Why the New York Phil missed out on the right man

Gianandrea would, in many respects, have been an ideal music director for the New York Philharmonic.

He’s Italian (tick), well liked in Israel (tick) and worked with a large Irish community in Manchester (triple tick).

He’s also personable, technically accomplished, efficient in rehearsal and commanding a wide repertoire, ancient and modern, familiar and obscure.

So why did the NY Phil not grab him before Washington nailed his hands to the contract?

No obvious answer. Except that New York probably doesn’t know what it wants and, after six Alan Gilbert years, has forgotten what it needs.

 

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    • I suspect he might be a ‘tyrant’ if you’re an orchestra musician who doesn’t like to work. He gets great results, but it takes effort. He turned BBC Phil and Teatro Regio into really fine orchestras.

      • A ‘tyrant’? How odd. The last time that I worked with him he was amiable and efficient if unremarkable. ‘Tyrants’ are far and few between these days and when they turn on the venom it is usually to their detriment. I do remember him sweating profusely and the front desks got a bit wet but he didn’t make much more of an impression than that. Maybe those that are responsible for packaging such conductors will persuade the concert going public that he is the next best thing since sliced bread but we humble orchestral musicians tend to be more impressed with the contents of such packages. But what do we know?

  • Let’s face facts (I know, it’s unusual): Noseda is 51 and has held a total of 1 major artistic director posts, that is, with the Opera in Turin (2, if you consider the BBC Philharmonic major). Hardly a well-proven name on the circuit. So what has prevented him so far from gaining such jobs?
    The NSO is hardly in the league of the NY Phil in terms of prestige, resources, and reputation; so if Noseda is that fantastic, why does he settle for an orchestra which is good, but not the best of the country?

    • Because a bird in the hand is worth three in the bush? Looking at his bio, we can only speculate that the last six(?) years of courting for another “up the ladder” position were frustrating.
      Actually many of the – musically – best conductors of this planet are not with the very best orchestras, that’s more reserved for the darlings of the media and the patrons and the conductors who “sell”, which is not mutually exclusive to being “best” but also not guaranteed.
      There were always superior conductors, who were a bit underperforming in their “podium cred” in the eyes of the classical music *business*, emphasis on the latter. Names like Frühbeck de Burgos, Ivan Fischer, and maybe now Noseda come to mind.

      • Alan Gilbert, of course, was 42 when he started his tenure with the New York Phil, after having managed both a leading European orchestra (Stockholm) and an American opera house (Santa Fe).

        Whereas Noseda, with similar credentials (stronger opera house, weaker orchestra), is 51 when being announced and will be 53 when he gets tenure. It may well be that he is an excellent conductor (although the far underwhelming Beethoven 5 he delivered a few years back with the LSO did not convince me) but the fact remains that currently, at similar age, Gilbert has a far more impressive resume (NY Phil+Stockholm+Santa Fe vs Torino and the BBC Phil).

  • At this point, one has to imagine that the NY Phil is looking elsewhere. They may be just awaiting the best time for an announcement, although I believe it needs to be soon.

    • They need an ‘orchestra builder’ at home both in the Germanic and classical repertoire (to cement ensemble playing), and with a real interest in new music comparable with the orchestral performance culture (for inspirational and aspirational repertoire). An inspiring, energetic and versatile personality who continues to cultivate the classical repertoire and breaks the glass box of the museum culture.

      • I disagree with the idea that the NYP needs an orchestra builder. It has been and still is the most flexible orchestra, in terms of repertoire. It is an orchestra with great principals and dept. Its Already Built. As far as German repertoire, they can still out-Bruckner and out-Mahler any European orchestra as they did in the days of Mehta. If you check around the internet, Gilbert and the NYP have broadcast quite a few contemporary pieces.

        • First of all: an orchestra is never “built”. It’s a daily effort, maintaining an orchestra culture is an unstable balance, like one of these human ladders by circus artists, tipped over and destroyed quite easily, but hard to built and maintain.

          Then the NYPhil I heard in the recent years is a technically impeccable orchestra machine, but it’s too often also a soulless machine, indulged in a superficial “high-gloss” concept of sound that wants to impress instead to touch. It’s evoking more industrial aesthetics, not references to living nature as it should.

          And as far as your – mistaken but unfortunately sterotypical narrow-minded idea of musical collaboration as (sports) competition – slant at outperforming *any* European orchestra goes, it is something that can be laughed about, preferably we laugh about it together.

