Just in: Concertgebouw orch can’t find a chief

Just in: Concertgebouw orch can’t find a chief


norman lebrecht

December 17, 2019

Jan Raes is leaving next week after 11 years as general director and a catastrophic mishandling of the Daniele Gatti affair.

The orchestra has had seven months to find a successor.

Today it announced it had failed.

An interim boss has been installed – David Bazen, the Concertgebouworkest’s Director of Business and Media for the past nine years and a staffer for the past 20.

This does not look good. It would seem that no high-flying Dutchman (or woman) who has been approched was interested in the job, which might be regarded locally as a poisoned chalice. There is no music director in sight, either. But then the Dutch do things their own way.




  • Tamino says:

    Is the job offer reaching out internationally to not (yet) Dutch Speakers, or is it an internal affair in fact?
    I imagine good contacts into local politics is a must.

  • Axl says:

    My personal favorites to new chief would be Paavo Järvi and theit former players Gustavo Gimeno and Lucas Macias Navarro

  • Anon says:

    They really don’t need a “Chief”.
    A Music Director is completely unnecessary. The misconception that he/she will shape the orchestra or have a special artistic vision is a complete farce.
    The musicians and management can, and often do, exactly what the MD is given credit for doing.
    They should skip this and just hire guest conductors. They are one of the finest orchestras in the world and don’t need a MD.

    • Vaquero357 says:

      I’ll go with the idea of the “music director” job being too grand and maybe superfluous. I favor “Chief Conductor” myself. Still indicates a leadership position, but more realistically descriptive of what most orchestras need. {;-)

  • Michel says:

    Daniele Gatti has been handled so badly. He must have a goog laugh …

  • Concertgebouw79 says:

    The best orchestra in the world deserve a personality who knows perfectly the orchestra not too young Jaap van Zweden is the front runner but it seems that is not free… Personaly I hope it will be Chung Myung-whun or Ivan Fisher

  • Willem says:

    The Dutch do things their own way, what’s that supposed to mean in this context?

    • John Borstlap says:

      In the Netherlands, appointing people on primary posts who will carry responsibility for what is being decided under their leadership, is not something compatible with the local culture. The idea that someone carries personal responsibility for her/his own work, is considered – most of the time – as something bypassing the collective, as something unfair: the collective stands in much higher esteem than the personal, the individual. Hence the national obsession with comitees, or any collective form of organisation.

      When, in any organisation, there is a problem, everybody who has in some way a connection to it, irrelevant of her/his importance or expertise, is gathered in a meeting and a solution is the result of everyone bringing-in her/his specific opinion or interest. The result is invariably a half-hearted, mediocre, ineffective one, but everybody is happy because nobody can be held responsible, since it was a collective decision.

      Personal responsibility is seen, in this small, very conformist country, as related to authoritarian, suppressing governance, so it is always the mediocre, the average, the generally-distributed incompetence that is preferred to expertise, experience, personal leadership. The roots of this crazy mentality are to be found in the country’s early history.

      One can imagine the difficulties Dutch orchestral players can have with conductors, sooner or later someone will standup and say: who does he think he is? The position of school teachers is comparably fragile, pupils can burst into protestations against suspected authoritarianism any moment – ‘who are YOU to decide for us that 2 + 2 = 4?’ Hence the increasing shortage of teachers in the educational system, they are paid very low salaries and are under constant suspicion of unfairly knowing something their pupils don’t.

      Interestingly, Dutch locals surrender voluntary and meekly to dentists, doctors, medical specialists and plumbers at the sight of any problem which will require their help. It is a rich territory for anthropologists.

      The typically Dutch obsession with collective spreading of responsibility is called ‘polder model’. It is also seen in politics where politicians are not chosen for their expertise but for their representing a group, a collective.

      So, for the KCO it will be very difficult to appoint a director who will be responsible and accountable; probably there will be a comitee.

      • Gustavo says:

        Sounds rather German or even European to me.

        No where near the cristal clear way decisions are sorted out in the UK and the US.

        • John Borstlap says:

          In Germany, when someone is appointed to a responsible post like a theatre or orchestra, he carries responsibility and will be fired if he fails. When, for instance, the Munich city council is involved in an appointment at a culturally-important institution, the city council member for culture can loose his post when the appointment fails to produce the required results. Hence the urge of German politicians to acquire some cultural knowledge to prevent such things from happening.

