Exclusive: Washington chooses next music director

Exclusive: Washington chooses next music director


norman lebrecht

January 04, 2016

We hear that players in the National Symphony Orchestra have expressed a strong preference and the Kennedy Center president, Deborah Rutter, has got his signature on a contract.

The next music director, succeeding Christoph Eschenbach, will be… Gianandrea Noseda.

You read it here first.

The Italian is presently in New York, conducting Pearl Fishers at the Met. He is expected in Washington in the next few days to announce the appointment.

Noseda, 51, first made his mark as Gergiev’s house conductor at the Mariinsky in St Petersburg. He went on to the BBC Philharmonic in Manchester in 2002, adding the Teatro Regio Torino five years later.

He is principal guest conductor with the Israel Philharmonic and was a strong contender with the LSO, where he missed out to Simon Rattle. Over the past two years, his US reputation has risen fast and he was among the potential candidates for the New York Philharmonic.

Noseda is a terrific catch for DC: energetic, committed, smart and very experienced. Our informant says: ‘The orchestra couldn’t be more thrilled to know an exciting and probing conductor is going to lead them after chaotic, catastrophic, dull and messy period of Eschy……..’



  • Mary Sutter says:

    Good choice. Actually, anything will be better than Eschenbach. His music directorship in Washington has been a true disappointment. I, like so many regular concert goers at the NSO had high hopes when he was named music director. It appeared that it was a good choice. That quickly proved not to be the case, as he was apparent early on that Eschenbach was not giving everything and couldn’t even disguise his disinterest in the orchestra and in the wider community. Concerts were always inconsistent, often ill prepared and Eschenbach turned in one boring and uneven performance after another.

    Looking back, many should have been suspicious, as one could read similar things that happened during his failed music directorships in Philadelphia and Paris. He also cost a lot of money to our orchestra and all of us who donated money to the NSO have resentment how he demanded so much money and gave so little back in return. As the saying goes, “once bitten, twice shy”. This experience with Eschenbach should serve as a lesson for all orchestras, that often what appears to be special is not and may often cost you far more than quality that comes with less expectations and at a normal cost. The NSO, its audience and donors were fooled and it won’t happen again.

    I want to wish the best of luck to Gianandrea Noseda! Washington needs inspiration and dedication and hopefully we have finally found it.

    • Daniel F. says:

      It’s too bad that the vetting process wasn’t taken more seriously, as Eschenbach had burned quite a lot of territory on his way out of at least two previous towns. Then again the vetting process in the D.C. area in general sometimes leaves something to be desired. Noseda is a very good choice and here’s hoping he lives up to the positive impression of the musicians .

    • Stereo says:

      C E is just a greedy Kraut
      Noseda is inspirational a great choice

  • David Boxwell says:

    Will he be paid as much as ChrisEsch was?

    I’m betting “no.”

    • Brian Hughes says:

      If you read Anne Midgette’s Washington Post article (referenced above), she indicates that Noseda will be paid a six-figure salary and will NOT hold the dual position as Music Director of the Kennedy Center. That job, according to Midgette, is gone (and hopefully forgotten, as Eschenbach will one day be).

  • Uli says:

    Gianandrea Noseda is indeed a big catch for the NSO. Finally this underrated orchestra has a real possibility now to become something.

    Everybody should have known that “Eschy” would turn out to be a failure at the NSO. His track record and reputation as a music director is very poor and his well-known insatiable greed for money and demanding to be the highest paid conductor in the world only add to the suspicion that should have stopped the NSO from signing him in the first place. After all, he was signed just after he was dismissed, with a lot of acrimony, from both The Philadelphia Orchestra and the Orchestre de Paris.

    Noseda is a great conductor. I have heard him three times and was impressed and left the concert enthralled each time.

    • Daniel F. says:

      All you need to understand why the NSO were OK with paying top dollar for very little return is to set foot in the Kennedy Center. The lobbies are huge. I mean you could land a small plane or helicopter in the them, but there is no place to sit down. It’s lavish, garish, completely wasted space! It appears, finally and at long last, they have come to their senses and made a good hire.

