Munich eyes up Yannick, Franz and Rattle

The death of Mariss Jansons, while profoundly mourned, caught his Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in the midst of succession planning.

Mariss, 76, grew increasingly frail this year and cancelled several important dates. Contingency plans were afoot to identify the next music director.

The names in the frame are those in the headline above. Nézet-Séguin stepped in for Mariss successfully last summer. Welser-Möst and Simon Rattle are due to conduct in Munich in the coming weeks.

The BRSO is Germany’s most accomplished orchestra, outside of Berlin. It has the ear of the world’s most successful conductors.

A more urgent problem is faced by Salzburg, where Jansons was down to conduct the keynote Boris Godunov production this summer. They will be on the phone to Gergiev some time today.


BRSO with Jansons at the Proms. Photo: BBC/Christodoulou

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  • If memory serves, it’s been a long time since one of Munich’s symphonic size orchestras has had a GMD who is native to the Austro-Bavarian cultural realm. From that perspective, Franz Welser-Möst might be an interesting choice. Or does that not really matter?

    • sam says:

      “native to the Austro-Bavarian cultural realm”

      Careful.

      Depends on how you define “native”.

      Obviously culture is not genetic. On the other hand, neither can one just pick up a culture by attending a conservatory as a late teenager.

    • Tamino says:

      Munich traditionally has an inferiority complex about their own heritage. They always tried to imitate the cultural lighthouses of their times, but kept the Lederhosen on.
      So instinctively I think they would want a globalized maestro again.
      Choosing local needs real self confidence.

    • Lorenz / Wien, Österreich says:

      Franz Möst was born in the city of Linz in Oberösterreich (the state of Upper Austria) and raised in the nearby town of Wels. It was at the suggestion of his patron Baron Andreas von Bennigsen of Liechtenstein (who later adopted him) that he add “Welser” (indicating “native of Wels”) to his name to give it some distinction (and allowed the London Philharmonic to parody it as “Frankly Worse than Most”). Welser-Möst later married the Baron’s wife. Rumours abound about this bizarre threesome.

      There is nothing Bavarian about him, and most of us wish he were not of Austrian decent.

      • CHNina says:

        He’s certainly of Austrian descent. Personally I think he’s also worthy of being called “Austrian decent.” His personal history is checkered indeed, but as a conductor, he’s not all that bad.

      • Bruce says:

        “Frankly Worse than Most”

        I read an interview with him once where the interviewer mentioned that nickname from the LPO. He laughed and said “Oh well. They called Solti the Screaming Skull.”

      • Gustavo says:

        You möst be joking!

      • anon says:

        That is one odd story.

        Men who adopt adult males as sons? (Why not, Franco Zefferelli adopted 2.)

        And FWM didn’t even get the title, von Bennigsen, having to settle for Welser, and not even von Wels?

        Adding a city to your name to make you more distinguised? (Herbert Berliner von Karajan? Franz Welser Cleveländer Möst?)

        Marrying your adoptive mother? (Reverse of Woody Allen and his adoptive daughter I guess.)

      • Well, if we want to go to that level, perhaps we could ask how proud he is being associated with the Austrian music world.

        In his memoirs, published in 1970, Otto Strasser, a former chairman of the Vienna Philharmonic, describes the problems blind auditions caused:

        “I hold it for incorrect that today the applicants play behind a screen; an arrangement that was brought in after the Second World War in order to assure objective judgments. I continuously fought against it, especially after I became Chairman of the Philharmonic, because I am convinced that to the artist also belongs the person, that one must not only hear, but also see, in order to judge him in his entire personality. […] Even a grotesque situation that played itself out after my retirement, was not able to change the situation. An applicant qualified himself as the best, and as the screen was raised, there stood a Japanese before the stunned jury. He was, however, not engaged, because his face did not fit with the ‘Pizzicato-Polka’ of the New Year’s Concert.”