          When in Italy a politician is elected, for a city council, or county, or any institution, he holds a speech sprinkled with quotations from literature or philosophy, to show he is a cultured and responsible man (apart from exceptions). Often such people learn their quotes by heart the previous night, but that is not the point. Etc. etc…

          • Gustavo says:

            But Gatti was fired because he failed, for whatever reason – pussy grabbing, wet kisses or poor conducting.

            Prince Andrew and Donald Trump are not being fired.

            Am I missing the point?

          • John Borstlap says:

            This is about the director of the orchestra, not the chief conductor. The Gatti affair is quite another thing – but also here, G acted as if he could do what he wanted and cross boundaries of decency. ‘Who does he think he is? ‘ – in this case, an appropriate question. But the director who fired him, also acted as if he could do what he wanted, for one single disastrous moment, under the shock of a conductor’s authoritarian behavior, forgot that he was Dutch, behaved authoritarian as well, and inevitably he suffered the same fate as Gatti. If this Gatti thing were happening in another country, the director of the orchestra would first have extensive consultations in all directions, talk with Gatti, and in the end – if enough evidence supported it – take responsibility for firing him, and remain on his post if he had fired him in a decent way – i.e. not on the spot but after the season.

            The whole thing is rather crazy.

      • Edgar says:

        I a word: poldercultuur. the (in)famous “polder model”, in which every single voice/party has to be heard before a unanimously agreed solution is reach.

        In the 1970s, 7 months went by after a general election without a government being formed.
        It is therefore not unusual that such a thing happens again, this time with the Concertgebouworkest.

        “Weisst du, wie das wird?”

      • Brian Bell says:

        An interesting generalization. Where does Willem Mengelberg fit into this cosmos?

        • John Borstlap says:

          As far as I have read, WM had to navigate a lot of resistance. But he was backed by the international idea of the period that conductors should be dictators, hence the ease with which he accepted German rule during WW II – for which he was punished.

      • Robert Groen says:

        I largely agree with John. But the RCO has in the past not had problems with hiring a top MD. Gatti himself was the last in an impressive line-up. At the time of the #metoo assassination of Gatti I predicted (correctly, as it happens) the it would prove difficult, if not impossible, for the RCO to hook a worthy successor. What top notch maestro, having observed what happened to Gatti, would stick his head in the politically correct wasps’ nest that Amsterdam has become?

        • John Borstlap says:

          I thought that the contested post was a director, not a chief conductor.

          • Robert Groen says:

            It is, John. But Raes as a director is a quantité négligeable. The artistic loss of Gatti is disaster of far greater magnitude.

          • John Borstlap says:

            He should have left the young ladies in peace, as simple as that. Coincidentally, I happen to know the very young woman who was at the centre of the affair, and she has gone through a very unpleasant time under this conductor.

  • Jean says:

    They should take Leif Segerstam !

  • Pedro says:

    Bring Gatti back! He was really outstanding in Vespri last Sunday in Rome. Off to Leipzig on December 30 to hear the GOL with him in Beethoven 9.

  • Gustavo says:

    Here we go again:

    Simon Rattle
    Franz Welser Möst
    Daniel Harding
    Alan Gilbert

    • Patrick says:

      Not Simon Rattle, with whom the RCO had a bad experience many years ago. But Manfred Honeck might be a good fit. A very good Mahler, Bruckner and Strauss conductor.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Gustavo suggests: Rattle, Welser-Most, Harding or Gilbert.

      Rattle is at the LSO and won’t take a second MD job. Welser-Most is more likely in Munich than Amsterdam. Gilbert is “too lightweight”. Harding is possible, I suppose; although perhaps he too would be a better fit in Bavaria.

  • Gustavo says:

    And Bernard Haitink may wish to terminate his sabbatical.


  • Maarten Brandt says:

    Untill Riccardo Chailly came there was a tradition of Dutch chief-conductors. There are still excellent one’s. Ed Spanjaard for instance, who conducted the orchestra many times in outstanding productions, but was for a very long time never asked back (God knows why). He has a very broad repertoire ranging from Bach to Boulez and everything in between. And, as an opera-conductor he has a very wide experience too. Be it Verdi, Wagner, Debussy, Puccini, just name it. And there are more great talents in our country. So if the RCO wants, they have and excellent chief tomorrow, but their problem is that they only want an international chief-conductor.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Much agreed concerning Spanjaard, he is a wonderful conductor – and also great pianist. His time may still come.