Where does the NY Phil turn next?

Where does the NY Phil turn next?


norman lebrecht

September 17, 2021

The dilemma is more acute than ever – should the orchestra choose a conductor who can improve its playing, or one who will raise its profile?

The last three chiefs – Maazel, Gilbert, Van Zweden – were chosen primarily on musical grounds, albeit from a compromised shortlist. None left any kind of a mark on the public perception.

The need now, after Van Zweden’s withdrawal, is for a banner appointment.

There is pressure to instal a woman or minority music director.

Of the two women at the front of the line, Susanna Mälkki is conducting in January while Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla has yet to meet the orchestra. The younger woman is, for all sorts of reasons, the more promising candidate. Both have worked closely with NY Phil prez Deborah Borda at her previous post with the LA Phil and both are attentive to her guidance.

The leading minority contender is Gustavo Dudamel, Borda’s protégé in LA. Now in his forties, Dudamel has shifted focus to Europe, living in Barcelona and becoming music director of the Opéra de Paris. Whether he wants another US orchestra after the LA Phil is debatable.

These three are the obvious names in the frame, but Borda would not be doing her job if she did not reach out for the best talent.

Expect calls to Riccardo Chailly at La Scala, Fabio Luisi in Dallas, Gianandrea Noseda in DC, E-P Salonen in San Fran and, whisper it not, Kirill Petrenko in Berlin, who would be an absolute sensation.

Just watch this space.




  • Jmb says:

    Dudamel is new MD at Opera de Paris, not Orchestre de Paris

  • Henry williams says:

    Bernstein was the most suitable. How can they find
    A replacement.

  • John Kelly says:

    It will be Dudamel. NY is closer to Paris than LA. Right guy for the job/city etc. I just wish he was a more interesting conductor. Still, more interesting than Jaap or Gilbert. To say that Maazel had no/little impact is harsh. True the repertoire was conservative, but the orchestra rose to previously unheard of standards of playing and, as was always the case with Maazel, some performances were superb and some were perfunctory or eccentric.

    • Ernest says:

      She would look ridiculous appointing Dudamel.

    • Brian says:

      Good point: I could see Dudamel wanting to close that transatlantic commute somewhat.

      I also wonder if the Phil would look to a native New Yorker. James Gaffigan (Staten Island) has led some interesting programs with the orchestra in the past, though he hasn’t yet landed a really big post. Karina Canellakis (Upper West Side) would be another interesting dark-horse candidate but I don’t believe she’s led the Phil yet. Both are in their early 40s – seasoned but still youthful.

    • James says:

      Gilbert is a fantastic conductor and an excellent programmer. He wasn’t given long enough to have a very deep impact, but he did nevertheless seem to change the culture of the NY Phil so that it became a much more adventurous and, yes, exciting orchestra.

      • really? says:

        Didn’t he have a full decade to lead the NY Phil? I feel like ten years is more than enough time to make a significant impact in any MD position. He had interesting programming, but he was definitely weaker in the standard repertoire pre-1915 or so.

      • Monsoon says:

        Gilbert really is a brilliant programmer and really pushed the orchestra to do a whole lot more than play the standard repertoire in a concert featuring an overture, concerto, and symphony. But his work never quite seemed to generate the buzz it deserved. In recent years, it certainly feels like the NYP has been operating in the shadow of the Met and Carnegie Hall.

      • James Weiss says:

        Alan Gilbert couldn’t have been duller if he tried. Most boring, uninteresting conductor I’ve ever seen.

      • MWnyc says:

        I absolutely agree with you about Gilbert.

        Remember, as he was leaving (or just after he left), he admitted in an interview that he was basically leaving in frustration because the Board would not let him do the newer, more exciting stuff he wanted to do (despite the fact that the new stuff he did, at least in the main hall, was pretty successful).

        I have to say I’ve been happily surprised by the quantity and quality (and positive reception!) of much of the new music the Phil has done during Jaap’s term. (It’s possible that Gilbert deserves credit for giving some of the commissions; that part of the timing I’m not sure about.)

