Exclusive: Concertgebouw to announce chief conductor

Exclusive: Concertgebouw to announce chief conductor


norman lebrecht

May 25, 2022

Amsterdam’s premier orchestra is about to announce progress in its four-year search for a figurehead, a vacancy that has yawned since it fired Daniele Gatti in August 2018.

Today, the C’bouw tells us:

It is with great pleasure that we invite you to a press conference at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam on Friday, 10 June at 10.30 a.m., when we will be announcing to the national and international press excellent news about the search for our next chief conductor.

Musicians tell us that a deal has been struck with the young Finn Klaus Makela, 26, to take over as chief conductor.

But only from 2027, when he winds up contracts with Oslo and Paris.

That’s an awful long time to go headless.


  • pierre says:

    But it’s a great catch, and it even gives 5 years time for Makela to ‘grow up’, gain even more experience and prestige, since his detractors seem to only think of his age.

    • Manu says:

      His detractors??? There has not been another conductor who has gained such unanimous appraisal in the last 20 years. Still not enough for the groupies?

      • Andrew Powell says:

        Not being a groupie I for one am at a loss to grasp why it takes one of the world’s finest orchestras four years to find a 26-year-old who can’t start for another five years.

        • chet says:

          It’s commodities speculation, like investing in precious metals futures.

          So, has Amsterdam invested in gold, or in tulips?

          • Andrew Powell says:

            You may be right! It seems the wrong people are running things.

          • Bulgakov says:

            At the KCO it’s the players who choose the chief conductor, not the management. The management’s job is to secure the choice of the players. And it appears they delivered.

          • Cloggie says:

            there was a time when tulip bulbs were worth more than gold.

        • PGBvD says:

          there circulated other names in 2019 but then Covid came along and everything was postponed. Remember, the players choose the new conductor, not the board.

        • PG Vienna says:

          Haitink slammed the door in 1988, Chailly in 2004, Jansons left more gentry in 2015 but he prefers Munich, Gatti fired for a fanciful reason in 2018…..nobody wants to work with them….

    • aleph says:

      5 years time for Makela to sow all his wild oats in Paris, because if he so much as smiles at a player in Amsterdam, he’s going to be Gatticized in 5 seconds.

  • Tamino says:

    For a really great symphony orchestra, being without a chief conductor can be an opportunity too. As Vienna Phil shows, it can mean that individual players and sections and their leaders feel a bigger responsibility by themselves for the result. With such responsibility comes possibility, and a greater sense of meaning of one’s own creative work.

    • Concertgebouw79 says:

      This time it’s looks serious for the RCO next musical director. But 5 years it’s a long time before to have it.I wonder if Makela will participate to the auditions of the next members especilly the chiefs of instruments and in the way to hire musicians. I have to say that as a fan of the orchestra it was not my first choice; it was Chung who’s doing his two weeks every year with the RCO. But maybe he was not enough young. I wonder also if Makela will take another responsability maybe in opera after 2027 in parallel. Because it seems that it will be over in Oslo and Paris. And it seems that the RCO was the priority in his wishes.

    • PG Vienna says:

      The Vienna Philharmonic has a conductor …..in the Opera House.

  • Rob says:

    Oh dear. What a big mistake.

    • Bulgakov says:

      Please explain why.

      • IP says:

        Listeners to Hurwitz do not need reasons or explanations. Or they just say he is a string player. Or a micromanager. Any nonsense will do.

    • Alan says:

      Quick. Contact them and tell them you know better.

    • Concertgebouw79 says:

      From the start it was clear that there was a very good contact between Makela and the RCO. The fact that he was called at the last moment to do the christmas afternnon concert in 2000 was a sign that he was in good position.Because may times the RCO don’t hire a conductor after a first test if it was not OK.

      • Allegri says:

        If someone already conducts the Concertgebouworkest at age 4 then he just has to be the right man now to assume music directorship.

  • Finnegan says:

    So they want someone who dresses like Giulini.

