Five reasons the NY Phil got the wrong man.
1 Take a look at these names: Riccardo Chailly, Antonio Pappano, Vladimir Jurowski, Kirill Petrenko, Paavo Järvi, Daniele Gatti, Andris Nelsons, Christian Thielemann, Daniel Harding. All these outstanding interpreters were considered last year (some briefly) by the Berlin Philharmonic. None was invited to audition at the New York Phil. The NY choice was made from a shortlist of three. Too short a list and with the wrong names on it.
2 Consider these names: Simone Young, Marin Alsop, Susanna Mälkki, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, Alodra de la Parra. Yes, women who are excellent conductors. It’s 2016. Not one came into the reckoning at the redneck New York Phil. That’s half the human race written out of the orchestra’s future.
3 And let’s not begin to ask about ethnic minorities. A decade ago the NY Phil tried to poach Gustavo Dudamel from Los Angeles. That’s the closest they’ve got to departing from an all-white script in a multicultural city (unless Gilbert counts as half-Japanese)*.
4 Jaap Van Zweden’s career up to this point has been almost as modest as Alan Gilbert’s. Zweden started out at 18 as concertmaster of the Concertgebouworkest in Amsterdam. When he took up conducting in his mid-thirties, he found jobs with Dutch orchestras and stuck with them for a decade. His first international position was with Dallas, in 2008. Since then, he has added the Hong Kong Phil to his portfolio. He has not come into the reckoning with any of the major European orchestras, not even with the Concertgebouw when they were on the prowl in the last two years. He was not, in a word, a contender. Except at the NY Phil.
5 His record at Dallas – where he earns $1.5 million – has been bumpy. Players complained of being browbeaten in rehearsals. The orchestra overspent heavily on his programs, coming to within three months of insolvency. A European tour was abruptly cancelled. Van Zweden is not an easy working partner, nor always an effective one. He is also a full league below the calibre that New York expects of its music directors. This can only go bad.
UPDATE: For balance, here’s a different view.
*FOOTNOTE: UPDATE: Someone say Zubin Mehta? That was half a lifetime ago (and he was the wrong choice, too).