Concertgebouw faces seven lean years

The combative Dutch commentator Peter van der Lint has taken issue with the orchestra’s incompetence at attracting a new chief conductor, pointing out that it seems likely to go at least seven years without a chief in the podium.

He suggests, as I have done, that it may be time for the title to be abolished: Perhaps it is time to throw the very expensive institute of the chief conductor overboard.

Read here.

 

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  • Again, it’s about the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, not the Concertgebouw. These two have nothing to do with each other except for using the same building. How hard can it be to finally get it right?

    • Nobody cares about the building except when the CONCERTGEBOUW Orchestra is playing in there. For decades, they were simply known as the Concertgebouw – without the “Royal” and rest of the filigree.

      • Dear Guerrero,

        I’m sorry but that’s incorrect again. The orchestra has always been known as the (Royal) Concertgebouw Orchestra, the building as the Concertgebouw. The building was opened 11 April 1888, the orchestra started 3 November 1888. The building and the orchestra never shared their management, nor their offices.
        The current CEO of the building is Simon Reinink. David Bazen is CEO ad interim of the orchestra. The staff of the orchestra has its office at the RCO House at the Gabriel Metsusstraat in Amsterdam. The staff of the Concertgebouw had its offices at Concertgebouw plein no. 10
        The judgement about the quality of the orchestra and about the quality of the programming of the hall is to everyone’s own judgement.

    • As history shows, the best way is to appoint a leader who will overthrow leadership once and for all, and who makes sure nobody ever aspires to that position again .

        • Well, look at the French revolution, which liberated the population from feudal suppression, and had freedom imposed upon it with the caveat that who did not enjoy the new fraternity, got beheaded. Or the Russian revolution which brought freedom and equality to the masses, which…. Or the Chinese revolution where freedom was finally established and protected from…. or the American revolution which brought freedom for all, except the slaves. Or… or…. etc.

    • We know of the Viennese VPO anecdote: players entering the building for the rehearsel; one asks another: what are we gonna do? and the other player answers: I don’t know what HE is gonna do but WE do Brahms two.

  • What about Nikolaj Znaider? Wonderful violinist, inspiring (intense yet relaxed) conductor, and musician who can relate to fellow musicians. Sense of humor as well (unusual). Orchestras should snap him up before he is booked for the next 10 years.

    • Is this his manager or agent writing? Seriously–based on one concert I heard, he should stick to playing violin. At least he’s competent at that (even if not close to one of my favorites).

    • He has an excellent reputation as violonist he played once with the RCO as director. I remember his concert at the Duomo with La Scala and Chailly as violinist. He ‘s less famous as conductor he started to work with the Lyon orchestra a very good choice. Later maybe for the RCO…

  • I don’t agree. The problem of the RCO is not so much about the “expensive institute of the chief conductur”. Rather it’s about the one-sided focus of the orchestra and its board on the big names, who were already taken by other orchestras when Gatti was fired, combined with the lack of willingness to take a risk with a young and promising conductor. There are so many young and talented conductors out there, why wait for a small group that is already taken? Take a look, for example, at the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra where they successfully named Yannick Nézet-Séguin their chief back in 2008 when he wasn’t the worldfamous conductor he is today. The same goes for Lahav Shani. In my opinion, they should rather be looking for new instead of waiting for old talent. Remember, even Haitink was very young when he started in Amsterdam…

    • Haitink was indeed very young when he started in Amsterdam, but for two years he was joint chief conductor of the Concertgebouw Orchestra alongside Eugen Jochum, who was 26 years his senior, before assuming the sole chief conductor role.

      I would argue that, under the current circumstances, this joint chief conductor model – which worked out brilliantly for both Haitink and the RCO – deserves serious consideration.

      • I agree! Perhaps Ivan Fischer could play an important role here as senior. I was very impressed by his masterclasses with the RCO.

    • That’s all very true, but then one would need a management with competence and vision and especially, musical insight.

  • Concerning the RCO and the next years I realy hope that Chailly will make some concerts as guest conductor. He came back in the concert hall with la Scala few years ago. But he don t like very much to be in that role. Even if made few expetions with the BPO and the Wiener.

  • Peter van der Lint makes an excellent point about sound monitoring (“Klankbewaking”) and the importance of having a chief conductor to guard the unique (and IMO incomparable) RCO sound while adding his/her own nuances.

    To me part of the secret to their wonderful sound is how they always blend so perfectly – which is no surprise given how much they are keen to approach the music like chamber musicians. Unfortunately, if my (limited) experience with the RCO live is any indication, they were already losing some of that perfect blend during the Gatti years.

    I was at the 2017 Lucerne Summer Festival for an RCO concert with Gatti – Mahler’s 4th preceded by Haydn’s 82nd. I had high hopes for the Mahler as I had known and enjoyed Gatti’s recording of the symphony with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the lovely Ruth Ziesak. In the event, however, I was sorely disappointed. The RCO strings were still ravishing, I should note, and the woodwinds full of character, but the horns – those all-important Mahler horns – were a disaster, with flubbed notes after flubbed notes and an utter failure to blend. Before this event I had heard the RCO live several times, at the Carnegie Hall under Chailly and at the Concertgebouw under various guest conductors, so I was quite unprepared for what I heard in Lucerne (and I know it’s not the KKL’s acoustics’ fault…)

    • Horns are always prone to flubs which is aggravated by too much beer drinking and distorted embouchure due to too much kissing. And the blending sound of the RCO is the result of playing and rehearsing in the Concertgebouw Hall which blends the sounds so beautifully, it gets into the playing itself. Also it covers-up small flips of intonation, which can suddenly reveal themselves when playing in another hall.

  • I fell for the clickbait, so now I have to react. The original Dutch article is not half as critical as is suggested here. It doesn’t talk about incompetence and the seven years are counted from 2017. And if you take into account that top conductors usually plan 3 years into the future, it is not that surprising that it might take until 2024. The known big names are not available right now, so they want to see some conductors that the orchestra is less familiar with. Which is something that they can’t start right now, because of the pandemic. It’s all not that surprising if you think about it. But yeah, that’s why I usually don’t visit this site.

  • Any orchestra of the caliber of the ROYAL Concertgebouw isn’t going to fall apart because they haven’t appointed a Music Director. They’ll make perfectly wonderful concerts with guest conductors who care about the programs they’ve chosen. Some will be better than others, as is always the case. They’ll be fine. While I’m equally saddened to see Gatti go, let’s stop bashing them.

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