Just in: Concertgebouw votes for shortlist – and Van Zweden’s not on it

Just in: Concertgebouw votes for shortlist – and Van Zweden’s not on it


norman lebrecht

January 29, 2020

The players have nominated three men for chief conductor.

One is unavailable, one is unsuitable and the third won’t want the job.

The three are:

Andris Nelsons – deeply embedded in Boston and Leipzig

Valery Gergiev – politically compromised; and

Ivan Fischer, probably not interested.


The vote was held on Saturday and the results have been leaked to a Dutch newspaper. A substantial number of players put Daniele Gatti on the list. Gatti was fired after #Metoo allegations.

The orchestra, which has no chief exec or board chairman, is now both split and thoroughly stuck.

UPDATE: What Amsterdam must do next


  • and, believe it or not, Danielle Gatti is on the list too!

  • Ivan you must make an effort!!!

  • FrauGeigerin says:

    Semyon Bychkov second job.

  • Rob says:

    I’ll do it for €200,000 a season + free food, booze, travel and board. Bargain!

  • Wotan says:

    Uffff…. Ivan Fischer is such a boring and bad conductor!

    • Loge says:

      You are totally right, Wotan! A choice for Fischer would really be very bad!

    • Michael Landman-Karny says:

      His live performances with the Budapest Festival orchestra have been rapturously received. His recordings with them are fantastic too.

      • Larry L. Lash / Vienna, Austria says:

        I heard them last season at Wien’s Konzerthaus is the dreariest Mahler II. I have ever experienced. Amateurishly bad playing, indifferent and dizzying/maddening awful disregard for the score. I recall tossing my program book in the trash on the way out: a concert best forgotten.

  • SteelyTom says:

    They can beat the CSO to Honeck. Among the veterans, how about Bychkov?

  • pageturner says:

    An orchestra of this calibre must be able to do better – what a shockingly bad choice to make.

  • prof says:

    Paavo Jarvi

  • Tamino says:

    Why everybody wants Nelsons? His Beethoven cycle with Vienna is pointless. He is musical, from the guts, but overworked and does not come across as particularly refined in his interpretations, a lot of broad brush.
    He is a very nice guy, is it that what tips the scale these days?

    • John Borstlap says:


      • John Marks says:

        Great answer…. and exactly what does that tell us?????


        • Larry D says:


        • John Borstlap says:

          It tells us that in music life, the wrapping paper has obtained an importance often out of proportion to the content. But that is, of course, because music is such an ephemeral art form – it gets on your nerves, wringels itself into the subconscious, pushes buttons we never thought were there, and makes us aware of realms of experience we never suspected could exist. This is stuff which is hard to package in a PR exercise. And in their despair, marketing people fall back upon types like Ms Lola.

        • M2N2K says:

          It tells us that: 1) there are not many nice guys among good conductors; 2) a person in Music Director position can be making such a huge difference in musicians’ lives – in either direction – that his/her personal qualities are much more important to consider than for a guest conductor who comes, conducts a program or two and disappears.

          • John Marks says:

            Thank you for the common-sense, real-world answer.

            The personal (not artistic) temperament and the value system (morals) of a conductor can make the difference between musicians who look forward to arriving for work, and musicians who want to file disability claims because the conductor is so difficult to work with; and I think that Norman knows the case I have in mind!

            To beat the topic over the head:

            Does the conductor act as though he thinks it is his job to make the jobs of the musicians as stress-free and productive as possible; or, does the conductor act as though it is the job of the musicians to make HIM look good, no matter how poorly prepared and uncomprehending he is?

            To hang an exponential number on the topic:

            Do the musicians live in dread that the truth will come out?

            These are the real-world considerations at work here.

            Leaving aside that the expensive SACD releases by the BSO of James Levine were clueless, feckless, and borderline unlistenable (has anyone been able to listen to that EdR all the way through? or to the Daphnis et Chloe?), I detected a sea change in the aura and the vibe in Boston once Nelsons had gotten himself into what certainly appears to be his “happy place.”

            There’s a business maxim that really applies this situation: “People don’t quit jobs; they quit bosses.”

            Therefore, orchestras should not be faulted for wanting a boss who will not make the workers want to quit.


          • John Borstlap says:

            Very true.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    NOooooo…. anyone but the toothpick….

