Six maestro cancellations in one day require pause for thought. And, since some creepy Euro hack on a dodgy website has nicked the ‘epidemic’ headline from Slipped Disc, we’ll make do with ‘virus’ to discuss the phenomenon in a lightly broader context.
Every June, at the tail end of the concert season, over-extended music directors tend to go on a lap of honour around some of Europe’s trophy orchestras.
This year, some of them couldn’t make it, due to accumulated stresses and strains, and whatever else is listed in the doctor notes their agents have produced. What’s worrying is that the six maestros in the sick bay are not the usual cancellers – the ones who cry sick at the first tickle of a cough (no names) or a digestive disorder (likewise). Yesterday’s absentees are pretty tough show ponies. They don’t cancel lightly. Has the stress level suddenly shot up?
Even more worrying is the calibre of the last-minute replacements. This could have been a golden chance (see above) for a 20-something to conduct the Berlin Phil, the Concertgebouw, the LSO or the BRSO. But the music business makes its money by supplying safe substitutes. Midlife maestros who will never give a false beat or frighten the horses. They will do the job and the audience will go home undisturbed.
That’s a pity. This week’s maestro virus is a lamentable missed opportunity. It perpetuates business-as-normal and suppresses the possibility, however faint, of some real excitement. Of a new talent springing from the wings and shaking the rafters at the end of an overlong, overstressed season.
Next year, maybe.