    • Concertgebouw79 says:

      For a conductor having the talent of Giulini is a very good start

    • john Kelly says:

      If only there was someone who conducted like Giulini………….

      • music lover says:

        Don´t need him twice…And his Beethoven and Mozart,Brahms et al.,especially during his later years ,were rather soporific….His Bruckner was fantastic…Time moves on,music moves on.I´ve experienced it,i have played it(played twice under him)….I don´t dwell much on the past.Much of what happens today,is so much more exciting…Stylistically,i can´t listen to the heavy,ponderous,boring Viennese classics of the 60s,70s,and 80s any more…and there are alwyays no works to explore…And,yes,i am no spring chicken.I am approaching retirement.

  • Third Fiddle says:

    What’s wrong with going headless? In the age of cancel culture that could save a lot of money and pretty soon even opera could be cancelled…

  • chet says:

    A lot can happen in 5 years, for better or for worse.

    Smells of desperation on the part of the Concertgebouw.

    • Bulgakov says:

      No desperation in the slightest. It’s who the players overwhelmingly voted for, from a shortlist that also contained some pretty big names who would have been free much earlier than KM.

  • MacroV says:

    They’ll wait five years? They could have another music director in the interim. Or maybe do a CSO/Haitink; a grand old man who is too old/uninterested to have an open-ended music director gig.

    Note that Haitink was about 30 when he became their MD and Chailly about 35. So they have a history with young MDs.

    • chet says:

      Haitink has publicly said in interviews that his days at Chicago were his happiest days as a conductor, because he was free of the divisive politics of the Concertgebouw, of the administrative headaches of being a music director, to just concentrate on playing music he wants to play with a high quality orchestra who likes him and whom he also likes.

  • Lothario says:

    This is what I was afraid of. Chicago had already very slimmed chances of securing Maestro Makela’s services, and they were slow to act.

    With the wisdom of hindsight, Makela’s recent trip to Chicago likely sealed this deal. When the young Finn superstar conducted the tainted (by Muti) and torn CSO, the RCO must have sounded like the Everest of symphony orchestras by comparison.

    It will be very difficult for Chicago going forward.

    Nice job RCO.

    And … nice job Alexander :-((

    • MacroV says:

      Nonsense. The CSO wouldn’t hire Makela now – maybe in 10 to 20 years. Their history suggests they’ll want another grand old man.

  • Axl says:

    If that’s true, I’m more than very proud to my fellow-Finn who is also same age as I am. He would be a great choice for Concertgebouw!
    But… My favorite to their new chief is still Andris Nelsons

  • Amos says:

    The notion that the RCO would hire a chief conductor requiring “more seasoning” is both a statement about how far that once premier musical organization has fallen as well as the current dearth of first-rate conductors. It is not that many years ago when the BPO, VPO and the CO were discussed as equals with qualities that made each unique. Since the mid-50’s they have gone from van Beinum & Szell as co-directors, to Haitink, then Chailly/Jansons/Gatti and now the hope that a 26 year old will mature into a worthy successor and that the orchestra can thrive in the interim. I hope it works out but based on my sampling of KM’s concerts I doubt it.

  • music lover says:

    All those armchair conductors dwelling on some old school maestri long gone….Like football fans dreaming of Sir Alf Ramsey…..Live now! Don´t repeat the past….Just an advice from a 43 years orchestra veteran in his 60s.

  • J says:

    What’s this old fashioned obsession with a principal chief conductor? As a musician myself this is nowadays more a con than a pro. No one conductor can do all the repertoire in a convincing way (whoever says the opposite is definitely not impartial). The best model would have 2 or even 3 great conductors sharing the workload of the season. Imagine for instance an orchestra would have someone that does Classic/early romantic really well, then another “expert” For the romantics and ultra romantics and another great conductor for 20th century. This is a very rough example but if one is open enough one can see the sea of opportunities here:

    1. Both the conductors AND orch musicians need to be on their top games because if the conductor wamt to be invited for further seasons the conductor needs to be at the top game (music and stance/behavior); the musicians also need to be on their top game if they want the conductor to keep coming for more.