        In seinen 1970 veröffentlichten Erinnerungen beschreibt Otto Strasser, der ehemalige Vorstand der Wiener Philharmoniker, die Probleme, die durch hinter dem Vorhang abgehaltene Probespiele entstanden sind:

        “Für unrichtig halte ich, daß der Bewerber heute hinter einem Vorhang spielt; eine Einrichtung, die nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg eingefürht wurde, um eine objektive Beurteilung zu gewährleisten. Ich habe dagegen, besonders als ich später Vorstand der Philharmoniker wurde, stets angekämpft, weil ich der Überzeugung bin, daß zum Künstler auch der Mensch gehört, den man nicht nur hören, sondern auch sehen muß, um ihn in seiner gesamten Persönlichkeit beurteilen zu können. […] Sogar eine Groteske, die sich nach meiner Pensionierung abspielte, hat keine Änderung bewirkt. Ein Bewerber qualifizierte sich als Bester, und als sich der Vorhang hob, stand ein — Japaner vor der verdutzten Jury. Den engagierte man dennoch nicht, weil sein Gesicht nicht zum Neujahrskonzert und zur Pizzicato-Polka gepaßt hätte…

        And to this day the VPO remains the only major orchestra in the Western world without a fully Asian member. Now let’s all pretend we don’t see anything.

        • mary says:

          Visuals do matter.

          Watching an attractive clarinetist (Berlin) is better than watching an unattractive clarinetist.

          The LA Phil tried broadcasting its concerts in movie theaters, like the Met telecasts. But they had to abandon it. Because who needs to see a 25 foot close up in HD of the oboist turning beet red and sweating? (You can’t just focus on the Dude and his hair for 60 minutes.)

          Visuals based on race is bad. We don’t want that.

          • Tamino says:

            So true. Unlike opera, concert filming until today has not found aesthetics, that justify the effort. Showing musicians at work is not a sufficient script. You need a plot, a story. In opera it’s a given. In concert not. Still interesting to see the venue and for a while who is playing, the dresses of the soloists, the chemistry between the musicians as far it is visible. To get an impression of who the musicians are. Sometimes soloists take on the role of actors and give a little show. Since the interactions can not be scripted, unlike in movies, only accidentally does the camera pick up an interesting gesture, an interesting exchange of eye contacts. Most of the other time it’s a deadly boring effort to catch something interesting, meanwhile distracting from enjoying the natural flow of the music. And directors, in their despair to break the boring routine, engage in edit madness, cutting from one camera to the other within seconds, only to make it worse, still boring, but more agitated and hectic and more distracting from the music.
            There are exceptions. Bernstein conducting was interesting to watch.

            Classical music is only filmed, because famous musicians also want to be on TV. 🙂 And once upon a time there was a lot of money in it as well.
            But it does not convey the essence of their work, which lies in sound in its majority.
            Nobody films pilots at work, or surgeons at work, to enjoy the fruits of their professional expertise. But classical musicians. Funny that.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        In the period before German unification, Germans divided themselves between Saxons, Franks, Frisians, Alemans, Bavarians etc. These are still prevalent in the language groups in German speaking areas.

        The modern territory of Bavaria includes Bavarians and many non-Bavarians in the west of Bavaria. Most Austrians (and certainly the area from which Welser-Most comes from) are “Bavarians” and speak Bavarian dialects.

  • George says:

    Why not Daniele Gatti? He got very good reviews for his last concert with them in October 2019, opening the season. They did Dutilleux Mystère de l’instant, Saint-Saens 1st Celloconcerto and Shosta 5.

    „Ideals that fit together: The Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks opens its season with the conductor Daniele Gatti.“ Read on here:

    https://www.sueddeutsche.de/kultur/klassik-musik-aus-dem-moment-1.4628741

    He also got very good reviews for his concert 1 year before, in October 2018 with Schubert 3, Langsamer Satz, Webern op. 5 and Schubert 6.