  • Gustavo says:

    “both split and thoroughly stuck”

    Probaly feels like UK post Brexit.

  • BP says:

    Unrelated to the subject but why does the linked article feature a picture of Ivan Fischer with the caption “Fischer in Kansas”, when he’s clearly rehearsing in Cologne.

  • Ms.Melody says:

    Please, anyone but Gergiev!!!

  • Djeedo says:

    Strange list…
    Nelsons and Gergiev are already holding two positions (and are happy there)..they asked Gergiev right after Gatti left, and he didn’t took Amsterdam,instead he renewed his contract in munich until 2025.
    So on this list Fischer is the only logical choice

  • Musiclover says:

    How could they come up with Gergiev who is already with Munich till 2025 and his inseparable Mariinsky. Perhaps they need to sell tickets? It seems the RCO is now not so much a ticketing draw in international tours as it once was. But judging from radio broadcasts the Gergiev/RCO combination did have quite some sparks. But I think it’s better for them not to experience too much of Gergiev to keep that relationship or it may just turn sour like the LSO. ‘Principal Guest Conductor’ or interim chief with not too much commitment?

    Anyway, apart from Fischer, I believe if there’s any chance Nelsons will get the appointment, it will have to start after his BSO tenure. The timing is quite good actually, 2-3 years waiting time as designate isn’t too long for an incoming chief.

    But quite obviously the pool is not big now and nearly all ‘star’ conductors are tied with orchestras well into the 2020s, and they are in competition with the BRSO, which also need a chief conductor.

    Musically Bychkov seems to be a very good choice, but perhaps not big-name enough?

    • If Andris comes he will have to leave the Gewand’ or Boston two top 12 orchestras with a lot of money… It’s impossible to be director of 3 orchestras at the same moment…

      • Musiclover says:

        Actually, I am not sure if Nelsons is a good match with the Gewandhaus. His sound picture seems to match that of the Concertgebouw better than the Gewandhaus, and from the videos I saw he apparently get stellar results from the Concertgebouw. Not so convinced by his Gewandhaus recordings though. Just my thought.

        • Tamino says:

          What is his “sound picture” that matches the Concertgebouw better than Gewandhaus in your opinion? His Gewandhaus recordings are a bit dull (Bruckner is what I heard), but that could be the microphones and mixing? Their Chailly recordings have a very different sound, and that has nothing to do with the orchestra or conductor most likely.

    • Kolb Slaw says:

      The best Russian musicians flee the country, so he has to work with fresh or less-than-stellar talent, so he would be happy to have a top orchestra.

  • Orchestra member says:

    Why is this surprising? Who wants a mediocre conductor who is, on top of that, mean to the musicians? Had the most unpleasant experience with him, with so-so results. I would never vote for Jaap if he was on the list

  • Couperin says:

    I love Bychkov!

  • Cubs Fan says:

    All this chatter about bringing in the right conductor is silly. The Golden Era of conducting is long behind us, and if The Maestro Myth taught us anything, it’s that many of these hallowed baton wielders were really just average and often frauds. Some of the best, most exciting and thoughtful concerts I’ve been to were led by conductors who are essentially unknown, but they’re very musical, pleasant, have a fine ear and stick technique, and the results were beyond reproach. Come to Tucson and hear the fine work Jose Luis Gomez is doing. Or Mei-Ann Chen. Where’s Andrew Litton? I thought he was brilliant in Dallas. Chasing after the elusive, rare “great” conductor is foolish. There are more important issues, like the quality of the orchestra and believe it or not, the music being played?

  • David Boxwell says:

    “Come back kid” Bernard Haitink!

  • Orchestra musician says:

    A few things:
    – the orchestra does have a board chairman (good heavens just check your facts please), and his successor is even already appointed for when his term stops. So what’s exactly the problem here?
    – there is a chief exec. ad interim, and the whole managementteam is functioning like they always do, on the highest level. There’s no crisis on the management side whatsoever (even though it somehow seems everybody would like to see a crises).
    – there is a handful (literally) of musicians who can still not get over the fact that the collaboration with Gatti was stopped, and it seems they will do everything to let it seem that the orchestra is divided, like leaking the process and top three of the chief conductor procedure. The very big majority of the orchestra is looking forward to choosing a new chief conductor and starting a new chapter. This specific meeting on Saturday was in a good atmosphere and with a positive attitude and vibe. So please stop stating that the orchestra is split and stuck, just because a few angry musicians can’t get over themselves and are acting completely egoistic, and are in fact spitting on their colleagues. It’s pathetic.