    2. It forces an orchestra to be extra flexible and not just have “one style” (or two) of interpretation – locked to the chief conductor – for several pieces during a 5 year period
    Now the subscribers will an orchestra with 3 different sound profiles and setups.

    3. Now there will be more chances that all the concerts will be at a really top level in terms of interpretation and performance.

    4. There is no post honeymoon period where the orch and conductor get tired and fed up with each other with happens every single time. (Also who says otherwise is not really being honest with oneself – and this is usually more known and noticed internally amoung the musicians and conductors than felt by the audience).

    5. Finally there is much more variety in programing, much more conductor rotation and opportunity to discover the benefits (and maybe also problems) of this system. Totally worth it to try in my opinion.

    Anyone is welcome to politely add positives and negatives to this.
    Just food for thoughts.

    • music lover says:

      100%agreed…….Having grown up in Philly in the 60s and 70s….Of course the orchestra sounded great in some rep….but overall,it was a one size fits all approach under Ormandy(although his repertoire was catholic,including even much more than his vast discography,much contemporary fare,even Henze,Penderecki,and Roberto Gerhardt).Only very rarely a guest conductor would bring his own ideas of sound,balance ,and style.

      • Amos says:

        Having grown up in Philly the problem with the PO in the 60’s and 70’s was that the orchestra was far better than their MD. Ormandy satisfied the Main Line old guards “tastes” to keep his position for far longer than it benefited the musicians. Say what you will about RM it is undeniable that his tenure revitalized a great orchestra and he might have stayed had they decided to move on from the Academy of Music sooner.

    • Colin R. Wrubleski says:

      J (if i may address you by your given moniker): as a [alas, currently unemployed— too complicated and too personal to explain here] violist who has worked in a variety of semi-professional and full-time professional orchestras, i can see that your idea makes a great of sense from a player’s perspective; yes, conductors and players almost invariably do eventually tire of each other, and no, no one conductor seemingly can do all parts of the repertoire equally well. Whether administrators would feel similarly about your ideas is another matter, however.
      Further, it seems that most first-tier and second-tier (perhaps even lower) orchestras get plenty of experience switching back-and-forth between maestros; music director, music director emeritus, principal guest conductor, assistant conductor, resident conductor, etc. In fact, it could be argued that the current era of the “jet-setting” maestro, not spending too much of a season in their ostensible home town, is responsible for the fact major orchestras world-wide sound more or less the same. Is that a good or bad thing? Very difficult to say….
      Speaking specifically about “young pup” Makela, IF influential critic David Hurwitz (yes, he is definitely opinionated, but also certainly his opinions stem from an informed and scholarly background, despite the breezy informality of his video reviews) is correct about the wretchedness of Makela’s recent Sibelius / Oslo Phil cycle, young Klaus’s appointment to the RCO music directorship is far too premature. I personally have no way to judge; the CD and CD player have gone the “way of the dodo bird” here in Thailand where i reside…

      • music lover says:

        Hurwitz is an absolute joke…The cycle is great…It offers a lot of fascinating insights,for those who really listen and know the scores.Hurwitz is one of those goners who have stopped listening to performers born after 1950 long time ago.A pompous gasbag.Just BTW,i don´t need a reviewer to build my judgements.I can read a score,have perfect pitch,am a professional musician for 5 decades now,and know the music….And i don´t have to like everything about a performance.There are many approaches within the frame of the score,and each performance is but a glimpse of the moment it´s been done.

  • LR says:

    Mäkelä is the real thing. His age means nothing after 10 minutes. Congratulations to Concertgebouw for recognizing this. They have made a real coup even if they have to wait. He doesn’t need any «maturing» time. Every single player that plays under him loves him. No exceptions. I’ve never experienced anything like it.
    Greetings from a player in one of his orchestras now that is having the best time of our lives:-)