Chicago renews controversial conductor

Chicago renews controversial conductor


norman lebrecht

June 30, 2022

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association has asked Lina González-Granados to continue as its Sir Georg Solti Conducting Apprentice, with residencies planned next season in May and June 2023.

Lina stepped in several times this season for Riccardo Muti, to mixed reviews.

Her renewal is a striking vote of confidence. She is also resident conductor at Los Angeles Opera.

photo: Todd Rosenberg


  • seattlemusician says:

    Chicago’s mistake! Luckily we saw right through her here in Seattle and now we have an assistant that actually KNOWS how to conduct, not just plays like it.

  • drummerman says:

    Exactly what is “controversial” about her? That she got mixed reviews? If she’s controversial, how is her renewal a “striking vote of confidence?”

    • Emil says:

      Conducting apprentice jumping in at the last minute without rehearsals is not of the same calibre and experience as an 80-year old maestro with an illustrious career stretching back to the 1970s. Breaking news at 11.

      The OSM’s assistant conductor got rough reviews a few years back when he had to jump in without rehearsals after Andras Schiff threw a tantrum, but everyone in Montreal understood that it was thankless circumstances and ones where one can’t actually appreciate the work of an assistant conductor.

      • WP says:

        Andras Schiff throwing a tantrum isn’t news, it also isn’t necessarily a comment on the conductor in question (whose identity I dont know) so much as it is on Schiff’s moodiness and bad manners.

        • Emil says:

          Indeed. Schiff was meant to play and conduct the first half and conduct the symphonic second half. He had a row with the orchestra, threw a tantrum, and the OSM’s conductor in residence jumped in to conduct the second part at the last minute (Schiff did the first half).

  • Midwestern Violin says:

    Muti’s preferred activity in Chicago, and unassailable legacy, is his unwavering, most active support to female latin minorities. His commitment to the task consumes all his free time.

  • Lothario Hunter says:

    Just a reminder to any silly reader who may be tempted to make silly and reckless comments. Muti does not cave to political correctness, as he has demonstrated by turning African American singers into fierce anti-revisionists fully committed to singing the n-words in Verdi’s operas. Therefore, his personal decision to renew Lina is not based on woke priorities; it is purely based on artistic merits. It would be foolish to expect anything less from the man and the organization who invented and funded music director special “happy hours”.

    Congratulations to Lina, Muti, and Alexander for a partnership that will keep the CSO brand shooting for the stars.

  • Theodore Thomas says:

    I was a the performance Thursday night, and went back on Saturday…
    As a CSO suscriber, she was terrible.
    She didn’t lead the orchestra, she was pushing the orchestra all the time, and from my lower balcony seat I was able to ser the faces of all the musicians, between angry and upset.
    She is not good, but she took her oportunity. Now some critics are trying to help her (what a terrible mistake) and they should be fair with the orchestra’s name & reputation: She didn’t save anything, she confused them the whole concert (specially Brahms)

    • WT says:

      I was up there and hence could not see musicians’ facial expressions. However, results were frustrating enough (esp. Brahms) that I returned Saturday’s ticket. Specifically, the entry into the recapitulation section of the first movement was not well-coordinated. Volume remained at least mezzo-forte throughout. At letter N of the fourth movement, timpani and brass were not exactly together (they could play it in sleep), and the orchestra fell apart towards the end of the work.

    • SDC says:

      Thank you for your comment. It was the worst concert I’ve ever attended for the past decades. I thought if Robert Chen led the orchestra in collaboration with the other principals or, either the legendary Jay Friedman who knows Brahms perfectly or Mulchay (CSO Brass concert conductor) from their Brass section conducted, it could’ve been a quite memorable concert. She was not and is not the person to be seen on the CSO podium to be fair with the orchestea’s name & reputation.

  • Alan says:

    Controversial? What did she do? Bar upset the odd critic?

  • sdc says:

    This is a total disaster to CSO and to the music world. After witnessing her “conducting” only made sever train wrecks I’ve never thought it’d be possible, I don’t have any hope for her. Another problem with this kind of wrong support is (including the total nonsense reviews on her favor), it doesn’t help her to get improved. She needs to face the brutal honesty to know her problems to study and if she can, fix them. Also, the association should listen to the musicians first to make this kind of musical decisions – If they did, I serously doubt that this would happen. The musicians are the ones make music and because of them, the association can exist. Not the other way aroud. The orchestras like CSO have different missions rather than being a “trianing” platform for unqualified conductors and musicians. One of them must be purely serving the music with keeping and protecting the standard of excellency, IMHO. My only hope is that I don’t need to see her on the CSO stage during the next season and ever again.