  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    I hope it is not Valery Gergiev.

  • Mick the Knife says:

    Alan Gilbert. Its in his neighborhood.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    I say, stop treating conductors as either gods, or complete nincompoops. They are mere mortals. They have a job to do and that job is a necessary evil. These orchestras, which can play ANYTHING put in front of them, have to take some responsibility for their own hits and misses.

  • Michel says:

    Andris Nelson is vastly overated ! And Gergiev is very busy with Munich and the Mariinsky.They should apologise to Gatty and take him back. It’s the only solution.

  • kundry says:

    The Concertgebouw musicians look like a seriously messed up bunch of people. Maybe they should stick with playing and leave artistic management decisions to the management. Oops, sorry! That is worse.

  • Evan Tucker says:

    I was amazed it wasn’t Ivan Fischer last time. Fischer is probably right that the kind of work he wants to do isn’t possible in an established orchestra like the Concertgebouw or Berlin, but by the time Fischer gets this appointment he will be 70, it would be a ten year appointment at most, a stopgap until a more obvious candidate presents himself. They’d make very fine music that is not quite as interesting as what Fischer does in Budapest.

    But I still think Zweden should get it. It’s not just because he’s Dutch and literally knows the orchestra from the inside, it’s because the Concertgebouw frankly needs a kick in their collective ass. If youtube broadcasts and recordings are to be believed, the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic is now a much more interesting orchestra. The Concertgebouw long since lost the Mengelberg sound they preserved all the way to the 90s and replaced it with a haze of generic sonic velour. Excellent technical skill does not make memorable music. Chailly was in large part responsible, but at least he pushed them in interesting new directions. The partnership with Jansons, may his memory always be a blessing, played to what was most complacent in them both. It’s doesn’t serve anybody to do yet another technically excellent Brahms 1 and Symphonie Fantastique except for subscribers who will unfortunately no longer be there to support them in 15 years.

    So if they don’t go with Zweden or someone equivalently demanding, at least go with someone who will continue what Chailly did and pick interesting repertoire. Have Markus Stenz do for the Concertgebouw what he did for the Radio Philharmonic. And as disappointing as he’s sometimes been, Daniel Harding might be a perfect pick, he clearly does not allow things to be done any way but his, and he will be quite a bit more broad in his rep choices than Jansons was.

    • John Borstlap says:

      The strong improvement of the Dutch radio orchestra was the work of JvZweden, Stenz came after him and worked on that basis, but he left. The Concertgebouw Orchestra is both helped and hindered by its reputation, and indeed it would be best if they got someone who could stimulate the intensity which often seems to lay dormant. A year ago I attended a concert by them under vZweden (guesting) and it was great. I don’t understand why the players seem not to like him. My guess is that it is because he is a typical Amsterdam guy.

  • sam says:

    It says a lot about an orchestra that would vote for Gergiev. A bunch of hapless sheep. Sad. Really sad. Makes one look at the orchestra members in a whole new light.

  • Kolb Slaw says:

    Gergiev’s politics must not enter into it. His palling with Putin made sense, he gained support for the artists that way. Fighting him would not have made sense. Gergiev is smart. But there are many more conductors to consider.

    • Melisande says:

      Also art is politics and history is still telling us that.
      So regarding no. 2 on the list of nomination for a new chief conductor of the Concertgebouw Orchestra think of the recently proclaimed 11th commandment:
      Thou shall not be indifferent.

  • fflambeau says:

    I suspect Fischer will take the position.

    Nelsons already has a gig, two even, that are better. I doubt Gergiev will leave Russia; I also think Noseda of Washington, D.C. might be a possibility if these top 3 do not materialize.

    I don’t think Jaap Van S. is that good.

  • Moto says:

    How is Bertrand de Billy?

    I think, he is a better conducter Ivan Fischer and Honeck.

  • Edgar Self says:

    “Show me a happy orchestra and i’ll show you a bad conductor.” — Fritz Reiner

    Conductors who smile too much are also suspect.