Swiss promote concertmaster to music director

Swiss promote concertmaster to music director


norman lebrecht

July 08, 2020

Here’s an intriguing internal promotion:

The Musikkollegium Winterthur has appointed Roberto González-Monjas as Chief Conductor from the 2021/22 season. The Spanish violinist, 32, has been the first concertmaster of Musikkollegium Winterthur for the past seven years,

He is also professor of violin at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London.


  • Suzanne says:

    Interesting choice and decision.

  • Anon says:

    A rising star and a marvelous young talent!

  • AlanC says:

    Is this the case of another orchestra musician who just buys a baton, calls himself ‘a conductor’? Did he actually study conducting or was just God’s touch?

    I would not be surprised his career was created on money, given the kind of financial support he claimed in an interview he got from a rich Swiss family to buy his violin

    • RW2013 says:

      There are plenty who “study” conducting and still can’t do it.

    • MDR says:

      No, he didn’t train though he has been conducting it for a while now.

      He’s nothing if not ambitious and has the arrogance to boot. But boy can he play the violin.

    • J says:

      He did study conducting from Harnoncourt when he was in Salzburg, but he doesn’t have a degree in it. And talking by personal experience, he’s one of the most gifted and inspiring musicians I’ve ever had the pleasure to learn from, he’s not one of those who just waves a stick in the air for the sake of it.

      • Novagerio says:

        J: Next question: did Harnoncourt study conducting?…

        • FrauGeigerin says:

          No, he did not, and he was always terrible communicating with the orchestra through gesture. What he explained was pure gold, but what he did with his hands was terrible. I remember the first time I played with him; I was not yet experienced and I was eager to play everything perfectly with the conductor. My desk partner of last desk of seconds told me “don’t look at him, just feel the energy of the orchestra”. Many years I figured out that Harnoncourt knew he had no conducting skills, but he knew what he wanted musically, so he gave instructions, and mostly let the orchestra organize itself. We could had never played a Strauss or Puccini opera with him (not that he had interest in that repertoire!), but for the pieces we did with him what he did (the instructions and letting us play) was more than enough. His gestures very rarely modified the sound of the orchestra…

        • J says:

          Seems like a lot of people here think that one really needs a fancy degree to actually know how to do something and be good at it, and then start judging without actually neither knowing or worked with the person in topic, and start spreading hate and making stupid conjectures about management, money, and how Soros is also guilty of this guy taking up a conducting position in an orchestra he has worked and already conducted several times in the past years.

          Now, I played in the very first concert Roberto conducted (from the concertmaster position, no baton at the time) back in 2012 in Medellín. And then, two years ago on an European tour with the same orchestra (then he did both, played, and also conducted from the podium), and let me tell you, he can do both at the highest level without needing the famous studies or degrees. He’s as prepared as possible for everything he commits to, much better than some phonies out there that go and stand in the podium one day before the concert and start shaking their arms with their “conducting degree” but say nothing to the audience and have no respect for the music in the score.

          More than talent, Roberto has studied, read, and practiced a lot, but also networked, stablished contacts and learned from everyone he can, and that’s what made him what he is now, if he has the positions he has, it’s because he deserves them due to merit and intelligence.

          Peace out!

    • Anon says:

      He comes from modest roots in Spain. His family is certainly not wealthy. He’s achieved what he has through hard work and determination.

      • RIGOLETTO says:

        He is not rich, but read his interviews: he has rich patrons in CH.

        If we have learnt anything about the business of conducting in the last 10 years is that it is full of fakes; that careers are created for financial gain; that agencies push people into conducting careers for reasons other than being ready and capable; that conducting competitions are a fraud; that with money and/or financial support anyone can enjoy a conducting careers…

        Conducting and conductors have become too important. Conductors are the centre of the show, not the music.

        • Geduld says:

          If you ever worked with Gonzales Monjas you would know, that with him music is always the centre of the show. Did you ever see him work, or play in concert? Maybe you need to LISTEN more closely… (-:

          • MDR says:

            Disagree – he is a passionate and highly skilled musician, no doubt, but he absolutely makes himself the centre of the show.

          • Geduld says:

            Disagree with your disagreement (-:

            Have you once seen him rehearse and speak of music?

            You seem to mistake his enormus energy and charisma with him “making himself the centre of the show”. A superficial view, in my opinion!

          • MDR says:

            Oh I’ve played with him many, many times…

    • Felder says:

      he is a wonderful musician! that’s all!

      • FrauGeigerin says:

        That is a common mistake: being a good musician, having conducted a few concerts, having had some lessons (they don’t have the time for proper teaching) with a well known conductor (although I refuse, based on own experience, to call Harnoncourt a conductor), being a good performer is not enough… there are essential skills for the conductor that are learnt through proper study. Those who attend conservatoires to study conducting are not idiots, and are not less talented. If I have open-heart surgery I want my surgeon to have completed the proper medical residency, I don’t want to be operated by a neurosurgeon who happens to know a bit about heart surgery and completed a a 2-week rotation in cardiology.

        I know this young man as a violinist only. I have met him socially, but never heard him play, although I hear from my colleagues he is a fine violinist. I agree. Regardless of how talented he is, talent is not enough.

        • Musician says:

          Well, you’ve exposed yourself by saying that Harnoncourt, a conductor beloved by almost every musician he ever worked with, was not a conductor. One can watch his remarkable rehearsals with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and see first-hand what a marvelous musician and conductor he is, traditional technique be damned. You seem to have an extremely conservative viewpoint as to what makes a conductor – all you need to do is watch his transformative work with the COE to know that conducting is not a one size fits all approach.

          • FrauGeigerin says:

            I played several times under Harnoncourt. He was a great musician, but a terrible conductor and he knew it.