    „Ecstatic
    The BR-Symphoniker under Daniele Gatti“ Read on here:

    https://www.sueddeutsche.de/kultur/kurzkritik-ekstatisch-1.4167769

  • Gustavo says:

    Gianandrea, Esa-Pekka & Oramo

  • sam says:

    “BRSO is Germany’s most accomplished orchestra, outside of Berlin”

    Gewandhaus?

    • Gustavo says:

      He’s with Air France.

    • Tichy says:

      Would he be willing to cancel his Sabbatical? Not unlikely, given the enormous chemistry between them.

    • kundry says:

      No, he is flying Airbuses for Air France. Anyway, he does not have anything more to give , musically. Probably and subconsciously, the pilot move is an acceptance of that , from his part.

      • Djeedo says:

        Unimportant information,but it will be Boeing 777

        • Max Grimm says:

          It will not be a Boeing 777, Air France does not permit direct entry pilots to start out on their wide-body fleets, not even celebrity ones.
          Harding will be posted to the Airbus A320 family aircraft, for which he is type rated.
          If he stays long enough he will have the chance – after time spent flying these smaller aircraft on short-/medium-haul routes – to transition to long-haul flying on their wide-body fleets (Boeing 777 & 787 or Airbus A330 & A350).

      • Fan says:

        Somebody has never listened to Harding’s amazing recordings….

  • kundry says:

    Forget Yannick , he already has 3 jobs – overextended , overly hyped, not a great conductor , even by the ever descending standards of today. “Franz” – as you called him , quite disrespectfully, is perfect for Cleveland – terribly smart not to disturb the magic that – the apparently disliked by musicians – George Szell had wrought 50 years ago ( at least they had the common sense to keep that going – impossible to get such orchestra building from today’s politically correct light weights). “Franz” is also soporific – not what is needed at BRSO.
    Gatti would be fine, with a hunger to prove the world wrong, over Rattle who has to show 100% dedication to LSO , London and the new concert hall. Concertgebouw – ever so cautious and PC , loses twice and is left with poor choices.

    • Brian says:

      Yannick: “not a great conductor”. What utter rubbish, kundry.

    • Karl says:

      I agree that Yannick is overextended. He’s a great conductor, but he’s not superman.

    • perturbo says:

      Szell died in 1970. After him, Cleveland had von Dohnanyi and Maazel as music directors. If you think everything at Severance is the same as it was under Szell, you haven’t been listening. FWM has markedly changed the sound of the orchestra. Attacks are less sharp much of them time, although ensemble remains tight. The string sound is fuller. And that old criticism that he is soporific also reflects the FWM of old. You should try listening to his broadcast concerts or going to here the Cleveland Orchestra live and see for yourself!

    • Rgiarola says:

      After all blunder, they deserve Dudamel.

  • Gustavo says:

    Any female candidate around?

  • Emil says:

    YNS will not take it. He’s got plenty to do and a solid base in North-East US and Canada, and he’s got plenty of links in Europe with the Mahler CO etc.

  • Pedro says:

    Haitink should come back from retirement to conduct some of Janssons concerts, in Munich and elsewhere.

    • Gustavo says:

      He never officially excluded this.

    • LewesBird says:

      That’s a good idea. People who booked Jansons tickets this season might have done so in the hope of witnessing the historic moment of Jansons kicking the bucket on stage, as Dalida might have said. With Haitink as replacement they don’t need to ask for a refund.

  • Wien says:

    Replacements also need to be found for the Anniversary Concert 150 Years Musikverein, first week of January right after the New Years Concert. Perhaps Thielemann (he appears to be free) or Jordan( does the exact same program with his Symphoniker a week later).

  • MUSO says:

    almost morbid to talk about this 2 days later. how mariss was loved by this orchestra is almost impossible to underestimate. yannick simply cannot have 4 orchestras so forget it. franz could make it work i guess. esa- pekka- loved there- but san francisco and composing is plenty. the most logical and also a loved conductor there is daniel harding. please let’s pass on the flying jokes. so what, he is a well rounded intellectual and has a multitude of interests, how great. would not we all wish to have that kind of intellectual curiosity and passion to pursue it. daniel would be ideal.

