Why revive a dead conductors competition?

Why revive a dead conductors competition?


norman lebrecht

February 10, 2020

No-one missed the Leeds junket for more than a decade, so why bring it back?

Message received:

Following a break of eleven years, the Leeds Conductors Competition will return this September offering transformative opportunities for young British conductors.

Held at Leeds Town Hall in partnership between Leeds International Concert Season and Opera North, the competition culminates in a gala concert with the Orchestra of Opera North, prize money totalling £20,000, and a series of professional engagements with the country’s other leading orchestras for the winner.

Judging the Competition will be Tim Walker CBE AM (Chief Executive and Artistic Director, London Philharmonic Orchestra), Richard Farnes (Music Director, Opera North, 2004-2016), Lyn Fletcher (Leader of the Hallé, 1997-2019), and Colin Metters (Professor Emeritus of Conducting at the Royal Academy of Music in London). Previous winners include Garry Walker, Music Director designate of Opera North, who won the 1999 competition.



  • John Rook says:

    Let’s not forget Geoffrey Patterson, who was cheated out of a lot of his prize engagements.

  • MiguelPerez says:

    Only for british conductors? Then it is going to be a minor competition with limited interest.
    I also hope they understand that, even in music competitions, age discrimination is illegal and there should not be one according to EU law…oh, wait that doesn’t matter in the UK anymore!

    • AllAboutTheMusic says:

      I completely agree RE age limit.

      The industry ideal of ‘discovering the next great conducting star at 22’ is completely outdated and has led to the orchestral music crisis we find ourselves in today. (Here comes the rant!!!)

      Moderately competent time beaters, with the requisite ‘look’, ability to follow the orchestra, and a couple of competition wins/assistant conductor posts in the bag, are inflicted on highly skilled players, who then have no choice but to ignore the horror, and comply with the lie. The resulting performances are usually at a level that preserve the orchestra’s reputation, but rarely rise above routine playing of the notes – pretty well.

      It is frustrating for players and audiences alike.

      Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see a conducting competition with a LOWER age limit of 35, with the aim of discovering conductors who have honed their musical abilities and craft. Those skilled in the art of social media promotion based on extramusical ‘merits’ would also hopefully be filtered out.

      Instead let skilled conductors have the chance to shine. Give THEM the boost of publicity, visibility and career validation that comes with a high profile competition win, and see how they will fly!

      Orchestral players would no longer have to dread coming to work, and I would more willingly part with my hard earned ticket money!! We need to dramatically reevaluate the conducting biz model, and focus the agency resources of publicity and hype on those who actually have the goods to back it up, if high level orchestral performance is to survive beyond the next decade. #emergingnotyoung

  • Mark says:

    It actually does make sense. It is likely that after Brexit Donatella Flick competition will seize to exist, since it was dependant on EU free movement and employment laws (only conductors from EU member states, who didn’t require a British work permit, could compete). British conductors will need an alternative. Even if just at the national level.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Britain hasn’t actually really left the EU yet. Mr. Johnson is busily trying to negotiate an agreement which he insists will be done by the end of the year. An agreement may very well result (is highly likely to result) in free movement of people between Britain and the rest of the EU.

  • “Why revive a dead conductors competition?”

    Indeed … it might be interesting. Let’s see who might want to compete:


    Now, who would be on the jury? 🙂

  • Neil B. says:

    Following Brexit, British conductors need only apply