Washington gets a new boss

Washington gets a new boss


norman lebrecht

June 05, 2017

The National Symphony Orchestra has hired Gary Ginstling of the Indianapolis Symphony as its executive director.

He succeeds Rita Shapiro, who left at the end of last year.

The NSO was looking for a boss who could draw a  double line under the Eschenbach era and work creatively with the new music director, Gianandrea Noseda.


  • Mark Henriksen says:

    What does it mean “to draw a double line”?

    • Max Grimm says:

      To draw a line under something:
      – to decide that something is finished and stop thinking about it.

      To draw a double line under something:
      – to fervently decide that something is finished and stop thinking about it.

  • Jon H says:

    The Eschenbach era wasn’t that bad. He wouldn’t be in a top 5 of living conductors for me, and not many performances that needed to be recorded tomorrow – but he’s not the only conductor in that club (there are some that get too much attention but that’s another story).
    Just from time to time he’d do something musically interesting – turn something a certain way – and that was nice for an evening. And they put on Mahler – the hall is packed anyway. All that stuff against him makes no difference – even though it was published and read by thousands of people. Some people didn’t hear his qualities – that’s their problem. It didn’t stop people from getting moved by Mahler, and wanting to hear more Mahler and the orchestra again.

    • Jon H says:

      There’s the psychology of someone telling you something is bad – for some people what they hear doesn’t prevail over what they read (i.e. they can’t trust their own ears); others go to the concert and it exceeds the expectations that were created. There’s also the opposite – people saying something is fantastic – and it ends up not meeting the high expectations that were set. The latter tends to be more disappointing. But whether you’re lowering and raising expectations – the performance itself is the same. There have been high expectations with Gianandrea Noseda, so we’ll see if everyone’s “right.” Based on recent performances, have good feelings about it.

  • Bruce Eisen says:

    Ann Midgette, the Washington Post chief music critic, has been down on Eschenbach for some time. Many of her negative reviews focus on what she says is a the orchestra’s inability to follow the maestro’s beat. That deficiency may be real, but all I know is that he has brought Mahler and Bruckner to the Kennedy Center on a frequent basis, sometimes conducting the massive symphonies without a score. Maybe that ability is not all good, but I think it demonstrates his love and knowledge of these composers. On balance I have enjoyed his tenure in DC.

    • Jon H says:

      Yeah, she’s got to get past the technique. People call Hilary Hahn technically flawless, beautiful sound – but that’s not the half of what she’s doing. Is it possible for someone to achieve amazing things with Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto without having Hilary’s technique? Yes. Is it possible for it to be magical? Yes. If it’s magical, nobody cares about the technical thing because there’s hundreds of conductors who are technically perfect but offer little else. And I think we’re trying to move people.
      I realize concerts are a very visual thing – but many musical things are missed by having eyes open. I don’t care how it’s technically achieved. I don’t care if the conductor has a baton or not, has the score or not – the musical result is all that matters. And maybe it’s what Eschenbach wants. Following a conductor’s baton isn’t helpful because it’s contextual to what’s needed at that moment. We don’t care about how players must respond to that – only that the sound they make recreates whatever the composer was going for. I don’t find Noseda’s movements helpful for listening either – but he does what he has to do, and it’s the musical result we care about (and for him results seem good).

  • Martin says:

    The Eschenbach era at the NSO left me far too often bored. Too many very sloppy performances and conducting with too much exaggeration and just doing things in a capricious and self-gratifying manner, without any regard to the big line of the music. For me, I’m ready to move on to Noseda and have high hopes. Eschenbach unfortunately won’t be missed by many people and certainly not by most NSO musicians, who have grown frustrated and fed-up with him. His tenure was, on the whole, a big disappointment, as it was in Paris and in Philadelphia. It’s unlikely that he will get any other orchestra at this point

    • Steven Honigberg says:


      • Respect says:

        Mr .Honigberg, your credentials as an Eschenbach apologist is sadly well established here. Its not bs, his tenure has been a fiasco.

      • Brian from DC says:

        Well stated, Mr. Honigsberg! Those who know of you will certainly respect your credibility as an observer of Eschenbach and the NSO. And thank you to you and your colleagues for a couple of wonderful performances of the Mahler 2 this past weekend.

  • Jon H says:

    Well, the exaggeration Martin refers to is what was interesting sometimes – because while some might have been distracted by it, it tended to be musically motivated. And there was some risk taking there. There’s no doubt that the orchestra can play it straight – there are hundreds of recordings like that.
    The cases where it bothered me more was in the Bruckner – because it can chop things up, and the smoother, mellower approach has advantages in that music.

  • David Boxwell says:

    Hardly. Eschy’s back at the NSO at the end of January 2018 and again in June 2018. For a “Feel The Love Again” Comeback Tour.