          Unless you were implying that you can play faster and therefore win.

      • True, that’s the huge dilemma. The NYPhil is in the sense of entitlement – instant harvest without long hardships of fieldwork – a bit like the obese pampered little brother of the Berlin Phil. They would need a Herculean “Übermensch” as a conductor to pull that plow through that mine infested field in NY. I don’t see anyone who could that be. Who do they respect at least? In the beginning…

        Berlin chose the dark horse Petrenko, probably a smart choice. The force is apparently with him, because he is an ascetic “warrior monk” character, incorruptible yet not invincible.

        Gergiev seems unrealistic politically, considering the decisive influence of Jewish patrons in NY.

        The Dude is better off in L.A. for many more years me thinks, he needs to grow with a long breath artistically, best realized in a familiar and secure environment, after the “wunderkind” euphoria faded away he should not set out from the harbor in uncharted waters too soon.

        Who is the contemporary Sisyphos, who pushes NYPhil up the hill?

  • The NY Philharmonic is offering the opportunity of a lifetime! Oh yeah, here’s your chance to be Music Director of an orchestra that won’t even have a home for 2 years (at least); and then, God only knows what sort of home you will have (after all, they got it wrong twice already). So, in their search for a new Music Director, the NYPO is operating in a buyer’s market — and they’ll rack up a formidable list of rejections before they find someone desperate enough to take on such a tenuous situation. Good luck, NYPO – you’re going to need it.

    • You may be right, but the Philharmonic’s two years of exile from its main hall should really be looked at as an opportunity, not a limitation. A chance to play other halls in/around New York- be the NEW YORK Philarharmonic rather than the Lincoln Center Philharmonic – maybe try some unorthodox pieces (maybe some more opera) and venues; and maybe do a couple big tours. I’m actually quite disappointed that Gilbert is leaving before this, because I think he could have been great at it.

  • I’m not aware of how often Noseda has conducted in New York; at least once, I would assume, if he was considered at all, but perhaps the players haven’t been clamoring for him. And the Times has at least been pressing the idea that their top choice would be Salonen (which strikes me as a good choice).

    But why the potshots at Gilbert? Yes, he’s still 20 years too young to be considered an “old master” like Barenboim or a “grand old man” like Haitink, Bloomstedt, or Skrowaczewski (my favorite) but he has been a great leader for the Philharmonic in terms of what an orchestra can do to be relevant. Will we forever be judging music directors on how well they interpret the Three Bs? It’s also about being a good curator for music, and making people care about music and feel invested in the orchestra.

  • The answer to Norman’s question is Deborah Rutter.

    She also nabbed a decent conductor for Chicago when she worked there. Talented executive.

  • An interesting phenomenon of mass psychology is at work again, evidenced by all the media hyperbole around conductors, these Magician-Kings, these last remaining culturally accepted absolutistic projection figures for John and Mary’s subconscious desires to worship idols, to subjugate to a higher power.

    These men (and women) taking on the role can usually not live up to the hyperbole expectation.
    Many orchestra players have fallen victim to their lucrative, convenient and ultimately creativity stifling, fattening, professional endowments. But there comes the savior.

    Conductors are expected to do “magic”, because the majority of orchestra players wants a shortcut to a standing ovation, to avoid being inconvenienced too much. Almost all conductors fall into that narcissistic trap, believing they are indeed magicians. And that “cult of the conductor” gets its last supportive push from an equally idolization craving audience.

    Usually after a honeymoon period – several months up to many years – there is a twilight of the God, and now the – unrealistic in its expectation from the beginning – reversal of idolization into a despised straw man or scape goat for all deficits experienced is the frequent reality. Then game over.

    And after search and signature for a new idol the circle begins anew. Breaking that vicious circle is possible, when orchestras realize they have to solve many of their problems by taking initiative and work on it, without the convenient transfer of own responsibilities onto the conductor idol.

    The few orchestras I know that are free of such structurally conditioned mental maladjustments are a priori chief-conductor-less orchestras like the Vienna Philharmonic or the Mahler Chamber orchestra etc.

  • There are no great conductors now. The standard of interpretation – such as that set by Kleiber, Szell, Bernstein for example is at an all time low.

    There’s light, Andrey Boreyko is very impressive but nobody takes any notice.

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