So how’s Lina doing as Muti’s stand-in?

So how’s Lina doing as Muti’s stand-in?


norman lebrecht

June 19, 2022

Larry Johnson’s assessment on a last minute jump-in in Chicago Classical Review:

This is the second time in ten weeks that Muti has been sidelined by Covid, after the 80-year-old conductor had to pull out of a program in April. On that occasion, Lina González-Granados handled part of a revised program, and Thursday night she took over podium duties for the entire concert and the show went on.

Now in the final month of her tenure as the CSO’s Solti conducting apprentice, González-Granados handled the last-minute assignment with energy and aplomb. With Muti having prepared the program and led all but the last rehearsal, the performances were already largely baked. But give credit to the young conductor for stepping into a difficult situation and directing the orchestra effectively in the evening’s two epic German cornerstones.

Even with the Covid/podium side-drama, the evening belonged to Anne-Sophie Mutter….

Read on here.

Wynne Delacoma in the Chicago Sun-Times:

The soaring, romantic melodies of Brahms’s Symphony No. 1 were an ideal showcase for Gonzalez-Granados’s ability to sculpt rich, heartfelt orchestral sound. She had no chance to rehearse the CSO herself, and balances were sometimes off. Brasses were occasionally too loud, and in the opening pages, the surging unison strings lacked a distinctive profile.

But the mood was serenely relaxed as solo winds rose and fell in lyrical song in the first movement. Brahms’s expressive melodies seemed to glow as CSO principal players — notably Stefan Ragnar Hoskuldsson, oboe William Welter and clarinet Stephen Williamson — passed musical phrases among themselves. The more light-hearted third movement was both buoyant and hefty, with motifs tumbling energetically from one set of orchestral voices to the next. In contrast, the final movement was full of majesty and excitement, prompting the audience into prolonged cheers….

photo: Todd Rosenberg


  • tet says:

    Come to think of it: What the heck is a “conducting apprentice” anyway? Why doesn’t the CSO have a bona fide “assistant conductor” position? Lina is an “apprentice” in name only, she already has had a lot of professional experience and big-name mentors, but not yet ready to be made an “assistant conductor” at the CSO or elsewhere?

    The mental difference between an “apprentice” and an “assistant conductor” is that the former dreams of learning from the MD at every concert, whereas the latter fantasizes the MD getting sick right before every concert.

    The reviews are saying Lina thinks like an apprentice.

  • Giuseppe says:

    All that matters is Ballo this week.

  • Carl says:

    So glad to hear she’s rising to the moment. For too long Chicago has succumbed to its conservative impulses, an organization dominated by an old-world maestro while peers like Philly and L.A. move forge ahead with bolder agendas. Ms. González-Granados seems to be just the fresh perspective needed at this time.

    • Tamino says:

      empty buzz word straw men alarm. “old world maestro”. “bolder agendas”. “fresh perspective”.
      What does that actually mean?

      • Carl says:

        It means there are orchestras that are oriented to the future – by reaching out to new audiences, finding new ways of presenting both the classics and new works, hiring musicians and conductors who look like the communities they represent, and engaging with mass culture – and those who stick with the way things have always been done: boring, stodgy, unimaginative, out of touch.

        Despite what a loud but dwindling group of SD commenters says, most classical music institutions realize they must continue to evolve with the times if they want to fill seats and attract new donors.

        • Tamino says:

          Why would a conductor have to look like the community he represents?
          Since when does a conductor represent a community in the first place? A conductor is first of all an artist, who communicates through his or her art, and his or her looks should be almost irrelevant.
          So you find Dudamel and Yannick exciting, because they are looking young and dynamic? And you don’t like Muti because he looks old? We get it.
          You sound like your concepts are irrelevant to the art form of music, and have all to do with entertainment and proto-sexual attraction.

          What is exactly “bold” about L.A.’s or Philly’s agenda?
          How is having young “hot” dudes on the podium “bold” from an artistic point of view?
          Bread and circuses?

  • CSOA Insider says:

    We are all grateful to Lina for stepping in and rescuing last week’s concerts.

    After vicious posts by members of the orchestra, Larry Johnson, one of the very few honest critics left in the city, has surprisingly changed his tune. His reviews of Muti concerts have suddenly turned sugarcoated. With the Muti-Alexander administration, critics are either coaxed or intimidated. We hope that Larry will continue to do his important work, free of intimidation from the Muti’s entourage.

