The Met has finally sorted out its flutes. Or has it?

The Met has finally sorted out its flutes. Or has it?


norman lebrecht

May 29, 2017

Two years ago, the Met orchestra was rocked by the resignation of both principal flutes.

Denis Bouriakov went to Dudamel’s Los Angeles Philharmonic and Stefán Ragnar Höskuldsson to Muti’s Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

A year ago, the Met hired two stand-ins on a one-year contract: Demarre McGill, principal flute of Dallas, and Erik Gratton, principal of Nashville.

Due to the delays involving tenure, auditions were not held to replace them until last week.

On Friday, Gratton won the first place and Chelsea Knox the second.

That means Demarre McGill, hugely gifted and popular, is left without a seat in this cruel game of musical chairs.

He won’t go long without one.

However…. and here’s the twist in the tale … we hear that Erik Gratton is telling friends he’s undecided whether to take the Met job or to return to Nashville, where his wife is assistant concertmaster.

Nothing’s easy in this musical world.





  • MacroV says:

    The usual hyperventilating about MET personnel matters.

    Rocked by the resignations of both principal flutes? They left for two of the country’s greatest orchestras, and as always is mentioned on this topic: Life is short, operas are long; eventually a lot of players, if they have the chance, move to a symphony job. The principal flute of the Bavarian Radio Orchestra used to be principal of the Bavarian Opera; did that rock the opera when he moved? People might even leave the Vienna Staatsoper/Philharmonic from time to time for the same reason.

    As for McGill, he’s still principal in Dallas (a fine orchestra) and still hasn’t been replaced in Seattle (also a fine orchestra, and America’s most livable city), so he won’t be without a seat. Just, it appears for the moment, at the MET. But he knew that was a possibility when he took the one-year gig.

    Keep driving…nothing to see here.

    • Bary says:

      Demarre wasn’t given a leave in Dallas while he played with the Met. David Buck of Detroit won the audition to replace him.

    • Jacobsonmatterhorn says:


    • Siamese says:

      True, true. But hasn’t David Buck (from Detroit) won the Dallas position? It looks like Buck is performing with Dallas this week, in fact. More complications (but not necessarily drama).

  • Robert Holmén says:

    Doesn’t the union contract allow players to take a one-year leave to try out another position?

    So McGill could return to his seat in Dallas, right?

    • Siamese says:

      I’m not sure that McGill was even tenured in Dallas, which could be why Dallas removed him from its roster and announced auditions shortly thereafter. Normally, when an orchestra grants one-year leaves, the musician remains on the official roster, with an asterisk indicating such a leave; in this case, McGill’s name and profile were removed entirely from Dallas’ website.

  • Kim says:

    Demarre resigned from Dallas to take the met position.

  • The Incredible Flutist says:

    Unfortunate but fascinating turn of events. Kind of a vicious circle.

    Curiously, the same thing happened to David Buck, who now holds McGill’s last spot in Dallas. Buck did not pass his probation as Principal of LA, the job which Bouriakov left the MET for and now holds (he’s tenured). Buck went straight into Detroit, and more recently Dallas.

    What’s going on in Seattle? Can McGill return there? Would he even want to after holding such higher profile positions?

    Convinced that this could be a new opera: The Magic Flutes? It would at least make for a good book or episode on Mozart in the Jungle. Hopefully MITJ’s producer Roman Coppola is taking note. Roman’s grandfather Carmine Coppola was a NY trained flutist.who actually held the same position that David Buck did, Principal Flute of Detroit.

    And as far as the guy who says “keep on driving”, no way. This is high drama.These are the highest paid orch. flute positions in the US. These guys are royalty, rock stars, our heros and heroines. We go to MET Live in HD to watch & hear them play.

    The international flute community is enormous and very united, esp. right now as the Kobe International Flute Competition is underway. We want to know everything about what happens. Thanks for keeping us up to date, Norman.

    • MacroV says:

      My point is Norman regularly hypes any MET personnel move as a sign of crisis and the failed leadership of Peter Gelb.

      As for Demarre, I’m very surprised he would have resigned from Dallas for a one-year job at the MET, where he had to know his chances of getting the permanent job were good but not guaranteed.

      And it would hardly be a tragedy to return to Seattle, if that’s still an option; like every orchestra that pays a living wage these days, it’s an excellent group, and it’s still America’s most livable city.

      • Bacca says:

        He definitely did resign from Dallas.

        • Wai Kit leung says:

          That’s like leaving one’s wife for a fling with a knock-out. Very risky!

          • FluteGuyNY says:

            He had no choice, if he wanted to play at the Met even for a year. Dallas very plainly told him that they would not be holding his spot, so if he chose to leave for New York, then it was bye-bye Dallas. There was no option for a year leave, but in his position, who WOULDN’T have taken the Met job? It had to be an order of magnitude more money, it’s CERTAINLY a much more prestigious position; it would have been lunacy to turn it down and stay in Dallas.

            Too bad it didn’t work out for him, though. Will be interesting to see where he lands next!

  • Gurrelieder says:

    Demarre McGill is playing with the Seattle Symphony this week. His extended solos in Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges sounded fabulous.

  • Sally Rawlings says:

    Seattle would welcome Demarre back with open arms and happy ears.

  • Soderhoff says:

    Oh please. Demarre was offered his position back with Seattle recently, and everyone saw that coming. These orchestras are so transparent.

  • nmlhats says:

    I don’t think Demarre had been in The Dallas position long enough for them to offer to give him a leave.