One of these will be Chicago’s next maestro

One of these will be Chicago’s next maestro


norman lebrecht

January 29, 2020

The successor to Riccardo Muti needs to emerge from next season’s guest conductors. But the list rolled out last night is hardly rich in promise. We’ve starred the current front-runner:

Guest conductor Michael Tilson Thomas returns to conduct the CSO’s first performances of his Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind on December subscription concerts. British conductor and composer Thomas Adès makes his CSO podium debut and conducts the first CSO performances of his Concerto for Piano featuring Kirill Gerstein.

Debut appearances for conductors Jane Glover, music director of Music of the Baroque; Lahav Shani, chief conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic and music director designate of the Israel Philharmonic; Constantine Kitsopoulos, who directs the Festival of the Arts Boca, Chatham Opera and New York Grand Opera; and Fabien Gabel, music director of the Orchestr Symphonique de Québec.

Return appearances by renowned guest conductors Marin Alsop, Herbert Blomstedt, Adam Fischer, Edward Gardner, *Manfred Honeck, Marek Janowski, Philippe Jordan, Simone Young and Xian Zhang, as well as Edo de Waart in a program with three young prize-winning violinists.



  • Amos says:

    As with the last list of conductors, it is a sad commentary if this is the one being considered to follow in the proverbial footsteps of AR, FR, GS and RM.

  • Brian v says:

    Not much of a choice the Berlin philharmonic have chosen the best petrenko

  • erich says:

    Very surprised Pappano doesn’t feature. It’s time he moved on after having achieved so much in London and Rome.

  • Euphonium Al says:

    I wouldn’t be quite so pessimistic – yet anyway. I admit I’m not familiar with the oeuvre of most of these conductors, but I can’t believe each and every one of them are duds. Some might be better than more famous names. I do agree the CSO is a gem and it’d be a pity to see it go downhill.

  • BP says:

    Honeck would be a good choice, but that list is pretty thin. Chicago’s list of guest conductors has been a bit drab for a while now and I’m not sure why. (For what it’s worth Emmanuel Krivine and Tugan Sokhiev also feature next season)

  • kundry says:

    None of the above.

  • Sashimi says:

    I’m sorry Norman but where did you read that the successor needs to emerge from this particular list? I am asking because I happen to know for a fact that that’s absolute rubbish. Why couldn’t it include conductors from previous years that don’t happen to be guest conducting the upcoming season because you can only have some 25-30 conductors a season? Bit of weak reporting making assumption like this based on one press release.

  • john kelly says:

    My money’s on Blomstedt……….

  • Gerald says:

    Simone Young conducted a wonderful concert of Liszt, Wagner (Gotterdammerung Act III excerpts), and Brahms/Schoenberg last season. I’m glad to hear that she has been invited back. There is, of course, no chance that she will be selected to replace Muti.

  • Rob says:

    I nominate Michael Schønwandt or Andrey Boreyko.

  • boringfileclerk says:

    There are no worthy conductors in the younger generation that I could stomach taking over a major organization. The future of symphony orchestras looks bleak. They all look the part, but have nothing to say.

  • David Leibowitz says:

    D. None of the above

  • Calvin says:

    Those who gainsay Honeck are, in my view, completely missing the boat. The great things he has accomplished in Pittsburgh will by definition remain a bit sub rosa on the world stage simply because it is Pittsburgh. Consider his last several recordings on the RR label to get a taste.

    • Bruce says:

      I haven’t seen any comments gainsaying Honeck… aside from the “none of the above, nobody has been any good since Furtwangler” crowd.

  • Jeffrey Biegel says:

    Leonard Slatkin, JoAnn Falletta…

  • minacciosa says:

    The list fills one with ennui, per usual these days. It figures that the most exciting recent news is from Detroit.

  • Bruce says:

    Honeck would be a fine choice IMHO, and the likeliest one from this list; but I can’t believe they would limit themselves to this list. There are surely several superstars (Rattle* for example) who were already booked up for next season before Muti announced his retirement plans.

    *(I’m not naming Rattle as my choice, just an example of someone famous)

  • FrauGeigerin says:

    They will choose a woman or a non-white non-European male or a super-strong conductor. That is the cool thing now…

  • EastsideArts says:

    Simone Young !!!!!! Excellent choice.

    “Ms. Young’s previous titled positions include: Principal Conductor of the Bergen Philharmonic (1998-2002); Artistic Director of the Australian Opera (2001-2003); Principal Guest Conductor of the Gulbenkian Orchestra in Lisbon; Artistic Director of the Hamburg State Opera and Chief Music Director of the Hamburg Philharmonic (2005-2015). From 2020 Simone Young will be Chief Conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.During her tenure in Hamburg as Artistic Director of the Hamburg State Opera and Chief Music Director of the Hamburg Philharmonic from 2005-2015, Ms. Young dedicated herself nearly exclusively to that house, conducting a wide range of premieres and a diverse repertoire with performance of such wide-ranging composers as Mozart, Verdi, Puccini, Wagner, Strauss, Hindemith, Britten and Henze. This period was further distinguished by many World and German Premieres, as Ms. Young brought contemporary music to the fore during her tenure with both the State Opera and the Philharmonic in Hamburg.”

  • Barry says:

    I’ve felt for a while that Honeck will and should replace Muti in Chicago. The fact that their contracts end at the same time makes it easier.

  • Sol Siegel says:

    Not on the 2020-21 schedule, but what about Susanna Mälkki, who has conducted there before and leads Mahler 4 with them this coming May? As credible a candidate as any, I would think.