    • Peter says:

      “This is a total disaster … to the music world.”

      Christ on a bike. Young conductor gets an extra year in an apprenticeship because her first year was effectively nixed due to Covid. This, apparently, is a “disaster” for the whole “music world”? Get a grip, for goodness sake.

      • SDC says:

        I admit my expression was extreme. Thank you for pointing it out. I am not a troll- I was at the concerts (first and last. She didn’t get better and didn’t even have the basic stage manner) and saw the collapsing of the orchesrea. The position she has now with CSO should be a really great opportunity for young conductors when we think how small the classical world is, specially for their field. There is an audition process and if she is the most qualified one for the program, I don’t see the bright future of the classical music world. I do know you can argue with me on many things but as a big fan of CSO and classical music, this news and all the false good reviews on her are very hard to take in. That’s why I got extremely frustrated. I know there are amazing young conductors, like Klaus Mäkelë (cannot wait to see him again on the podium) and hope a real qualified talented person can take the apprenticeship.

  • MMcGrath says:

    Controversial why?

  • MacroV says:

    Controversial? More click-bait. She’s a relatively inexperienced conductor still learning her craft, working with a very demanding orchestra and one of the world’s greatest conductors. Yes, she’ll probably get mixed reviews and fall short of someone’s expectations, but apparently she’s doing well enough that they’re giving her some more time in the saddle.

    • Anthony Sayer says:

      @MacroV: What happened to the system of working your way up through smaller bands before getting your mits on a top-notch ensemble? Look at how people evolve in the German opera house system.

      • Nomadic Musician says:

        On what basis are you assuming that she hasn’t worked her way through “smaller bands”? That assumption is wrong. I can say that as somebody who actually played under her baton when she was coming up through youth and lower-profile professional groups.

        Of course nobody emphasises relatively junior experience on their bios, but she absolutely has it. That experience, no doubt, was important in helping her to win the competition – yes, competition – that got her this apprenticeship. I note that a number of the hysterical comments here appear to assume, wrongly, that this post was just handed to her.

    • Liam Allan-Dalgleish says:

      The question is is the orchestra a school for conductors or an organization that owes its best to those paying the bills. I’ve never seen this woman conduct.

  • Achim Mentzel says:

    Make her MD, what are you waiting for!!!

  • Rafael F says:

    The ‘conducting apprentice’ title doesn’t not sound very accurate let alone profesional considering that CSO is a top orchestra. It would be like a brain surgeon at a top hospital dubbed a ‘medical apprentice’

  • Peter says:

    In what way is she “controversial”? Maybe among some SD commenters who may or may not have been to a concert, but are always keen to take an up-and-comer down a peg or two.

    I’ve seen one review of the concert in June with a couple of quibbles in an otherwise approving assessment – and that was a concert in which she was thrown in at the eleventh hour to conduct the Beethoven violin concerto with half a rehearsal and Brahms’ First without any rehearsal at all.

    By the way, it’s meant to be a two-year training and mentoring program. Well over a year of that time was lost due to Covid, so it seems pretty reasonable to extend it.

  • Edoardo Saccenti says:

    Why controversial?

  • tet says:

    Or maybe because no one else applied to be an “apprentice” in Chicago when one can be a bona fide “assistant conductor” elsewhere.

  • Emil says:

    Many commentators on here will moan when a 24-year old Klaus Mäkelä or a 28-year old Dudamel get top jobs that ‘back in the days conductors came of age after years as assistant conductor, répétiteur and opera coach’ and then turn around with no irony and savage a young assistant conductor because she’s not in the level with someone who became MD at La Scala 35 years ago and principal conductor in Philadelphia in 1992.

    • tet says:

      You *honest* think she’s the best the CSO can get?

      I think they didn’t even bother posting an ad on Craigslist.

      • Peter says:

        No, they probably didn’t post an ad on Craigslist. Instead, they held a whole competition for the post, which she won.