    Muti is back at SC today, after having spent a very, very comfortable and gratifying week, arranged by Alexander. Let’s pray that his rehearsals don’t turn into a super-spreader event, considered the number of singers involved.

    • Carl says:

      He’s back at the CSO after what, three days? I thought the quarantine period is 5 at a minimum? And for someone who is 80 years old, that doesn’t add up.

      I hope he’s wearing a good mask at any rate. Most evidence holds that you’re contagious for up to 10 days after onset of symptoms.

      • Joe Green says:

        The only evidence here is that CSOA Insider is a super spreader of BS. In his account we have the claim that “one of the very few honest critics left in the city” writes dishonest reviews only because…terrorized by an 80 y.o. conductor. And we have Jeff Alexander arranging a very comfortable week for Muti. BSOA Insider prays for the health of the participants in the coming rehearsals but has not even a single word of prayer for the alleged participants to the alleged comfortable week, whose life was so brutally put in jeopardy by Mr. Alexander. Pure comedy, even if somewhat stale

  • Burnham says:

    This is a good opportunity for SD readers to get more acquainted with the thoughtful, if surreal, tone of Chicago’s typical classical music reviews. Wynne Delacoma also wrote in the same piece:

    “Gonzalez-Granados’s CSO tenure has been tumultuous. She arrived as Solti Conducing Apprentice in February 2020 just before the pandemic hit. COVID is still a factor as she closes out her appointment this month. Replacing Muti in April and this weekend, she became the first Latina conductor to lead the CSO.

    In July she begins a three-year appointment as resident conductor at the Los Angeles Opera. With her obvious podium skills, she is on her way to a vibrant career. If all goes well, future audiences actually will know the name Gonzalez-Granados.”

    I’d say the Tribune took the better path with the CSO: the path of silence.

  • seattlemusician says:

    The critics are either being too nice or they aren’t musicians. My colleagues in the CSO hated her. She was very unprepared with the score (as always) and was basically useless in concert, so they didn’t look at her. How do people like this get in front of the CSO? There’s a reason this ‘conductor’ didn’t last long here in Seattle.

    • Sid Vicious says:

      My colleagues in the CSO have been awestruck by her performances. They pronounce her the second coming of Reiner and Solti. Fabulous conductor. Brava!

    • Max Raimi says:

      I certainly didn’t hate her. She was in a very tough spot. Anne Sophie-Mutter’s Beethoven was frankly bizarre, easily the most mannered version of the work I can remember playing, albeit with transcendently beautiful moments sprinkled at random throughout. I am quite grateful I didn’t have to follow her. Larry Johnson liked it a lot more than I did, but this is to be expected. Mr. Johnson has appendages on each side of his head that bear an uncanny resemblance to human ears, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
      Lina had to do the Brahms with no rehearsal; also not a situation I would relish. I find her to be an appealing young conductor, musical and talented. I look forward to her continued development.

      • norman lebrecht says:

        Thank you, Max.

      • ML says:

        I did not like Mutter’s interpretation either (nor her performance of Tchaikovsky a few years back), and I also suspected that there was no rehearsal for Brahms–and musicians followed her. That would explain it. Brahms #1 on Thursday night was, to put it politely, problematic.

  • Micheal says:

    Saw her conducting Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune. Easily the worst thing ever.

  • anonymous says:

    She received great reviews – on the contrary, what really happened was she completely ruined the performance of one of the finest orchestras in the world. (I attended Thursday and Saturday concerts) She was the worst person on the CSO podium I’ve ever seen for the past 12 years. She stepped in at the last minute but the program were standard repertoires for anyone studies conducting and her bio was long in the program. One after another, she was giving completely wrong queues (bars ahead and bars behind) with self-serving moves. I almost felt the pain of the musicians on the stage. I went on Saturday concert also to listen to Ms. Mutter again. I noticed that the musicians were not looking at the conductor. Instead, the principal players trying their best to save the performance from the train wrecks happening on the stage. They were playing with big motions, even counting beats with head and a little louder some key notes to lead their section and to communicate to the other sections. Ms. Mutter’s performance was heavenly and she participated in making ensemble via eye contact with the musicians and graceful moves which made the Beethoven Violin Concerto got back on track. I am sure without the conductor, the orchestra could’ve played much better. Tremendous appreciation and respect to the CSO Musicians and Ms. Mutter.