BBC names new conductor after hushing up a quick exit

BBC names new conductor after hushing up a quick exit


norman lebrecht

November 29, 2022

Last summer, Omer Meir Wellber slipped away after four years as chief conductor of the BBC Philharmonic in Manchester without so much as a departure statement. The BBC does not like it when key players quit.

Today’s announcement of a new conductor at the BBC Phil makes no mention of his predecessor.

Why does the BBC have such a problem with telling the truth about itself? (See the current issue of The Critic for its equivocations over Charles and Diana.)

Here’s the official announcement of the new conductor:

BBC Philharmonic today announces that John Storgårds has been appointed as the Chief Conductor of BBC Philharmonic.

John’s appointment builds on an existing fruitful relationship with the orchestra which began in 2010 and saw him become the Chief Guest Conductor in 2017. John has a dual career as a conductor and violinist, and is widely recognised for his creative flair for programming as well as his rousing yet refined performances. He is the Principal Guest Conductor of Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra Ottawa and the Artistic Director of the Lapland Chamber Orchestra, a title he has held for over 25 years, and for which he earned global critical acclaim for the ensemble’s adventurous performances and award-winning recordings.

Upcoming performances with the orchestra include Shostakovich Symphonies No. 13 and 15 at The Bridgewater Hall as part of the 2022/23 Season. John’s achievements with the orchestra over the years thus far include annual performances at the BBC Proms, an acclaimed Sibelius symphony cycle in 2013 and numerous recordings for Chandos Records which have been met with great critical acclaim.

John joins a distinguished line of conductors associated with the BBC Philharmonic including Yan Pascal Tortelier, Juanjo Mena and Gianandrea Noseda and he will work closely with the orchestra’s current Director, Simon Webb, who in January begins his new role as Head of BBC Orchestras and Choirs.

John Storgårds said: “Having first worked with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra in 2010, then taking up the position of Principal Guest Conductor in 2012, and in 2017 becoming Chief Guest Conductor, it is with pure enthusiasm that I’m now going to be the orchestra’s new Chief Conductor. Over my many years of collaboration with the BBC Philharmonic, our partnership has been built on great musicmaking and trust. Together, we have already completed a number of fantastic projects; tours in the North of England and at the orchestra’s home in Salford and at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall, appearances at the BBC Proms, and our many international tours and festival visits. We have also made many dynamic recordings in our Salford studio, most prominently for BBC Radio 3 and our label partners at Chandos Records. The BBC Philharmonic is widely known as an extraordinarily brilliant, skilful and versatile orchestra. I am very proud to be continuing our musical journey together with the wonderful musicians and great staff of this fine ensemble!”

Simon Webb, Director of BBC Philharmonic Orchestra said: “Having built a strong and trusting relationship with John over the last decade, we are delighted that he is now joining us as Chief Conductor. His Sibelius and Nielsen symphony cycles in Manchester, on Radio 3, and recorded for Chandos laid the foundations for a relationship that has seen John and the BBC Philharmonic thrill audiences at the BBC Proms, on international tours, on Radio 3, and in venues across the North of England. Embracing the full range of the BBC Philharmonic’s work, John has worked with shows such as Blue Peter and The One Show, and he has conducted world premieres for HK Gruber and Outti Tarkiainen, amongst others. John always brings an energy and conviction rooted in his love for this great orchestra.”

A new Principal Guest conductor of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra will be announced in due course.


  • Gustavo says:

    Hushing up the talent-drain post BREXIT.

  • Marie Strim says:

    It’s called being tactful, remember that word?

  • Alexander Hall says:

    The BBC does indeed move in strange ways. It also had a Principal Guest Conductor in the shape of Ben Gernon. For some while now the name has disappeared from all publicity information and Gernon apparently no longer occupies this function. Why? Was he put on the naughty step for disobeying Auntie?

    • IC225 says:

      It was a three-year appointment, as these things usually are, and it ran from 2017-2020. He’s continued to work regularly with then since then, most recently six weeks ago. Not particularly hard to find these things out….

  • SusanNeds says:

    Can someone please replace Martyn Brabbins?

    • msc says:

      Well, there won’t be an ENO for much longer. I disagree intently: I’d love to see him with one of the UK’s major orchestras — he never fails to impress on radio or recordings (haven’t heard him live).

      • Mel Cadman says:

        He is closely associated withe the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, last week conducting RVW’s symphony 5, with his usual distinction. Like all conductors, not every performance attracts universal acclaim but he is clearly very able and appears to be appreciated by his musicians.

  • Rose says:

    I have heard exciting things about OMW but I believe he pulled out of the proms with the BBCPO last year, perhaps that explains his removal?

  • trumpetherald says:

    Good choice …John is a hundred times better than Wellber.

    • Jobim75 says:

      For sure and 100 times less good than Kleiber….

      • Oliver says:

        What an incredibly stupid statement. Kleiber was excellent, no doubt. But why undermine Storgard’s great qualities? He is one of the most honest conductors nowadays and a true musician, which is pretty rare on a podium as far as I have seen and heard.

  • Evan Tucker says:

    Does anybody know what happened with Wellber and why he left? It’s not like he didn’t know about Brexit when he signed…

  • Anton Bruckner says:

    Why did Welber quit the BBC Phil so quickly without leaving a mark and despite initial rave reviews? This remains a mystery. It used to be a good springboard. He actually walked away just before the Proms. Very strange.

  • Pete Parker says:

    Do we know why Omer Meir Wellber left at such short notice? I think his Prom (RVW 4 and Tippett 4) had to be covered by Sir Andrew Davis…

  • Paul Wells says:

    I suspect the musicians will care less which path they took to get Storgards than that they got him. He’s a wonderful musician, an imaginative programmer, and the musicians in our local orchestra where I live are always glad to see him.

  • Wahlberliner says:

    To be honest, this is pretty standard practice in any big institution after somebody senior quits unexpectedly. The large bank I work for does exactly the same. There are plenty of things one can criticise the BBC for but this isn’t one of them.

  • Der Wanderer says:

    The thing is John Storgårds is a wonderful conductor

  • Tavistock says:

    An excellent moment.
    With an overdue change of administrative leadership imminent, the future looks brighter.

  • Jubilegh says:

    The problem with Omer Meir Wellber was that he was hardly ever there, often cancelling very late and so letting everyone down….many times.

  • Deborah MacIntyre says:

    Yes indeed.