      • Emil says:

        I don’t know, I haven’t heard her as I don’t live in Chicago. But the knives have been out for her on here for the past few weeks and it’s a level of vitriol unbecoming towards a young artist.
        If it were easy to always identify the next Carlos Kleiber, we wouldn’t need apprentices. She might turn out to be great, or she might turn out to be an average conductor, who knows. But it’s a learning job, not everyone develops at the same pace (and initial difficulties don’t indicate a lack of ability), and expecting Muti-like performances from a young trainee conductor jumping in without rehearsals (and then savaging her when she doesn’t meet that standard) is highly inappropriate.
        In fact, if she still needs to improve, the CSO offering her support, mentoring, and opportunities is exactly the right thing to do.

  • CSOA Insider says:

    Congratulations and best wishes to Lina, a strong and determined woman with a bright future.

  • Another Orchestral Musician says:

    I wish her the best. But if she’s conducting as she did two years ago in “La Maestra” then I don’t even know how on Earth she got this position. Hopefully she will improve, because she certainly has a lot of potential.

  • Chicagorat says:

    In case some folks still were convinced the CSO had not lost elite status under the Muti-Alexander reign, and had not sank to level of tier-three orchestra.

  • Paracelsus says:

    Looks like the CSO marketing department spends more time “thumbing” on SD than figuring out how to rescue the irreparably damaged CSO brand.

  • Frequent CSO attendee says:

    Quite the usual misogyny and vile rhetoric that I always expect from SD commenters in this thread.

    NL’s empty title is always the sizzle that never sells the steak…there’s nothing controversial about Ms. Gonzaléz-Granados at all. She’s making her way through the old boys club of a music/conducting culture that puts old white European men on a pedestal; the fact that she is Latina and a woman obviously has some people freaked out.

    Want some evidence of her successes? Go to YouTube and look up her work in Boston at NEC playing Shostakovich, or actually come here to Chicago and watch her work with the orchestra. The CSO’s string players are notoriously difficult to work with, to please, and only emote on special occasional (perhaps the lingering effects of DB?…). As a frequent CSO attendee I am often turned off by their total snobbery on stage and sometimes flat out laziness. One cellist in the recent Mahler 6 performance was literally not playing certain passages. Really? It’s unacceptable.

    LGG is finding her path and will hopefully find resounding success in the future with an orchestra that appreciates her musicianship and hard work. She deserves better than NL’s slimy, hallow, and unwarranted criticism.

    • ReadTheFinePrint says:

      Read Mahler’s scores. Sometimes Mahler asks for half the section not to play. Yes, on purpose. The inside players have the duty of turning pages too, they may not play for some little passage

      • Frequent CSO attendee says:

        Yes, you are correct. It was tutti passages, inside of the stand. I know the music well, both cello part and score, as I’ve played it multiple times myself professionally. I had the score with me, sitting in the loge. My observations in my original comment are correct. As to the more important contents of my comment, LGG still deserves better.

        • NoPro says:

          So, a professional who played it many times takes a score to a concert? For what?
          To make BS comments on SD.

        • CSO suscriber says:

          So, if you are a CSO attendee, you will remember that she lost the orchestra during that “famous” week were she was on Muti’s shoes, with something simple as Brahms 1st…
          CSO, who played that symphony thousand times, got lost on Thursday because of her, and the same Saturday during the 1st movement (she gave both times wrong cues to the musicians), so next time, when you attend a CSO concert, leave your score at home and look/listen, because I was there and she was awful…nothing regarding old man white european conductors or young latina woman conductor, that’s bs, but people things that doing that (supporting no matter what) they feel proud of their support, but actually it makes the opposite effect on the “minority” communities…
          Anyway, she is an apprentice, not an assitant conductor, give her some time, but this time she didn’t good enough.

    • Chicagorat says:

      You are often turned off by the CSO? How odd

    • tet says:

      Let me get this straight: your tactic to defend LGG is to trash the CSO as being lazy, unemoting, snobbish, notorious and difficult?

      So why the hell do you attend their concerts? Just to see LGG on the podium?

  • SKTH says:

    If James Conlon likes her, that’s good enough for me.

  • Wise Guy says:

    This type of fraud will unfortunately be more commonplace as the Woke Mob continues to lead orchestras around by their noses to gradually lower all standards to the absurd. How dismal that excellence is no longer the sole measure of a musician’s worth.

  • Andrew Zaplatynsky says:

    Lina Maria is a legitimate and serious talent, condescending comments to the contrary. My career spanned 43 years with 5 major orchestras, 30 as a concertmaster. Lina Maria is the real deal and has a great career ahead of her. She will be conducting the Sinfonica Nacional de Colombia in Bogota next week and I will be in the audience.