  • Lullo says:

    The strongest candidate is surely Riccardo Chailly: right repertoire, right age, right curriculum.

  • Cubs Fan says:

    Based solely on recent – extraordinary – records: John Wilson. The Korngold disc is terrific. Would love to hear him with BRSO doing Mahler, Bruckner, Beethoven…

  • Karl says:

    Jakub Hrůša is one of my favorite young conductors. He has conducted them before. I know he’s in Bamberg now, but it’s only 200 kilometers away. If Nelsons can do Boston and Leipzig then why not?

  • Thomasina says:

    Michael Sanderling?

  • Tamino says:

    What about Petrenko, Vasily?
    He saved the day in Carnegie.
    And he would continue within a direction the sound of the orchestra has developed in some groups, namely the strings, which is full of flavors of Janson’s own Russian heritage. Good red wine. A heavier, earthy bouquet.
    Rattle is (very good) white wine, Yannick is Prosecco.
    FWM is interesting too. Bit like Port. Rich in flavor, but can make you sleepy.

    • Gustavo says:

      Maybe too obvious given the Oslo connection.

      What about Rinky?

    • Kirill is much better says:

      Tamino, you have no taste if you think Vasily has a sound taste. Especially after Janson’s reign, who has one of the most beautiful, refined sounds, he would be an insult to that history. Vasily has the sound of a 4-year old schoolboy.

      • John Kelly says:

        When I heard him conduct the Shostakovitch 10th the other week replacing Jansons, it all had the sound of………..well………..Shostakovitch. Kirill is better but he’s better than pretty much everybody………….

        • Magical Sound says:

          Well maybe it was a great sound because it was Jansons’ own orchestra, with a piece they played many times? I guess you need to be a professional musician to truly hear the difference, but the best conductors orient and transform orchestra’s sounds to uncharted heights. Vasily Petrenko is definitely not one of them. Unlike Jansons. And if you dislike this comment, then you have no ears.

        • Gustavo says:

          You mean Kirill Kondrashin?

  • Janna Baty says:

    More already-overcommitted white male conductors. Just what we need in classical music.

  • Pedro says:

    Gatti is my first choice and he is free. Thielemann is the second one – things in Dresden and Salzburg Easter look a bit shaky. Mälkki is the third. She is really a superb conductor.

  • Rob says:

    Andrey Boreyko

    • HugoPreuss says:

      That would be an unusual, unlikely, and most inspired choice. He is fantastic. AND he is willing to go beyond the standard repertoire.

  • mary says:

    Alan Gilbert, obviously, an hour and a half flight on Lufthansa from Hamburg, where he is music director.

  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    Lets hope Simon Rattle gets the job. The Austrian is good too.

    • Barry says:

      Has Rattle ever held two directorships simultaneously? I don’t believe he has. I doubt he’d want to take that on now if he wasn’t willing to when he was a younger man.

      If they want Welser-Most, more power to them. Why shouldn’t Cleveland have to share all that boredom?

      • Tamino says:

        Rattle lives with his family in Germany (Berlin) and has no intention to move. The kids are rooted in Berlin. The wife has family close by in Czech Rep. Depending on the outcome of the imminent British elections, and their effect on mad Brexit, he might welcome the opportunity to get out of the British Titanic and a good job in Germany.

        • Saxon Broken says:

          Rattle has only just gone to the LSO. It is unlikely he will resign anytime soon and he has always said he will only do one music-director job at a time.

          So very unlikely.

  • SEATAC says:

    You gotta love all the totally not sexist commenters here who totally have nothing at all against women conductors but never miss an opportunity to shoot down every possible female candidate being proposed. “It’s not that I hate women, I just hate *that particular* woman. And come to think of it, that other one too, and the next one as well…”

    • Karl says:

      I was a bit surprised at all the down votes I got for Karina Canellakis. I do not believe affirmative action is what is getting her guest conductor appearances all over the world. She’s the real deal!