        The two pieces by Bang on a Can composers, David Lang’s Prisoner of the State and (especially) Julia Wolfe’s Fire in My Mouth, were big successes. (Fire in My Mouth marked the first time, at the Phil or the Met, that I’ve ever encountered an end-of-concert round of applause when I saw no one sneaking up the aisle early to beat the crowd out the door. Everyone stayed to cheer.)

    • anon. says:

      Dudamel would need to make perhaps 2 Paris-LA round trips in the current season. Nowhere enough to justify a move from LA Phil to an orchestra that I would put behind Minnesota, Pittsburgh, and Dallas.

    • MWnyc says:

      I’m not at all sure Dudamel would want the New York job. He seems to be a very good fit for Los Angeles, he’s very committed to Youth Orchestra Los Angeles and his other education programs, and, by now, I don’t know that the NY Phil would be a step up from the LA Phil; it would be a lateral move. And LA can probably pay more.

  • Ernest says:

    Borda won’t appoint a woman. This is the last big decision for her, and she will want to define her legacy more broadly than girl girl girl. She has, besides, already done plenty to advance women.

  • AngloGerman says:

    Luisi is the best of that list musically and with interesting repertoire specialisms.

    • mary says:

      The Philharmonic will pass on Luisi the same reason the Met passed on Luisi. Not glamorous enough.

      • Tamino says:

        Not as glamorous as Gilbert and van Zweden? LOL.
        The Met cabale had other reasons? Because Luisi is a fantastic opera conductor. Would have been certainly a better choice for the Met in all the repertoire I can think of, than their current choice.
        Not all qualities of a great opera conductor transpire to the concert stage though. Also true.
        It all comes down who is a favorite pet of the plutocratic board patrons though in America.

  • Jack says:

    There will be enormous pressure in woke New York to pick a woman or a racial minority.

    I think JoAnn Falletta has as good a chance as anyone.

    • drummerman says:

      No chance at all.

      • Roberto says:

        Why not?

        I just know her from recordings that I occasionally listen on the radio. They are always impressive. Highly musical. One of the most interesting musicians out there.

    • Maestra says:

      Yes we need a woman music director for NY Phil. A woman like Vanessa Benelli Mosell will make a great music director for NYP

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Woke but definitely not a-wake!!

    • MWnyc says:

      Yes, but there are now some quite worthy female and minority candidates.

      I think Simone Young would have been a possibility if she hadn’t just taken the job at her hometown orchestra.

      I’d definitely like to see Mirga (if she wants a US job while her children are young) and Karina as candidates, and I hope they guest-conduct soon.

  • Gustavo says:


  • drummerman says:

    Have Chailly or Noseda conducted the Philharmonic in recent years?

  • justin says:

    1) Mirga quit Birmingham to spend more time with her family on the Continent, New York, nay the US, have nothing to offer her to make her commute there, least of all flying in the age of Covid!

    Women of her generation are ones like the tennis and gymnastic stars, they take their personal mental health very seriously, they don’t take bullshit in order to advance their careers.

    2) NY has nothing to offer Dudamel. Not A Thing.

    Plus, several companies are building supersonic air travel again, so a blink of an eye between LA and Paris.

    Plus, for Borda, she already made history by hiring Dudamel, she needs to make history my hiring a woman.

    3) My money is on Malkki. She has done headlining stuff at the Met, and NY knows her well, the NY critics already adore her.

    • Monsoon says:

      Supersonic flight is not allowed over land because of the sonic boom (one of the reasons the Concord was a financial flop was because its routes were limited to flying over water).

      But I’m not sure how much the flying time really matters — it’s not like they’re flying back and forth between Europe and the U.S. every week. I imagine their concert schedule is carefully planned to minimize the number of transatlantic flights.

    • john Kelly says:

      You might have a bit of a wait for that supersonic air travel……….

    • MWnyc says:

      But do the musicians like Mälkki? Always a serious question with that lot.

      • Tamino says:

        Well, if the musicians like a conductor is a secondary question. They must respect him/her professionally first of all.
        Orchestra musicians are opinionated as anyone else. But except for a handful of ensembles in the world, they do not have the decisive say over who becomes their new boss.

