of a prominent role to play in French classical music.

  • Mark Mortimer says:

    I agree with you Norman on many things but sadly not this.

    Daniel Harding is not a good conductor. Totally lacking in charisma- both musically and personally. By london orchestras at least- he’s rumoured to be smug way beyond his natural abilities and frequently offensive to them in rehearsal. If not for Simon Rattle’s patronage in his late teens- he would not be on the international scene. More like on the youth orchestra circuit.

    Depressing news for the Orchestre de Paris- whom I doubt voted for him in the first place. More likely hoisted on them by his super agent. Well anyway- there we go.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      When did you last see him at work, Mark? Actually, Abbado was a more significant mentor than Rattle, and he was not known for promoting duds.

  • Mark Mortimer says:

    I cannot agree Norman.

    Daniel Harding is an inadequate conductor- totally lacking in both musical and personal charisma. He is rumoured to be insufferably smug in front of British orchestras at least and frequently offensive in rehearsals. If not for Simon Rattle’s patronage- he would be nowhere near the international circuit.

    Good luck to the Orchestra De Paris

    • norman lebrecht says:

      I don’t believe in rumours. I watch him work with orchestras.

      • Mark Mortimer says:

        Tx Norman- fair enough. In my opinion- he’s not impressive and I think a lot of the LSO and several of the big US orchestras would share my sentiment

      • iama malted says:

        This is no rumor. He conducted us (a top American orchestra) recently. We found him to be technically and musically incompetent, and arrogant and unpleasant to boot. Good luck, Paris.

        • Kilgore Trout says:

          “Technically and musically incompetent, and arrogant and unpleasant” ? So he’s going to be perfect for an unpleasant and arrogant orchestra like the Orchestre de Paris. Why do you think Järvi didn’t stay ? He was too good for that dreadful orchestra (their performance of Ives’ fourth symphony in 2014 is the most amateurish performance I’ve ever heard by a professional orchestra).

  • Julian Reynolds says:

    Barenboim chose Harding to conduct one of his 70th birthday performances (three concertos in one night). So that’s a royal seal of approval

    • Olassus says:

      Or just an indication that not many (great) conductors want to spend a whole evening accompanying (a big ego).

  • T-ARAFANBOY says:

    An interesting combination Daniel Harding, an accomplished – yet still in growth phase – conductor, and a rejuvenated OdP, ie. let’s grow together… Certainly an improvement on the last years. I guess he will bring a new sound and new ideas to the orchestra, even at the risk of a less than predictable outcome, but after Jarvi I would welcome that. Jarvi was not bad for the modern/20th century repertoire, but for the romantic ????, his style simply just too “stiff” for some repertoire (the father always being preferable).
    And as for Eschenbach, well – no comment..

  • LP says:

    I heard him with the Staatskapelle Dresden on tour and was rather impressed. He was also supposed to conduct the Concentus Musicus Wien last month (before he had to cancel for some kind of -apparently- legitimate reason) which seems to also show that Harnoncourt doesn’t see him unfavorably either. It looks like good news for Paris to me.

    • Don Ciccio says:

      I also heard him with the SD on tour and I wondered how in the world someone was able to make this orchestra sound boring. Somehow Harding managed to do it.

      His Mahler 10 recording is likewise boring. But he has the British press cheering for him

  • John Lancaster says:

    Saw Daniel Harding conducting Mahler 6 last December at the BPO. Fine interpretation. Much enjoyed. Should be a fine conductor in Paris

  • Timothy jones says:

    Sadly I can’t agree. As a member of the LSO we have a great relationship with Mr Harding. Yes he’s young but an extraordinary talent. We are lucky to have him. …

  • ruben greenberg says:

    Why will Järvi have stayed for such a short while? The last time the Orchestre de Paris had a good relationship with its permanent conductor was at its founding over 45 years ago with Munch! This was a short-lived relationship, for Munch died after only conducting a few concerts. Harding seems to be a divisive personality: some musicians like him, others are strongly opposed to him. I wish him luck with the Orchestre de Paris and them luck with him.

