London agencies tussle over young conductor

London agencies tussle over young conductor


norman lebrecht

May 22, 2023

Lydia Connolly at HarrisonParrott has snatched the Solti award-winning US conductor Roderick Cox from the clutches of Niall Houlihan at AskonasHolt.

HP, who take over his worldwide management, describe Cox as ‘a leading American conducting talent and an advocate for education, accessibility and representation in classical music.’

Minutes later, AH’s Houlihan announced he had signed Luxembourg cellist Benjamin Kruithof, winner of last year’s George Enescu Competition.

The grass is always greener.


  • View from the other side says:

    Having had to suffer through many weeks of Coxs conducting, I can assure everybody he is by no means a leading talent. Far from it. Just another boring stick waver with no musical imagination. He has the career he has simply because of his very attractive diversity background- black and gay.

  • Gus says:

    Diversity theatre hire.

    • John says:

      When I saw his picture the first thing that popped into my mind was…..oh, I wonder if he is the real deal or this is some DEI promotion.

      It’s sad because in the old days that thought never crossed my mind. Then, when I saw someone on stage from an underrepresented group there was no need to wonder. I remember once hearing a black intellectual, who went to an Harvard in the 50s (before they started using affirmative actions) say….”people used to be really impressed when they found out I went to Harvard now they aren’t since they just assume I received affirmative action.”

      What’s going on now is well meaning but is really doing these minority groups a disservice. And frankly it’s sending a tacit message that these groups can’t measure up.

      • John says:

        Btw, I remember when this all happened for me. Several years ago, I read an ecstatic magazine article about a young American black composer. The one quote I still remember was…..”in 200 years this century will be known as the century of Quin Mason.” I thought wow….how exciting. I want to hear his stuff. I did and I was pretty shocked:

        Harmless enough but certainly nothing earth shattering.

        After that I heard about the “sensational discovery” of Florence Price and it went on from there. Now I can’t help but be afflicted by great deal of skepticism about all this.

        It’s a shame since there are lots of really fine black musicians out there but to overpraise the lesser ones really does damage to all of them.

        • voice from the orchestra says:

          What about all of those white conductors who have no technique, charisma or brain who are music directors of major orchestras? I am really curious how they get there if the only way to get there is by being black and gay? Why single out blacks when there are so many people to point at? Today on this website it was announced someone was named music director of a really great Italian orchestra who has very little conducting training. unfortunately, you see it all the time and we orchestra musicians have to deal with it all the time. It just makes me angry to see people single out people for their race when others get there undeservingly too. I know not much about Mr. Cox’s conducting, but I can say guess it is not much worse than other young conductors despite their race.

          by the way, lines like the one about Mr. Mason about composers of all races rightly or wrongly. it is a pr move or one done in ignorance from a journalist or maybe the writer really does believe this. In any case, I think we can all agree we should leave race out of classical music!

          • John says:

            There are lots of artist of every stripe whom I personally find lacking. I don’t think that’s an argument for deliberately advancing the unqualified….and I don’t know if that applies to the fellow but that’s something I have observed just recently. Something has definitely changed in recent years…..calls to do away with blind auditions, programming second rate compositions, ridiculous overpraising of the mediocre and even suggestions that the exacting standards of classical music are racist, etc. I just don’t get what that accomplishes. To me it just does harm. Btw, the person who made the quote about Quinn Mason was the conductor John Axelrod.

          • Achim Mentzel says:

            Tjeknavorian, of whom you speak, has virtually zero repertoire and a completely questionable technique. Every rehearsal ends with him in the form of a violin lesson, which is not surprising, because as an excellent violinist, these are his roots. However, he has no idea about conducting, just makes it equal to his colleagues Szeps-Znaider and Rachlin: why should they practice hours upon hours on their instruments, when they can earn three or four times as much as conductors with little work input. The latter has become music director of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra without having realized even one single project with the orchestra. One wonders where the voice of the orchestra is. Either the orchestra as a collective has no power, or in the end they don’t give a damn who is in the front. In any case, the PR departments are happy and the artist‘s managements make money. Just the orchestra musicians are f…ed, but hey, who really cares.

