Are these really the conductors of the year?

Are these really the conductors of the year?


norman lebrecht

October 15, 2020

The Royal Philharmonic Society has unrolled the shortlist for its annual awards.

The three conductors named are:

Dalia Stasevska
Jonathon Heyward
Martyn Brabbins

The first was seen at the BBC Proms, the second is promising and the third led ENO’s brave drive-in Bohème at Alexandra Palace.

But how many votes of RPS members did it take to put them there? And does your heart beat any faster to see them nominated?

Are they really the best batons of 2020?

How about – if it’s UK only –

Mirga (CBSO)

Welber (BBC Phil)

Alpesh Chauhan (Birmingham Opera)?

We got  bigger bang out of all three before Covid descended.


  • NO says:

    More woke nonsense.

  • Darrell says:

    The first two do deserve to be on the list because Stasevska is a woman and Heyward is a person of color. As for Brabbins, I’m afraid he shouldn’t be there as he meets all the requirements that should disqualify him, that is: male, white, western and straight.

    That said, if you really are the best, you don’t need any awards, it’s common sense.

    At this point and to cite an example, in the literary world there are more awards than writers. Let’s hope that classical music does not reach such absurdity.

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    Martyn Brabbins is brilliant. Don’t know and don’t care about the others.

  • Michael Wilkinson says:

    Martyn Brabbins is a conductor of great experience and ability, with a distinguished discography, an eager willingness to tackle the unusual, and a keen proponent of British music, in the Vernon Handley mould. I think he qualifies!

  • Truth says:

    This time there is a token whiteman (M. Brabbins).

  • Tribonian says:

    Martyn Brabbins conducted the ENO Mask of Orpheus at the end of last year. He deserves to be at the top of the list for that accomplishment alone. His conducting, along with the outstanding playing of the orchestra and the great singing, made up for the superficial staging and resulted in one of the most memorable evenings I’ve had at the opera for many years – and my tastes tend not to go beyond 1883.

  • John Daszak says:

    Sadly, I don’t know the other two, but Martyn Brabbins is a fantastic conductor. He has been underrated, possibly because he is an unassuming, modest man with no huge ego! I love working with him and our collaborations have always been of the highest caliber. He would absolutely get my vote and I am happy he is finally getting the recognition he truly deserves.

  • Appleby says:

    What everyone said. Brabbins is a quiet hero and definitely deserves a gong or two.

  • Siegfried says:

    Martyn Brabbins is an outstanding conductor in the concert hall, in the opera house and in recording. You rarely hear anything other than unqualified praise for him. His support and promotion for British music puts him alongside Vernon Handley and Richard Hickox and for that we should be profoundly grateful.

  • IP says:

    Miss Delia should get all three places. First, because she is politically correct and anti-British; second, because she is female; and third, because she cannot conduct, which is wonderfully, wonderfully anti-elitist.

  • A music lover says:

    What a lot of racist and misogynistic comments! I had the pleasure of witnessing Jonathan Heyward conducting LSO a couple of weeks ago and he was mesmerising and the music was outstanding! I am not sure what qualifications you all have that enable you to share such viscous comments! You do not represent most of us!!! Get a life!!!!!

  • Alexy says:

    Never saw Dalia Staveska conducting and was curious about her She starts the concert with two beats saying one! Two! Was she thinking she was conducting sightseeing amateurs ? I’m flabbergasted.

  • Mark says:

    I would like to know how many of you writing racist/misogynistic posts have actually played under these conductors, or indeed, had any first hand experience with how they work? …
    It seems to me like you’re hiding behind anonymity in order to soothe your own damaged egos that have been challenged by someone else’s success.

    It doesn’t make any of you look good, it’s embarrassing.

  • Lancelot Spratt says:

    By way of reference, out of the 527 recordings listed on PrestoCD website, for Karajan, only 14% had awards and of these barely 25% were given Building a Library. Just fancy that. Rattle scored higher.

  • papageno says:

    In comparison, 50 years ago, my nominees of Young Conductors of the Year of 1970 —
    Claudio Abbado
    Zubin Mehta
    Trevor Pinnock

    We have NOBODY today.

  • A music lover says:

    I hope Mr LeBrecht is proud of himself for hosting such an invitation for out and out racists to platform their vicious and outdated racist viewpoints! Shame on you!!!! You are a disgrace and you owe this talented young man Jonathan Heyward a huge apology!! I hope that this gets treated as the racist crime it is!

    • Grow up says:

      Nonsense. And few are all that interested in Jonathan Heyward who, whatever his talents, will have to face whatever the world throws at him whether Mr “LeBrecht” hosts it or not. Grow up.

    • Anthony Sayer says:

      No-one criticises Jonathan Heyward anywhere on this thread.

    • IP says:

      You have done better this time. You have not confused vicious and viscous, and you have not attached the general dismay at Miss Delia to any purported racism (which I don’t notice at all in the comments). Keep up the good work!

  • Normal Lebrecht posed a rhetorical question (provocative to be sure) in response to an announcement of three conductors beginning to make their way in a field hardly anybody really understands, and not for the first time has elicited a flurry of opinions. It does make me curious to see for myself what these aspirants are really like. Politics aside, the answer lies in the way the actual listeners are moved — or not — by the performers they craft with the musicians they are lucky enough to conduct.

    • Michael Wilkinson says:

      Martyn Brabbins at 61 is hardly beginning his career – he has a solid record of achievement over many years.

      • Anthony Sayer says:

        One could argue that he has been grossly overlooked over the years in favour of more, er, fashionable, podium ‘stars’.

  • Bored Muso says:

    All 3 have worked during covid so names up front in selection panel minds….. still a depressing choice when you see the choice in the UK at large….

  • JB says:

    Martyn Brabbins is an excellent conductor, with a wide range on repertoire terms, prepared to take on unfamiliar pieces. He perhaps suffers from this and not becoming a specialist in fewer areas. I have heard some really great performances from him, largely on radio or tv rather than commercial recordings. Far preferable to some of ‘highly elevated’ modern maestros ( whose names I will not mention).

  • Don Faust says:

    The RPS makes a name for itself in passing over some of the great artists of our time in favour of the trendy or the safe – Malcolm Arnold being a notable example in the previous gen; these days figures like Paul Lewis, Mahan Esfahani, Christian Zacharias, Janine Jansen, Trevor Pinnock. One only has to look at their juries, though, to see that it’s just a middle-class love-in nowadays.

  • John says:

    There must be some PC angle. That’s the only way you get nominated for an award nowadays. Talent doesn’t matter anymore. Your chromosomes and pigmentation do.