  • Russell Platt says:

    I must confess I am skeptical as well; I had contacts in London when he was on the way up, and I subsequently heard him live, and was not very impressed. Perhaps ultimately he is a flower best tended in the UK’s garden; there are some artists who can only be World Class when they’re in their own particular part of the world. But I’ll hear him next time he conducts in NYC.

  • Pianoman says:

    I believe that it happened more than once that he would have a major gig, say, with Berliner Philharmonic, and he would make sure to program some of the same repertoire with the Radio Orchestra in Stockholm. As some players were commenting – it gave them the feeling of being the ‘rehearsal orchestra’ offering him assistance when needed, for his ‘more important’ gigs. I do believe he has done some good for the orchestra. But personally, I would not find it pleasant to work with someone with such a troubling ego and such an arrogant attitude, at times.

    • PJ says:

      You seem to forget that a conductor doesn’t get to do his “material” so often as a recitalist, a stage actor or a stand-up comedian. It’s perfectly normal to want to conduct an unfamiliar piece in a more “protected” place first before doing it with a top orchestra like the Berlin Phil. And it’s perfectly normal as well to do the same pieces several times in the same season with different orchestras.

      • Pianoman says:

        Depends on the recitalist, and so on. I’ve had the situation quite often of being in a situation where a new concerto has to be learned within weeks prior to an upcoming appearance with orchestra. Heck, if I’d be in Harding’s shoes I certainly wouldn’t have minded having a ‘warm-up’ gig with a minor orchestra prior to a gig with a major one, but all of this is really beyond reach for most of us mere mortals.

  • ganymede says:

    Daniel Harding is an outstanding conductor and one of the very very few who give me some hope in the future of live classical music. He is anything but boring, playing the works in a fresh and non-standard form (his own, not that of the gazillions of recordings that all sound more or less the same). He hasn’t published many recordings (which is good in many ways) but is often heard on radio and of course live. Great for Paris but I hope he will continue to conduct in Stockholm as well (where I manage to catch him on occasions).

  • Pierre from France says:

    Being a regular spectator of the Orchestre de Paris, I felt sad when Paavo Jarvi announced his departure since he kind of made my classical music education when I arrived in Paris 5 years ago for my studies. A attended wonderful concerts (tchaikovsky’s 4th and 5th symphonies, prokoviev’s 5th, shotakovitch’s 5th…) that I’ll hardly forget. Each time, I saw mutual respect and admiration between Jarvi and the musicians. Jarvi leaves the Orchestra because of a set of circumstances, among which 1) he was appointed music director of the NHK orchestra (Japan) and did not want to quit his Chamber Orchestra in Bremen (Germany), which he conducts for more than 10 years 2) it has regularly been said there were tensions between Jarvi and the manager of the orchestra, one Bruno Hamard… but not because of the musicians!

    I was worrying about who would be appointed as next music director, but I have to confess that I’m now reassured. Harding is a great charismatic conductor, and already experienced in spite of his relative youth. In addition, the last times he came to conduct the Orchestre de Paris produced marvellous performances. We could see on stage a total harmony between them.

    And for those who seem to still live in the 70s, 80s or 90s, I’d like to say that today’s orchestra is not the same as that which challenged Semyon Bychkov’ authority or which had difficulties with Sir Georg Solti…

    (sorry if there are language mistakes, I’m not english native speaker…)

  • M2N2K says:

    After having worked with DH several times throughout the last two decades, I believe strongly that, although not without a certain amount of arrogance, he is nevertheless a very fine conductor and probably among the top few of his generation.

  • Alex says:

    I once read or heard that this conductor has a ‘Daniel Harding clause’ in his contracts, which essentially means that the orchestra has to be extra polite to him, or something to that effect. Anybody know something about that?

  • PW says:

    Having watched him over many years, I can only say that I totally agree with the comments of Mr. Jones above.

  • Eric Koenig says:

    Like the photographer said, let’s see what develops!

  • john says:

    Daniel Harding has commented himself that he might have started too young and been a bit immature and arrogant earlier in his career, but that he now feels he is a bit older and ready for a major orchestra. He had to learn in front of major orchestras; making his mistakes much more public. (He also talked about how his divorce affected him professionally). But he is still quite young for a conductor, and certainly held in high regard by many other conductors and orchestral musicians.

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