Orchestre de Paris can’t find anyone to conduct Messiaen

Orchestre de Paris can’t find anyone to conduct Messiaen


norman lebrecht

November 28, 2017

The Orchestre de Paris cancelled two concerts with Franz Welser-Möst. The programme was meant to be Messiaen L’Ascension, followed by Bruckner’s 9th symphony.

The conductor was unwell.

Was there no-one else in Paris, or a Euro-train away, who could step up to the plate at short notice?

This is bad practice.



  • John Dalkas says:

    The concerts were Nov. 22 and 23. The Philharmonie de Paris site and the Orchestre de Paris site both say he is not well: https://philharmoniedeparis.fr/fr/activite/concert-symphonique/17835-orchestre-de-paris-concerts-annules


    “Concerts annulés.
    “Franz Welser-Möst, souffrant, est contraint de renoncer à diriger l’Orchestre de Paris ces deux soirs ainsi que toutes les dates à venir durant 3 semaines.”

    • norman lebrecht says:


      • Marie-Christine says:

        We got a short cancellation message four days before the concert.

        A lot of people in Paris can do Messiaen : yes.
        A lot of people in and near Paris can do Bruckner : I am not sure (the last time I heard Bruckner in Paris, it was directed by Daniele Gatti, at the Théâtre des Champs Élysées).

        Anyway did the Philharmonie even try to find a solution ?

  • herrera says:

    A lot of people in Paris can do Messiaen.
    A lot of people in and near Paris can do Bruckner.
    Very few people in the world can do Messiaen and Bruckner. In the same concert. On Short notice.

    Now, if you modify the program, which do you take out? Half of the audience came for Messiaen, half for Bruckner, all for *both* Messiaen and Bruckner.

    It’s an intriguing juxtaposition of 2 Catholics’ view of Catholic spirituality.

    • James says:

      That doesn’t sound like an insuperable problem – you could have different conductors for the two parts of the programme. It might be a bit unusual, but I don’t suppose people would have a problem with it as an ad hoc solution.

  • Gilles says:

    “Bizarre, bizarre,… très bizarre” this cancellation without remplacement…

  • The Ghost of Karlos Cleiber says:

    Very odd. I’ve got both in my repertoire, have conducted them both several times and could have got to Paris in 3 hours. Ah…but I don’t have an agent and therefore Don’t Count. That’s how music works, right?

    • Ungeheuer says:

      If that’s how the music world works, and it does, then what’s stopping you from getting an agent so you can get hired instead of complaining?

      • The Ghost of Karlos Cleiber says:

        What makes you imagine I haven’t spent 20 years trying?

        I think one of the biggest problems with the music industry today is that, for so many, the only way to acquire an agent is to be picked up very early on – after which point it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Haven’t conducted the LSO (say) by the time you’re 25? Oh, well you can’t possibly be good enough to do so. Klaus Tennstedt remains one of the few magnificent exceptions who got the chance to show otherwise.

        Get put in front of the LSO when you’ve still barely got a repertoire or a rehearsal technique (but great, great hair…) at 19, though, and it’s in everyone’s interests to keep pushing you.

        Joking aside, there are all too many good musicians who simply never get near the opportunity to prove themselves. Goodness knows how many youth orchestra conductors, for instance, ever get to conduct a really top-notch group; yet they are far better technically and in rehearsal than many of the ‘names’. The argument against that is ‘oh, but they aren’t inspiring/interpretively interesting’ – but the truth is nobody knows because nobody ever looks at youth orch/amateur work. Not only that, but even the best amateur orchestras stop several stages behind where any professional orchestra can (and should) start. Just try being ‘creative’ and ‘inspiring’ when you know very well that one misplaced beat can bring a performance crashing down. This is a question of degree of course; many amateur groups are good enough to keep going, but the reality is they do need more help. Good luck conducting the Rite with amateurs with as little accuracy as (say) Simon Rattle can do in the name of ‘expression’…

        Even for those who do get agents, this process doesn’t stop; if it became purely one of ability to make an orchestra play its best, you’d have to ask why (say) Ticciati keeps ending up in front of famous bands and the likes of Walter Weller did so only very occasionally. If you honestly think Ticciati, Nezet-Seguin and many other supposed wunderkinds are better conductors than he was, you’re simply not sufficiently qualified to participate in the discussion. All that shows is that, having acquired an agent, the conductors whom those agents promote are often not the right ones either.

        I guess the problem overall is one of opportunity – there will never be the chances to satisfy everyone – but on the other hand there is also the problem of the means by which those who do get the chance are chosen. All too rarely, this has nothing to do with track record and the work people have done, and everything to do with a word in someone’s ear. As it happens, I might be in with a shout of a gig with a major UK orchestra next year, but ironically the circumstances surrounding this are absolutely nothing to do with training two orchestras and doing all the legwork for 20 years.

        Don’t get me wrong: conducting amateur orchestras is great fun and very rewarding, but it’s a real shame – and a massive missed opportunity – that the people looking for top-standard conductors choose completely to ignore the musicians that do it (and often so well) in favour of the latest unproven flavour of the month.

        • RW2013 says:

          Your questioning of the Ticciatian career is understandable.

        • Mark Mortimer says:

          Ghost of Karlos Keliber- you’ve spoken the truth. All your comments are spot on. I’ve also conducted a lot of amateur groups- & its far more difficult to achieve results than a lucratively paid guest shot with the LSO or BPO for instance. How true also- a special performance by an amateur group rarely hits the headlines whereas a mediocre one by a so called ‘big name’ always does.

    • herrera says:

      Why shouldn’t conducting gigs be opened up like open casting calls? Anyone with a score and a baton and a resume should be able to come in and try out if there is a last minute cancellation.

      Opened up like the US Open or French Open, where an unseeded 100th ranked player gets a chance to upset the number 3 in the world. Even Kleiber had a bad day, even the ghost of Kleiber can have an extraordinary day.

  • Jan Kaznowski says:

    Maybe ‘The Ghost of Karlos Cleiber’ might have a higher brand awareness if he actually gave his name !