  • William Ford says:

    A great catch for the NSO. I heard him in Pittsburgh and he was outstanding.

  • John McLaughlin Williams says:

    What, they couldn’t find an American conductor? Some things never change.

    • Halldor says:

      No good orchestra could care less about what it happens to say on their music director’s passport. Music has higher priorities.

      • Brian Hughes says:

        Well………..? It is called the “National” Symphony, even if it’s not. I’m just happy that Eschenbach and his ungodly salary are gone. It’s my hope that the NSO can rise to the level demanded by its name.

    • Paul says:

      While Noseda, Eschenbach, even Rostropovich might all be excellent conductors, it is indeed odd that the “National” Symphony Orchestra rarely ever picks an American conductor. One might have expected that Slatkin could have left a better impression and made a change in that area, but he appears to have been the exception to the rule. Was Alan Gilbert even under consideration? Or which other American conductors might have even been qualified??

      • Peter says:

        They should choose their battles wisely and as far as their “National” dedication goes be focussing on the promotion of American composers and commissioning of contemporary American music. And also promote classical music to a National audience. Which is apparently exactly what they are doing.

        Unlike – cough, cough, traditional competence clusters for classical music like in central Europe – the US has not much of a unique performance culture that needs protection by preferring local talent. To the contrary, apparently the US classical music scene can not survive without its traditional trade deficit, imports outnumbering exports by far.

  • Jon H says:

    I went to many of the Eschenbach concerts, and while people have been tough on him, there were some great moments under his baton too. For people who couldn’t hear or appreciate it, it was their loss.

    • PaulD says:

      I do agree that there have been fine moments under Eschenbach, like the Bruckner 6th at the beginning of his tenure, and last year’s Mahler 9th. But, there was also a meandering and ear-splittingly loud Bruckner 8th that will stick in my memory in a bad way.

  • youthfulstrings says:

    Perhaps I caught him on a bad night, but I witnessed a seriously underwhelming Noseda performance in Cleveland this fall-he seemed, even when accompanying Kavakos in the Shostakovich first concerto, full of a lot of podium theatrics that had the effect of compromising ensemble playing. Maybe a showman like Noseda will wake the NSO up from its Eschenbach-induced slumber, but I am doubtful that he is the magic pill for an ensemble that has struggled for years.

    • Jon H says:

      Many orchestras in the U.S. and indeed the world would love the NSO’s “struggle” – especially Cleveland. An orchestra that doesn’t need to tour in order to survive – Cleveland’s all over that!

  • anthony says:

    I’ve seen many a concert in my years, but was astounded at the performance I saw with Noseda and the Israel Philharmonic here in Virginia. After a lot of careful thought, I have decided it was the best concert I’ve ever seen. This is such a great choice! I can’t wait to take many weekend trips to DC to hear many more great offerings.

  • Stuard Young says:

    No American conductor? Sure, the NSO could have reached out to Alan Gilbert! (Just joking). Too bad the NSO did not heed the signs of Eschenbach’s time in Philadelphia. Noseda is an outstanding and exciting choice! His concerts in Philadelphia have been excellent. The orchestra has liked him well enough to call on him as a last minute replacement when the scheduled conductor had to cancel. Noseda even conducted Traviata at the Met in NYC the same day as a Philadelphia concert. This man has had our conservative audience on its feet after a performance of music never heard here, by Alfredo Casella! It will be such a joy to be able to hear this fine musician on a regular basis only a few hours away.

