Breaking: Concertgebouw confirms Finn as new chief

Breaking: Concertgebouw confirms Finn as new chief


norman lebrecht

June 10, 2022

The worst kept secret in classical music was made official a few minutes ago.

The young Finn Klaus Mäkelä will become the orchestra’s ‘artistic partner’ from August this year, working five weeks annually

From August 2027 he will be chief conductor on a five-year contract, working 12 weeks a year.

Mäkelä, 26, does not intend at the moment to leave either of his philharmonic orchestras, in Paris and Oslo.

Asked why he chose the C’bouw when so many others were bidding for his services, he said:

‘I am a very sound oriented conductor and this orchestra has a truly extraordinary sound. One you’ve heard it you cannot leave.’

Mäkelä succeeds Daniele Gatti, who was fired four years ago.

He is the youngest chief conductor of any of the world’s leading orchestras.


  • Max says:

    That ties him to the orchestra for the next ten years, crazy.
    Let’s hope the honeymoon phase is not fading too quickly….

    • Concertgebouw79 says:

      The moment important for him will be when he will particpate with few members of the orchestra to the recruitment of a new instrument leader. in the big houses like the RCO it don’t happen frenquetly.

    • Aleph says:

      I think the NYT put it best in its reporting of his appointment:

      “Mäkelä, who was originally trained as a cellist, has quickly become not necessarily a critical darling, but an institutional one.”

      I do believe a lot of critics and classical music fans are scratching their heads over this one.

      • IP says:

        Only those who got softening of the brains from listening to Dave Hurwitz.

      • anon says:

        Are people really wasting their time reading Joshua Barone? What a terrible blow to Concertgebouworkest and Klaus Mäkelä that a literal nobody won’t give his “critical” approval!

    • Mary says:

      Remember, Boston did steal Andris Nelsons from under the Concertgebouw, so if you found your bride, you got to put a ring on it immediately

  • Concertgebouw79 says:

    He was not my choice it was as I wrote several times Chung but I have to say that I realy like that “this orchestra has a truly extraordinary sound. One you’ve heard it you cannot leave.’ For the public and everybody outside of the orchestra he’s already in fact musical director almost like it was the case with Ivan Fischer during the last three years. It’s tough for Paris and Oslo, I suppose that they will have to find another musical director I don’t imagine him leaving one of this two orchestras. he will leave them both at the same moment.

    • Guus Mostart says:

      Chung? You must be joking!

      • Concertgebouw79 says:

        Not at all. Nothing funny. You must know that Chung is used to play every year with the RCO.

        • alexy says:

          Chung can be amazing, but also terrible if he is not in the right mood. Is lengthy career makes sometimes difficult for him to keep the fire burning

          • Concertgebouw79 says:

            I saw him in concerts many times with the RCO last time in 2020 (for the very easy Mahler 9th) and with an other orchestra. I don’t have this feeling. If he was not a good conductor for this orchestra I don”t think that they would call him every year for 2 weeks of works…. Same thing in Italy where like in France he has the consideration he must have. I will not make the list of the conductors who worked only one week with the RCO they never called a second time. I have seen the archives he started to work for the RCO in 1984. the only thing for me to don’t think about Chung was his age. And it was not enough.

    • PG Vienna says:

      Its good for Paris and Oslo Amsterdam has to wait up to 2027. It sounds like ages !

  • music lover says:

    Bravo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Whtever the armchair conductors in the comments might say…..

    • Robin Smith says:

      Your comments would have more weight if we knew who you are but on the basis of last week’s performance with the Oslo Philharmonic at the Barbican he is first class – wonderful Sibelius in the 2nd half.

      • music lover says:

        Agreed!!!!!I saw the whole cycle in Hamburg,fantastic experience.I am a 43 years orchestra veteran,and i played under him as a substitute player in his debut with the RSO Frankfurt in Shostakovich 7th…Definitely one of the highlights in my musical life.

        • Anson says:

          That’s good to hear because I was NOT impressed with his recent Sibelius cycle recording. I certainly wish him well, though, and hope to be able to see him with the RCO.

  • Luk Vaes says:

    “from August this year, working five weeks annually”
    “From August 27 he will be chief conductor on a five-year contract, working 12 weeks a year.”

    Which is it, 5 or 12 weeks? Or will he be contracted from 2027 until 2032?