    • MWnyc says:

      Oh, and just to be clear, NY has nothing to offer Dudamel that he doesn’t already have in LA, where he’s a very good fit.

    • Brian says:

      I think you’re on to something with Malkki. If they pick an old white guy this time, it will cement the Phil’s lingering reputation as stodgy and out of touch with regular New Yorkers. I can’t see Borda wanting that to be part of her legacy.

  • Tom Phillips says:

    Of those listed above, Petrenko would clearly be the best by far. But unlikely to want it or to live anywhere in the U.S. right now (which makes perfect sense to any rational person rightly horrified by our society and “culture”).

    • James Weiss says:

      I’d prefer Vasily to Kirill.

    • AstoriaEd says:

      To be fair, NYC isn’t anything like middle America or any other American city for that matter.

      • Jim C. says:

        It’s not much different than L.A. now. Same stores, same environment, same accents even. NYC’s been very California-ized the last 20 years.

        I live in NY but am from L.A.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Yes, I have to agree with you – albeit very sadly – about this. Self-loathing and cultural effacement are the new world order in the USA.

      When I think of the glorious legacy of film and film musicals – and film comedy – I just want to weep. But at least I have these in my library to remind me of what the USA once was. I love watching funny films made when the USA still had a sense of humour.

    • Orin says:

      Thank goodness for this comment. Why did we never see Petrenko as a guest conductor? Musicians asked for him!

    • HugoPreuss says:

      Why on earth would anyone who conducts the Berliner Philharmoniker switch to the New York Philharmonic??

  • Pleaseresig says:

    With all the money the musicians let slip away without the slightest push back, management can likely afford anyone they want now.

    Unless of course after a few years of paying like a lower tier orchestra they start losing everyone and someone like Dudamel is no longer interested.

  • Dan says:

    Haha Petrenko? Are you joking?
    The problem is that most good conductors (Rattle, YNS, etc) will not touch that orchestra with a ten-foot pole. You can forget Chailly, Luisi, etc…

  • Trudy says:

    No no no….come on! We need to stop pulling from overseas, people. American Conductors need to be supported in their own country!

  • NPhil Insider says:

    The updated shortlist is (in alphabetical order):
    -Riccardo Chailly
    -Valery Gergiev
    -Andris Nelsons
    -Kirill Petrenko
    -Christian Thielemann

  • Anon says:

    The NYP should appoint Roderick Cox. He’s qualified and charismatic.

  • Monsoon says:

    Deborah Borda is perhaps the shrewdest arts administrator in the U.S. I wouldn’t be surprised if she picks someone a bit less outside of the box than people expect because she wants someone who is guaranteed to help sell tickets and raise funds.

    What folks don’t quite remember about Dudamel was at the time of his appointment, he already had a an extremely strong brand name and his recordings were flying off the shelf. The appointment really wasn’t that daring.

    And I highly doubt it’s going to be anyone over 55. Orchestras like stability and want the option of having a music director who could serve a decade or two. Chailly will be 71 in 2024, Luisi 65, Noseda 60, Salonen 66. I doubt she’ll pick anyone who isn’t certain to be around for at least 8 seasons.

    On paper, Dudamel seems to check the most boxes. I imagine that Vladimir Jurowski is being considered.

  • V. Lind says:

    This is the sort of discussion I joined Slipped Disc to read. An interesting question, with your readers weighing in with what seem like informed opinions. We could do with a bit more of this and less of the misleading headlines and fashion notes, though I appreciate the need for a little levity.

    • V. Lind says:

      I posted the above comment on Friday evening — before Sue Sonata Form had weighed in with her irreleventia and spite. I was enjoying the spirited discussion on the various pros and cons of potential appointees and related considerations. Hats off to (most of) the contributors.

  • Von Carry-on says:

    No top tier conductor will consider the NYPO gig until the renovated Geffen Hall has been proven worthy. Only someone who is desperate would take it sooner.

  • AstoriaEd says:

    Phillipe Jordan or Kirill Petrenko would be fantastic.