      • anon says:

        A good share of the down votes might be due to the “yummy” reference. At least mine.

        • Karl says:

          The post that got the most down votes didn’t mention that she was attractive; “Karina Canellakis is their first Principal Guest Conductor. She’s good. Might not be the next principal, but she could be the one after that.”

      • Orchestre de Paris says:

        Sorry Karl but I disagree. She did the season opener concert in Paris, and so far she was the worst out of all conductors invited. Well maybe Oramo was worse. But she doesn’t compare even to Casado or Trevino, which are not exactly second rate.

    • Andrew R. Barnard says:

      In fairness, there are a lot of male conductors being shot down, too, including some with more experience and proven ability to work with the BRSO. It’s not necessarily a matter of hate. Jansons will be hard to replace and we hope it can be done well.

    • Deliberate Practice says:

      I love women, thanks. You know SEATAC, it takes time to become a master. A LONG time. I haven’t yet seen a female conductor who is one. Not yet. But maybe in a few years they will start to appear, and then you will see, everybody will welcome with open arms. It’s not a question of being sexist. It’s a question of having standards, that don’t get compromised depending on your gender.

      • SEATAC says:

        I think your primary problem is exemplified by your use of the words “I haven’t seen”. Maybe if you listened instead of looking you’d get a bit farther.

  • Barry says:

    I had thought Nezet-Seguin may go there after his Philadelphia contract expires in 2026. But it’s virtually impossible to see that happening now in the absence of him pulling out of one of his existing contracts, which would seem highly unlikely.

  • fflambeau says:

    Nézet-Séguin has probably too much on his plate already and is with better groups (the Met; Philadelphia Orchestra; and, Orchestre Métropolitain (Montréal). Munich would be
    a step down or two. He may have stepped in for an ill Jansons only because of friendship.

    Simon Rattle is quite old too and is with the LSO which he likely would not want to leave.

    I think a younger person is a better choice. Someone like Manfred Honneck who is the head of the Pittsburgh Symphony and highly respected (a couple, at least, of Grammy awards). He’s also Austrian. He’s only 61. I think he has served a decade or so in Pittsburgh and his contract is up.

  • Gustavo says:

    Manfred Honeck.

    • Karl says:

      Yes – I like him a lot!. He brought the Pitt to Lanaudiere twice.

    • Barry says:

      I love Honeck, but think he will go to Chicago to replace Muti. Their contracts (in PIttsburgh and Chicago) both expire in 2022.

      • sam says:

        Won’t happen, if they’d wanted him, they’d have engaged him last year, instead, they extended Muti for 2 more years.

        Chicago has to decide what kind of orchestra it wants to be by the end of the first quarter of the 21st century. It’s current path is unsustainable, it’s being left in the dust by everyone else from LA to Boston, even Cleveland.

        And Honeck is just not that person to bring Chicago into the second quarter of the 21st century.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      I imagine they would think seriously about Honeck. He is a more plausible candidate than either Rattle or Nezet-Seguin.

  • Robert von Bahr says:

    For the Salzburg Boris Godunov, why not Kent Nagano?
    His very recent SACD production with the “original” original version has got some fantastic reactions already.

  • Gustavo says:

    What’s MTT up to these days?

  • Axl says:

    I wish that Rattle would be successor of Mariss. There is chemistry between him and BRSO.

  • Gustavo says:

    Thomas Hengelbrock.

    …simply to f*ck NDR.

  • Anon says:

    Well Klaus Mäkelä?

  • Saxon Broken says:

    There are three big orchestra jobs currently open: Chicago, Concertgebouw and Bavarian Radio SO. It will be difficult to fill all three, and there may be an incentive to get someone in before the other two take the candidate.

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