New York prefers a great manager to a great conductormain
When the Berlin Philharmonic selected a successor to Sir Simon Rattle two years ago, the players shortlisted the three most successful conductors in Germany, judged by their summer performances in Bayreuth.
Kirill Petrenko defeated Christian Thielemann in a close ballot. The third man, Andris Nelsons, picked up the Gewandhaus orchestra and Boston Symphony as runner-up prizes.
All agreed that the orchestra had gone about the search in the most musical possible way.
When the New York Philharmonic needed to replace Alan Gilbert as music director, the players were presented with a choice of Jaap Van Zweden of Dallas and Manfred Honeck of Pittsburgh.
Neither ranked among the rainmakers in US orchestras. The buzz conductors – Dudamel (LA), Muti (Chicago), Nezet-Seguin (Philadelphia) and Nelsons (Boston) – were not auditioned.
This was not a musical process.
However, when it came to picking a manager for the floundering NY Phil, the board went unerringly after the best orchestra boss in America – and yesterday got her.
What does that tell you about the NY Phil? That it prizes a great manager above a great conductor.