  • Alexander Hall says:

    Orchestras should know what they’re doing, but lack of experience is not necessarily a recommendation for any top position. This young man hasn’t shied away from Mahler 9, Bruckner 9, Beethoven 9 and Schubert 9, to take just some of the “nines”. Anyone who heard Rouvali and the Philharmonia turn Mahler 2 into an utterly lifeless and soulless performance earlier in the week will know that nobody just out of short trousers, no matter how gifted, can do justice to the great works in the repertory.

    • Herr Doktor says:

      Makela’s performance of Bruckner 9 on YouTube is functional at best but totally misses the essence of the work, and thus is an unsuccessful performance. But as I said earlier, I don’t know that I’ve ever heard a successful performance of Bruckner 9 by any conductor in his 20s.

    • Bulgakov says:

      Quick – warn the 120 musicians who chose him, before it’s too late!

    • Hugo Preuß says:

      Anyone who is already music director in Paris and Oslo is certainly not a newcomer to the music world. You may disagree with his work, but lack of experience doesn’t work in this case, despite of his age.

  • tet says:

    A double directorship is so passé, today a Triple Crown is a must: Nézet-Séguin, Mäkelä…

    So simple if you only have to show your face 10-12 weeks per orchestra, with 52 weeks in a year, it’s a wonder conductors don”t take on 5 directorships

    There is no branding, no exclusivity, no identity, no special relationship… Didn’t catch so-and-so conducting this-or-that in London? No worries, he’ll show up in Arkansas tomorrow with the identical program.

    I’m guessing Oslo is much more happy to be associated with the Concertgebouw by way of Mäkelä than the Concertgebouw is of Oslo.

    • Emil says:

      I agree in principle, but between a conductor dividing their time between 3-4 orchestras and one with one orchestra and who tours the world three times over with guest gigs, I’m not sure there’s much difference.

    • JB says:

      Next season Mäkelä conducts:

      Oslo Philharmonic (17 concerts)
      Concertgebouw (8)
      Orchestre de Paris (7)
      Cleveland Orchestra (2)
      NY Philharmonic (1)
      Wiener Symphoniker (1)
      Cleveland Orchestra (2)
      Chicago SO (1)
      Berlin Philharmonic (1)
      Gewandhausorchester (1)

      That’s quite impressive and shows that Oslo remains his main job.

      What is the role of a chief conductor nowadays ? Is this the same job as the one Mengelberg held in the past ? I don’t think so.

  • Rob says:

    Awful news. I suspect the musicians won’t suffer for too long before there is an ‘amicable split’.

    Incidentally, best recording of Elgar Introduction & Allegro — Barry Wordsworth/RPO. Check it out, amazing!!!

  • Axl says:

    Big day to Finland and again clear sign that we are made something right in our 50 year conducting school! Congrats to my “age mate” to win that prestigious job!

  • Amos says:

    Perhaps the BPO and VPO should reserve a seat at the table for 2037 when a few flecks of gray will enhance the effect of the suits and glasses to warrant an appointment. At least when the joke about HvK entering a cab and being asked by the driver where to and replying anywhere they want me everywhere, he had actually accomplished something meaningful.

  • M. Kaznowski says:

    A disappointing lack of ambition

  • FrauGeigerin says:

    Three top orchestras hired a child as their new MD.


    • alexy says:

      Maybe they do not see a child in him. Or did 300 professional orchestra musicians (+ staff) see it and hear it wrong according to you?

    • music lover says:

      The lament of the goners….

    • Derek H says:

      I agree that there is no automatic substitute for years of experience.

      That said, there are rare individuals who have a “gift” and the courage to believe in their own ability to work well with others.
      They connect naturally, people respond and the chemistry works.

      Mozart, Mendelssohn, Paganini, etc. were not held back by being young. Argerich, Barenboim, Kissin, etc. all performed and understood their art at a very young age. More experienced musicians could learn from them!

      I am not comparing Makela to these people but he is exceptional, in my view, and I think it unwise to dismiss him on the basis of being “a child”.

      Time will tell but I believe that he will be successful for a very long time.

      P.S. Personally, I love to see musicians with a real passion and enthusiasm deep within them and who COMMUNICATE that with their fellow musicians and the audience. That is a large part of the magic!

    • Federico Bar says:

      With due respect madam: youth is a setback, of course. But can the brains behind THREE TOP orchestras and a dozen near-top ensambles be so mistaken?

  • Harry says:

    At that age you’d have to be a genius to be chief conductor of the KCO. And listening to his recordings, I don’t think he is, it’s okay at times, sometimes not even that. Poor KCO, poor Amsterdam.

  • MacroV says:

    It’s startling to me that the RCO would wait five years to take on a new MD. Also, it’s telling the two very fine orchestras that gave him a huge break not very long ago that he’s already decided to move beyond them, which seems like bad form.