  • MacroV says:

    Malkki would seem to be a great choice. She’s experienced, and still high on the hipness scale, which the Philharmonic desperately needs.

    I still regret Alan Gilbert leaving. Maybe not the best interpreter of standard rep – wait until he’s in his 70s – but I don’t think the Philharmonic has ever had a better leader in terms of making the orchestra relevant.

  • Sam Kane says:

    It’s pretty common knowledge among players that the orchestra love Bychkov and many wanted him to get the gig the last time around. They lobbied last time too, for Chailly, but Bychkov has a real following among the musicians.

  • J Barcelo says:

    Leonard Slatkin.

  • KuanJu Lin says:

    Kirill Petrenko is the least possible candidate.
    I would suggest that NYPO maybe trying out Paavo Jarvi.

  • Don says:

    Marin Alsop at Baltimore?

  • CRWang says:

    The Dude to NYP is the same as Zubin to NYP. Another a young shallow flashy conductor coming to trash an orchestra and overstaying his welcome.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    The Dude. If you please.

  • Patrick Gillot says:

    They have been trying hard for years but the fact that they behaved badly with many conductors is limiting their options grandly. They are a second rated orchestra with a lot of problems so I don’t see why the Chailly , Petrenko or even Dudanel would be interested. So yes they will go for a woman or ” minority” second rate conductors to make the buzz.

  • Rupert says:

    I like some of the suggestions above. Malkki seems like a real contender but I guess Chailly would be my first choice. Dudamel might be great for ticket sales?

    I know I’m a stick in the mud but I’m not a fan of a conductor being music director at two orchestras and maybe an opera as well but I guess it is the norm.

  • Nijinsky says:

    “or one who will raise its profile?”
    That’s the whole problem: another orchestra that’s not about music?

  • John R says:

    Mo. LUISI is much understated as a masterful orchestral leader. His work at the MET showed sweeping musical line and yet great precision in ensemble. The brass, in particular, (Eg: Siegfried’s Funeral, Götterdämmerung) are monolithic, rising from the surroundings, in majestic, perfect blend and beauty. Strings elsewhere, likewise. His personality is serious, yet affable. The strongest contender for Music Director at the MET, after Nezet-Seguin.
    It would be thrilling to have him regularly leading such a major ensemble in NYC.

  • LStokowski says:

    Doesn’t matter to me a bit. They can hire Mickey Mouse for all I care. NY Phil is zzzzzzz.

  • Frank Flambeau says:

    It is the Dude’s if he wants it but I doubt he does. NYC is not ready for a female yet so I think that means Rattle. Big name and great for public relations and will help with sales in Europe. The most liberal of the cities looking for a new head and also the one with the most Scandinavians is the Twin Cities. Malkki goes there and sells tons of records. Chicago, probably America’s best orchestra, gets Gergiev. That means the very deserving Honeck is left waiting for Cleveland or perhaps San Francisco.

  • Love Mälkki and if she is appointed I will be overjoyed. She has one foot in the past and one to the future—perfect for that orchestra, I feel.

  • Tamino says:

    Too much focus on the marketabilty and appeal of a conductor. Too little knowledge and focus on their competences in music and orchestra development.

    Our Zeitgeist kills the conductor – as a profession – and creates a zombie shell of a narcissistic crowd pleaser.

    What NY Phil needs is first of all:
    Finding to understand what they want to be. Then find professional partners to get there.
    None shall take a backseat in the bus. All shall walk the walk.

  • Derek H says:

    Doubt NYP will go for Luisi, or that Chailly will go for NYP.
    Age may be a factor as well for them and so Bychkov and Rattle are unlikely.

    Malkki or Honeck are possible, but the question I ask is –
    “Are there any U.S. conductors that could or should be considered? ”

    Another option is to find a younger, rising genius!

  • johnny white says:

    Replace Deb Borda!

  • Me Again says:

    Isn’t it time to hire a underrepresented minority? Christian American conductors are terribly underrepresented. Can you imagine the uproar?

  • Tony says:

    I wouldn’t rule out Pappano despite the LSO appointment

  • Jim C. says:

    Isn’t Dudamel still contracted in L.A. for another five years?