Breaking: Dark days for music directors as Concertgebouw names ‘creative partner’

Breaking: Dark days for music directors as Concertgebouw names ‘creative partner’


norman lebrecht

May 10, 2021

The Concertgebouw orchestra of Amsterdam, which has been running headless since it fired its last music director, has just put out a schedule for its coming season.

The most striking event is the appointment of Pierre Audi as ‘creative partner’.

The official blurb is bland enough: The Concertgebouworkest is entering into a three-year partnership with the visionary director Pierre Audi…. As its creative partner, Mr Audi will be working with the Concertgebouworkest this season on a mise-en-espace for a newly commissioned work by Tan Dun at The Concertgebouw and on a special programme at the Gashouder (Westergas Amsterdam) in collaboration with an unexpected guest artist.

Audi, a former head of Dutch National Opera who’s now running the Aix-en-Provence festival, is a very good ideas man. But his appointment hammers another nail in the coffin of the music director role.

The longer an orchestra goes without a chief conductor the less it finds it needs one. Many orchestras have not seen their MD for a year.

These are the dying days of the music director.

UPDATE: Dresden drops Thielemann. Is no-one safe?



  • Hayne says:

    I pray you’re right:)

    • CSOA Insider says:

      Same here.

      There is something worse than a Music Director though. And that is a fake Music Director not fit for the role, who bites the hand that feeds him and undermine the integrity of the glorious organization he serves. Look no further than Chicago to spot one.

  • Darrell says:

    What is a music director anyway? (being in the 21st century.)

    • The View from America says:

      If someone wants to make the commitment to be a true music director — as in conducting his or her orchestra for 75%+ of the subscription concerts, and also conducting during summer festival weeks, they absolutely deserve the MD position and title. Otherwise, cut the charade and simply bring in a succession of guest conductors. Goodness knows they’re a dime a dozen these days …

    • John Borstlap says:

      He or she carries-out the wishes of the programmer and the financial dept. And his or her musical reasons are entirely subservient to people without such expertise and of his or her agent, who is most of all concerned about his commission percentage of the feed.
      Because it has become a business.

      • John Borstlap says:

        PS Sorry about the typo, my PA came along singing a John Williams theme. It is ‘fees’, of course.

  • John Borstlap says:

    The MD’s role has been eroding for many years. If Mahler would be invited to be MD in Amsterdam today, he could only function under the authority of Audi and an artistic comitee and would be kicked-out much faster than in Vienna.

  • E says:


  • NotToneDeaf says:

    This has been brought on by conductors themselves. The people who measure their career success in terms of how many frequent flyer miles they have. The people who don’t invest in or learn anything about their communities. The people who have no interest in anything besides the repertoire and projects THEY want to do and refuse to be team players with the administrators and the rest of staff. Good riddance.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Not true.

      Almost ALL conductors active today and younger than 65 are good team players because they know they get the best out of the players if they can lure them into quality playing instead of bullying them into the right note. The occasional torture they have to administer is mostly caused by players’ obstruction or hangovers from last night (from both conductor or player). The times that a conductor forces a tuba over its player’s head or strangle the trombonist with his instrument have past a long time ago.

      • NotToneDeaf says:

        John – Where in my comment do you see anything about being abusive to musicians?? I agree that those days are over – primarily because of the musicians’ union and the impossibility of firing a musician for any reason whatsoever. But being abusive to staff members, that’s another story. If you think the Scott Rudin stories are shocking . . . . you should see what goes on in some orchestra offices.

  • Concertgebouw79 says:

    The big event is Chailly who comes back at the Concertgebouw in march 22.

  • Monsoon says:

    This has been going on for decades when there were unexpected gaps between music directors. Back in 1969 when Bernstein left the NYPO and there was no replacement, Szell as named the “music advisor.” And then Boulez was named “musical advisor” of the Cleveland Orchestra when Szell unexpectedly died.

    More recently when Eschenbach left Philadelphia and there was no Music Director replacement in sight, they downgraded to “Chief Conductor” with Dutoit so there would be a figure head.

    There will be another Chief Conductor; this is just an acknowledgment by management that even if a person is appointed tomorrow, they won’t officially start for two or three years.

    • Concertgebouw79 says:

      Norman everytime he writes about the RCO since the moment Mariss left the institution write only negative things about the orchestra. I’am not sure he watch the recent videos on Youtube. It’s a kind of hoby for him. Today the RCO has a musical director it’s Ivan Fischer but it’s not official. And there’are the soloists who are the same since a long time. Nice you write about Szell he was an important friend of the RCO in the 60’s.

  • Chiara says:

    In what way is the Riccardo Muti a “fake music director”? (Assuming Muti is meant from the reference to Chicago). Asking for a friend.,

  • Eduardo says:

    these headlines are always alarmist, negative and distasteful. Can you please raise the level????

  • James Ross says:

    The Music Director role has been eroded from many sides: some conductors and their agents must take a large share of blame for this, as well as managements, in that many such appointments have become nominal, merely enhanced guest conductors where the MD flies in and out, perhaps does not even speak the language of the country, maybe realises a pet project or two, but otherwise does not engage in the day-to-day artistic and leadership direction of the institution. If the MD were a greedy monomanical tyrant in public and/or abuser in private, the institution is doubtless better off without him or her. However, is it not possible to have a conductor who assumes responsible and creative artistic leadership of an institution – resident almost constantly and at every concert, whether or not they are conducting, and with a deep vision of what an institution and its musicians are capable of achieving, both artistically and in a wider cultural and social context?

    A music director should not need a ‘head of artistic planning’ or such person appointed, which is an abrogation of their responsibility. Would not embracing the role wholeheartedly be more fulfilling than just flying everywhere for a few days for another fee? An element of guest conducting certainly is important for conductors, orchestras and audiences to give variety of perspective from which hopefully everyone learns, but it does not replace the role of a committed music director who actually leads up-front in the concert hall and is capable of offering artistic vision at a deep level.

    It may also be better if institutions appointed music directors in a publicly accountable way through competitive open applications and due process, rather than the ‘smoke and mirrors’ system that appears to operate in the UK. Perhaps the latter is also part of the problem?