Early music maestro calls time on his band

The British conductor Nicholas McGegan has announced his retirement as music director of the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale from the summer of 2020 when he will be 70.

McGegan will have led the ensemble by then for fully half his life – 35 years.

press release:

Nicholas McGegan, Music Director for the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale (PBO), has announced that he will retire from his leadership post at America’s preeminent period performance ensemble after the 2019-20 Season; at that time, he will have guided the organization for 35 years. He will be designated Music Director Laureate in recognition of his many contributions to the Orchestra at the beginning of the 2020-21 season. At the time of this announcement, the organization’s Board of Directors, led by President Kay Sprinkel Grace, and institutional leadershipwill convene to begin the search for a new Music Director to build upon McGegan’s legacy of programming and presenting period music at the highest level of artistic integrity.

“Nicholas McGegan has led Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra for 35 years. We have benefitted from the strength of his programmatic vision, energy, and aptitude for making historic performances accessible to broader audiences,” said the ensemble’s Board of Directors president Kay Sprinkel Grace. “He has embraced and advanced our mission throughout his decades of leadership of Philharmonia, and his passion for everything from early music to new works continues to propel Philharmonia to new heights. We look forward to having him remain an integral part of our future.”

“This certainly isn’t a farewell,” said Music Director Nicholas McGegan. “It has been an enormous honour and privilege but also tremendous fun to work with our terrific musicians for half my life, and I look forward to many more years of performances as Music Director Laureate, with fewer administrative responsibilities. Thanks to the musicians, board, staff, donors and our wonderful audience, I’ve been able to realise so many of my artistic dreams, creating lots of happy memories along the way.”

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  • PBO has been stale and predictable for quite some time now. It’s about time. Let’s hope a new music director will also bring about some dramatic change in personnel. Unfortunately the early music scene in the US is extremely cliquish and there is little likelihood of that happening.

      • Yes, absolutely extraordinary when you consider that he is maybe 15% the musician that the late Chris Hogwood was, plus HC can barely give an intelligible beat.
        Although a trained, competent singer, his instructions/ musical suggestions in rehearsal are spoken in a sort of sotto-voce or half-whisper to an inner sanctum of about 4 string players, totally inaudible to the woodwind and brass.

    • I tend to agree with you, Doug! I live in San Francisco and consider myself a knowledgeable Baroque music enthusiast. I also play Baroque violin and the harpsichord. Unfortunately, the predictable programming and mannered performances of the PBO that I’ve attended more recently have been disappointingly palid. My ardent hope is that the infusion of more than a little “new blood” and a renewed directorial verve will restore this ensemble to a more inspired course.

  • In my experience in a few different orchestras now, NM is a class act and a joy to work with! Best wishes to him in all his future endeavors.

  • Age is just a number and Nick McGegan today is not very much different from when we were schoolboys in Nottingham in the 1960s and even gave some concerts together! He’s also a great communicator as can be seen from various clips on YouTube where his boyish enthusiasm and fluency with words is as effective as his keyboard playing and direction from the podium. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YcDfozjh99M&list=PLL-8MJTj9GhGBjXErPiYuL-TDcA9D3ly_

  • I was told, in no uncertain terms, that if I wanted to join the orchestra, all I had to do was [redacted: defamation]. And this was from one of his most-favored vocal soloists who had already done so. I was appalled. I also didn’t have the money to get a special instrument made. Period instrument groups are playthings of the well-off, and have nothing to do with real music. That was actually the only time that happened in my classical music career. Now, if I’d found him attractive instead of repulsive, I might have been glad to as I would have done so anyway, but for a relationship, not a job. However, this is based entirely on the word of said singer, not the conductor, whom I never met.

    • The redaction is worthless: the implication is clear, and accordingly so is the defamation.

      And the grumbles about the expense of buying a period instrument are nothing but nonsensical griping. It sounds as if you were denied work with PBO because you wanted to use a modern instrument. That is as it should be! Also, period players are NOT particularly well-to-do on the whole, far from it, and the implication that players buy their way into groups by obtaining pricey equipment has no bearing on reality.

  • 35 years of not a single contribution to the educational life of the San Francisco Bay Area — a decline in audiences both in terms of quantity and quality (the only increase being in their ages) and a serious decline in music education. What a waste of time this man’s tenure was.

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