        • Another orchestra musician says:

          How on Earth are you comparing a violinist to a neurosurgeon? Idek but logic tells us that it’s not the same. Apples and oranges. I know Roberto and have worked with him, he is a gifted musician, passionate, generous
          and hard-working, yes he doesn’t have a conducting degree, but he commits to every piece, learns the music perfectly, brings fresh and new ideas… that’s what I would expect from a conductor, even if the technique is not perfect.

    • Geduld says:

      I have worked with Gonzales Monjas many times over the years. One of a kind. Knows every note in the score, inspiring, dinamic, honest. His talent has nothing to do with money and his career nither. It seems you are misinformed, or just happy to spread false rumours.

      I am not surprised that five Swiss families decided to buy a phantastic violin and lend it to him. Sounds to me like a grate way to give a voice to someone who deserve it.

      The Winterthur Musikkollegium has made a phantastic decision today. I look forward to hearing the orchestra conducted by him soon!

  • Anon says:

    I am another one who’s VERY skeptical of orch. musicians who take up conducting. But I’ve worked with Roberto & I can tell you he’s a top notch conductor. He’s one of these musicians who’s just really intelligent & it doesn’t matter much if you give him a violin or a baton, he’s going to make music with it. He communicates. This orch. was wise to appoint him.

    • V. Lind says:

      Good for you. I know nothing of him, but the people he works with presumably do. Let’s see how he does.

  • Caruso says:

    Well-deserved! They’re lucky to have him. Roberto is one of the finest musicians I’ve ever had the fortune to work with! He’s passionate, talented, hard-working, and sincere in his dedication to music and education.

    • Bill says:

      What kind of thought goes into downvoting a comment like this? Seems unlikely that those who clicked the thumbs-down button have actually played with the guy. About as useful as the clowns who give a book a lousy rating on Amazon because their copy was damaged in shipment…

      • Anon says:

        I’m with you, Bill. There are a lot of haters here who “downthumb” just to vent their personal anger and frustration. I get the feeling that there are a lot of unemployed conductors reading these comments who resent it when someone like Roberto gets a break. Now watch them all downthumb this comment. LOL. Ready, set, go, all you downthumbers!

  • Jan Kaznowski says:

    He led the orchestra when Quasthoff conducted Matthew Passion

    • FrauGeigerin says:

      I have lead as the principal second violin and as concertmaster of several orchestras under virtually every major conductor of the last 20 years. That does not qualify me to stand in front of my colleagues and tell them what to do nor makes me in a closer position of being a conductor.

      • Anon says:

        Excuse me, but I’m afraid this is your ignorance. There is a whole genre of “Concertmaster/Soloist/Conductors” who are such strong leaders that the evolution to conductor alone is very natural. Gonzalez-Monjas is one of them.

        Managements love this arrangement because they only have to pay one fee for soloist and conductor. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve played in orchs when the solo violinist or concertmaster was also tasked with conducting us. Mend Violin Concerto with Dmitri Sitkovetsky comes to mind. No conductor, just a very strong-willed soloist. I think he’s now evolved into quite a good conductor.

        And yes, there are 2nd violin leaders who’ve also made the transition. There’s a Venezuelan guy who was Principal 2nd violin in Tenerife Orch. in Spain who was a prizewinner at the Solti Conducting Competition. 2nd violin leader was his day job until his conducting career took off. Now he’s a Music Director in the US.

        Being a good conductor has nothing to do with what you did before you become a conductor. Were you always a violinist? If you’re like me, or most people I know, we all had to work day jobs before our big break & we won our 1st full time orch. position. If we once worked as waiters, does that mean we can never do anything else?

        Open your mind a bit, please. Yes, there are orch players who are bad conductors & have no right to be telling players what to do. But there a few really good ones, like Roberto, who are such strong leaders & inspiring musicians that assuming the role of conductor is logical and well-deserved.

        • Alvarito says:

          You are saying one thing and then the opposite: he was a great orchestra musician and leader, and without any training or studies he was ready for a conducting career. On the other hand, what you do before you conduct does not matter.

          By the way, every time I read a comment that starts with “don’t be ignorant”, an insult or slander, I know it is written by a fellow spaniard.

      • Anon says:

        FrauGeigerin, in that case you must have played under at least 100 incompetent conductors, many of them with tremendous media push, and a few of them in the highest positions.
        Your eyes should be wide open to the fact that most conductors are terrible.
        Most conductors, even ones of international stature, are completely unqualified to be where they are.

      • J says:

        Totally true what you say here, being a concertmaster doesn’t make you a conductor, but Roberto actually went beyond just sitting in the front desk and prepared as well to be a a very good one. In my humble opinion, no one knows better what an orchestra needs in order to work well than the one who was inside it, he knows that and his gesture reflects it, very clear with the intentions.

        Unfortunately, I can’t talk from a professional orchestra perspective about his work because I know him from the youth orchestra in Colombia, which has been like his laboratory since the beginning, there, he’s totally free to work as he wants and try whatever idea is in his head, and the results have always been beyond belief. I know now in my freelance experience that professional orchestras are tricky to work with as people get sooo burnt out, but if something, Roberto has the skill to take out the very best of every person he works with, proof of it is the Musikkollegium, if anybody has the chance, go and listen and make an informed opinion.

  • J. Bond says:

    Well, that’s fantastic for him.
    Back in the day he was one of the „stick to the famous and glamorous“ soloists and conductors. I guess he’s still like this.
    Funny somehow, as there are no conductors who learned the job from small to big like in opera and concerts and then get offered a position. I guess agencies are involved as always in these matters.

  • Steve says:

    I’m not sure why so many people here are sceptical about orchestral musicians becoming conductors. After all, they have more experience than most of how not to do it.