    • Kman says:

      You mean it’s bad form to have a plan for when your contract expires? Seems wise to me, and that goes for both sides.

  • Mary says:

    1) What ever happened to Daniel Harding? He toured the US with the Concertgebouw as a trial run to be music director.

    It seems like just yesterday he was the bright young thing destined for the Concertgebouw, but once you hit 40, another bright young thing in his 20’s comes along, and you’re all by sidelined.

    Perhaps Harding turned the Concertgebouw down.

    But if Harding wanted it and he didn’t get it, it’s his own damn fault. He quit Paris in the middle of his contract, which was bad enough, to not fulfill your artistic and contractual commitments, but he also decided to switch careers to be a commercial pilot.

    No one wants someone who’s going to flake out on them.

    But Harding also facilitated Mäkelä’s rise, opening up the Paris position for his successor who would eventually take the brass ring.

    2) Whatever happened to Ivan Fischer? He was named Honorary Guest Conductor as a prelude to something more.

    How did a 70 something lose out to a 20 something?

    Since when did experience become less valuable than the lack of experience?

    Since when did being a proven quantity become a liability, and being an unproven quantity become an asset?

    Since when did the mere promise of producing something valuable become more valuable than having already produced something valuable?

    I think the classical music industry, and it is an industry, is becoming more like Hollywood. You age out at 35.

  • tet says:

    I can totally see why musicians would be smitten with him, even if critics and audience may not be as equally enthralled.

    You’ll see watching this video of him conducting the Concertgebouw in Dvorak’s 9th (in an empty hall):

    He indulges in the orchestra, supporting each soloist and section, giving them space to produce maximum beautiful phrases, as an indulgent opera conductor would of his cherished divas. But the price he pays is a performance, while sonically ravishing, is slack, that doesn’t have a point of view, aside from sonic beauty for sonic beauty’s sake.

    It’s interesting that this performance is in an empty hall, it is pure intimate experience between orchestra, conductor, and acoustics, without the vibe of an audience to give immediate feedback. It’s a lovefest between orchestra and conductor.

  • Bruno Maricon says:

    I heard it was between him and Minah zikri (pity for them would have been better )

  • Piano Lover says:

    “”working five weeks annually””
    Easy ain’t it??

  • Robert Kenchington says:

    I’m very sorry but – alas – not surprised to see that Decca Classics have failed to acknowledge on Facebook last week’s exciting news that Klaus Mäkelä has been appointed the next Chief Conductor of the Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam. I mean for the the first time in 40 years Decca sign up a new conductor who is clearly the greatest new podium talent in 50 years and then fail to properly support him.
    Greetings and congratulations have poured in all over the world for this brilliant, uber-charismatic young maestro . Social media postings without exception have recognised the exceptional, remarkable talent of this new conductor. His debut Sibelius cycle is among the best ever made. His YouTube videos are fascinating to watch and his concerts – which I can ratify having attended his recent London one with the Oslo Philharmonic – are mesmerising, electrifying, unforgettable experiences that have both excited and inspired audiences the world over. I have seen what I have seen and I have heard what I have heard and predict once again that Klaus Mäkelä will be the greatest conductor of the 21st Century.
    All this, however, goes for nothing with his record company. Failing to anticipate the huge demand for Mäkelä’s new Sibelius cycle, they ran out of copies and had to print some more. At his Barbican concert I noticed in the foyer there were just a few CD sets – mostly lying face down- tossed across an empty desk with no posters/flyers or promotional material whatsoever. That issue, in fairness, could be laid at the door of the Barbican – one of the most stingy, dingy, unwelcoming concert venues on the entire planet – but my point is Decca SHOULD HAVE BEEN THERE to beat the drum and blow the trumpet for their major new artist.
    I ask again – and I’ve asked it before – what is the MATTER with Universal Classics?
    Of course, I’ve given up all hope of them continuing to produce special editions devoted to illustrious artists of the past – Eloquence Classics are at least picking up the baton there and to coin a good old Australian phrase, “Good on you”- but now Decca don’t seem interested in new and future talent either.
    LISTEN to me for a moment: MONEY MAKES MONEY. You’ve got to speculate to accumulate. DON’T keep wasting resources on tacky crossover albums and passing juvenile trends. You’ve signed a major new talent, Decca. He’s hot. He’s dynamite. He could make and sell CDs for you by the truckload. He could even save the entire Classical music industry. Act NOW, Decca, before it’s too late. Or are you already too far gone in the mire of caution and complacency?