    • Jon H says:

      As for conductor nationality, there has always been something nice about a Germanic conductor (the NSO’s first director was Hans Kindler), and for other orchestras it goes back to when America became the home of Bruno Walter, Fritz Reiner, George Szell, etc. Those conductors conducted that music as though they owned it (or it was part of their own heritage), and they also formed the best orchestras in this country. The more one listens to those interpretations, the more one realizes the American-born conductors can’t possibly reach that, because they didn’t have that closeness to the nationality of the music. Sure, they have a closeness to American music – but this music owes something to the classics – you can’t have American music without the understanding of harmonic tensions that came from the classics. So, it makes perfect sense that Chicago has Muti, and Cleveland has Welsor-Most, and to the degree that Germanic music is the foundation, why the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonics represent some of the best orchestral music-making out there.

      • Brian Hughes says:

        Something nice about German(ic) conductors? I guess I’m at a loss. BTW, two of the three mentioned (Reiner and Szell) were both Hungarian, as were Ormandy, Dorati, Kertesz, Solti, and others. I remain amazed that such a land bore interpreters of such stature.

        As for Chicago, all sorts of interesting things could have occurred. Many guest artists threatened a boycott if they went ahead with their post-war hire: Furtwangler. And what if Kubelik hadn’t been run out of town?

        • Peter says:

          Not that it is too important but you are mistaken in your Germanophobia about Reiner’s and Szell’s roots. The Austrian Empire they were born into, was a multicultural melting pot of austrian/German/Bohemian/Hungarianetc.influences.Which is probably why it proved to be such a most fertile soil for so many exceptionally gifted classical musicians.
          Reiner grew up in Budapest, a generally Hungarian environment, but German language and culture were predominant, particularly in the large Jewish fraction of the Hungarian population… Szell grew up in Vienna… Doraty was by his early musical carreer very much a product of the German system. Solti, his name was actually Stern before a wave of nationalistic backlash in Hungary after secession from Austria forced German names to be “Hungarized”, was also spending the formative years of his carreer in postwar Germany. It’s complex, but certainly far above your reduction to simplistic nationalistic divisions.

  • Edmund says:

    Many were upset with Norman’s C-C comment. Am I the only one who thinks that stereo’s comment calling Eschenbach a greedy Kraut just as offensive?

    • Jon H says:

      Nothing lowers you faster than name-calling. You guys need to stop writing and do some more listening. I’m heading there myself.

  • Yair Sachs says:

    To Ed Says:
    No, you’re not the only one.
    This bloke here finds this kind of ‘bloggin’ totally out of place in a magazine dedicated to matters of culture.
    And by the same token, may I ask Norman to refrain from such condescending and derisive titles as he has dedicated here to Max Reger.
    Derision of Reger has been a Bon Ton for decades. My father, a pianist and broadcaster (indeed born, raised, educated in and fled from Germany) lamented this fact many years ago. There is enough good Reger that should win him some respect, even among Brits!

  • John Edward Niles says:

    He is a terrific conductor. I saw two concerts conducted by him one in Philadelphia and later in Chicago. Both times he was terrific. And as for the comments about an American Conductor, well that had one….Leonard Slatkin and we know who “wonderful” that was. They had a chance when the were looking at James Conlon but they did not move on him. Their loss. They went for Slatkin because of his RCA Contract and guess what, they went down the toilet. What did we have left: Leonard Slatkin. And no RCA recordings with the NSO name on it. That was a gamble that did not pay off.
    I wish the| NSO luck. I still have such wonderful memories of the NSO with Maestro Dorati at the helm. Maybe it could happen again. Who knows??

  • john says:

    Maestro Noseda is top notch, he could take over any of the top orchestras of the world, fluent in russian repertoire, contemporary music, he masters the opera repertoire, he
    would have also been a great leader for the NY Phil or even the Berlin Phil..
    Congratulations to the NSO, Ms. Rutter is doing a great Job.

    • Lewis Lipnick says:

      I agree. I play in the NSO and am very excited about Maestro Noseda becoming our new Music Director. I also agree that, even during her relatively short tenure here at the helm of the Kennedy Center, Deborah Rutter has already done some great things for all of the performing arts here!

  • Ppellay says:

    Maestro Noseda and the NSO should make an excellent fit, I suspect.