    • Violinist says:

      As a violinist in CSO I sincerely hope that doesn’t happen. If it should, I will immediately considering looking for employment elsewhere, she’s simply THE worst guest conductor we get and before anyone attacks me here, no, it is not because she’s a woman.

      • MacroV says:

        Appreciate your perspective, but I wonder if it’s shared with your colleagues. I recall years ago Henry Fogel recounting how he once received letters from two CSO players about a particular guest conductor: One said how awful he is, the other raved about what a pleasure and privilege it is to work with him. Mr. Fogel sent copies of the other letter (names expunged to protect the innocent) to the two writers, just to make the point of how you can’t please everyone.

        • Greg Bottini says:

          Great story, MacroV, and good for Henry Fogel!
          I used to enjoy his reviews in Fanfare, back when that magazine meant something. I ended my subscription years ago after they stopped reviewing major labels.
          I wonder if Fogel is still there?

        • M2N2K says:

          Wonder no more – it is.

        • Violinist says:

          Believe me this is a widely shared sentiment not only amongst my CSO colleagues but also colleagues from several other orchestras. Of course you’d find someone who would say they really like her, but overall Malki is about as unpopular as it gets amongst guest conductors.

    • M2N2K says:

      Think again.

  • wartburger says:

    Hannu Lintu will make his Chicago debut next month, and I have a feeling he might get a position in America soon. Watch out

    • Herr Doktor says:

      Hannu Lintu certainly deserves it! He’s a TREMENDOUSLY underrated conductor based on the two concerts I’ve heard him conduct (and the third one will be in March, in Boston, Sibelius 2).

      My first exposure to Lintu was in Iceland, where he performed Bruckner’s 5th Symphony. It was THE GREATEST PERFORMANCE I’VE HEARD LIVE of that unreachable, cosmic masterpiece, and it still rings in my ears. I literally have no idea how a conductor who is not associated with Bruckner’s music from what I’m aware of, takes on perhaps the most difficult of Bruckner’s symphonies to pull off, with an orchestra in which probably no more than a small handfull of people on the stage had ever played the work before, with probably just 3-4 rehearsals, and then give us a mind-blowing performance that greatly outdanced many other live performances I’ve heard from far greater orchestras (Cleveland, Philadelphia, Staatskapelle Dresden, Boston) and conductors (Welser-Most, Barenboim, Sawallisch, Ozawa). All I can say is lightning struck that night in Iceland. I would need to hear more of Lintu, but so far after 2 concerts, I have to say, he’s impressed me as a hugely underrated world-class talent.

  • MacroV says:

    I doubt any of them besides Honeck would be under consideration. Knowing the colossal (and well-justified ego) of the CSO, their historical insistence that they demand a great conductor – they don’t make one – I still think they’ll go after one of 2-3 “I’m not interested”s: Sir Simon, Thielemann, or Chailly. The management will cajole, one will reluctantly come in for a guest gig, and then say “I had no interest in a U.S. MD position, but the brilliance and commitment of the CSO players won me over immediately.” Basically what happened with Muti.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      None of Rattle, Thielemann and Chailly have ever been MD of a US orchestra. They also rarely guest conduct in the US.

      Rattle has always only had one-job-at-a-time and has only just arrived in London (a lot would have had to go wrong for him to leave).

      Thielemann would be terrible at schmoozing the donors, and surely has more than enough already with Dresden and Bayreuth.

      Chailly has enough to do with La Scala, and seems to be interested in doing projects with the Lucerne festival orchestra.

      It is going to be tough for Chicago, since the Bavarian Radio SO and the Concertgeboouw are also looking for someone.

  • Old Man in the Midwest says:

    I am quite certain that the successor to Muti will not be anyone from the names presented on this list.

  • Don Ciccio says:

    The CSO, indeed, any orchestra, could do much worse than Honeck and not a lot better.

  • Stickles says:

    Bychkov. Make it happen!

  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    Manfred Honeck is the most plausible one among that list.

  • Pedro says:

    Gatti or Thielemann. Unfortunately none of the two will be chosen. Märkki would be my next best choice.

  • Kolb Slaw says:

    MTT is the only name that leaps out. What of Andreas Delfs?

  • fflambeau says:

    I think Honeck would be an excellent choice; but I also thought the NYPhilharmonic was going to take him after their last conductor left/was forced out.

    Thomas Adès has been guest conducting with many American orchestras. I don’t think he has the audience rapport.

    Marin Alsop has lots of experience in Chicago and would do a great job too. I think it will be her (first choice) or Honeck. Either would be great.

    • MacroV says:

      Ades is a composer who conducts, not a full-time conductor.

      I suspect the denizens of SD would not consider Alsop to be CSO-worthy.

  • fflambeau says:

    You missed one important guest conductor who could well be the next CSO chief: Osmo Antero Vänskä. He’s retiring at Minnesota where he’s done a fantastic job. He may have indicated he will conduct in Korea but I think he would drop that or try to work it in with Chicago. He’s excellent.

    • MacroV says:

      I love Osmo, but I suspect the CSO would say he’s fine for Minnesota (and Minnesota’s great), but he’s not the giant they demand.

  • kuma says:

    I can’t stand Honeck.( so boring and no charisma) Chicago deserve someone better and younger.

  • Karl says:

    Any fans of Peter Oundjian? I’ve heard him conduct a great Bruckner 8th and Dvorak 6th. The Dvorak just last night in Ottawa. Anyone who programs that work gets my vote.