          • Michel Lemieux says:

            The Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra is not a major orchestra. Jerusalem is an artistic backwater. They are not going to get a world-class conductor. It is arguably only the 3rd best orchestra in Israel.

            The small town of Rishon Lezion has a better orchestra with Dan Ettinger as their musical director.

          • Sue Sonata Form says:

            Wynton Marsalis did not need affirmative action to become one of the greatest musicians in the USA. I’m a huge fan of his – huge – and he would scoff at AA. No matter WHO is being affirmatively actioned.

          • Matt D says:

            “no technique, charisma or brain”

            You mean like Michael Tilson-Thomas? Well, he does have brains.

      • Novagerio says:

        John: “these minority groups” have measured up since the days of Dean Dixon, James DePreist, Henry Lewis, Everett Lee, Isaiah Jackson, without mentioning William Grant Still, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Florence Price, Tanya León, all the way back to George Bridgetower and Joseph de Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges.
        If Mister Cox is dull, or a bore, or anything you want, it’s certainly not because of his race, even less his sexuality.

        • John says:

          I didn’t say that they don’t measure up. I said these policies (exalting the second rate due to skin color) are sending that message. Big difference. And it’s by and large hurting the many wonderful black artists who are out there. Five years ago this article wouldn’t have produced these types of comments. Now when you see a new black face in the music world it’s impossible not to wonder.

          • Voice from the orchestra says:


            For decades since my conservatory graduation, I’ve had the privilege to be a member in major orchestras, under a wide array of conductors. Among them, I’ve encountered the biggest names and talents as well as those who were less impressive, across all races: white, Black, Asian, Latino, and more. I have had non-white conductors before that I liked more than my white famous music director…Race has nothing to do with it even now.
            It’s in this light that I find it disheartening to see skepticism surrounding the recent increase in representation of Black artists in classical music. Sometimes Sh*t gets through, but it also gets through very often for white conductors and composers. I can also name Music Directors of top world orchestras who have no business there or who were there and were chased out!…all the names I can name are white. Soon I will have a list of bad (sometimes good) conductors of many races…BIG DEAL. The business has not and will not fundamentally change. I have been in it long enough to know.

          • John says:

            You’ve twice made the same point, one that I don’t think anyone disagrees with….that there are lots of mediocrities out there. That’s basically just a truism of statistics, i.e. the bell curve. But your prescription is odd. I.e. well there are lots of mediocrities already so why not advance and promote other mediocrities. Music is no different from other fields…. take police work. No doubt there are plenty of bad cops. So why not relax the hiring standards. Maybe that will advance someone’s social agenda and then we “will have a list of bad (sometimes good)” cops of many [choose your parameter]. BIG DEAL.” Should we apply that to engineers, doctors, building contractors, etc.? Btw, I will say in your defense, I think you’re well meaning but honestly I think all of this portrays a condescending lack of faith in minorities.

          • Voice from the orchestra says:

            John, I never said anything about relaxing standards or accepting the mediocre ones? I also am well in touch in the industry and I have not heard anyone saying this is their goal except for a few loud hippy voices with honestly no influence or jobs. You are the one to keep saying this. All I am trying to say, and the reason I keep coming back to this is to say do not bring race into the conversation plain and simple. Why comment on a post about him simply going from one agent to another and make it about his race when it was not once mentioned? There is really no reason in my mind. It helps absolutely no one. I hate talking about race and am tired of hearing about it. If you do not like his, or someone else’s music making, then talk about that. Much more interesting. Perhaps he has been places because of factors good or bad BESIDES his race. Again, I do not know him and so this is not a personal defense of his conducting. I do not know his situation. But from what I read it seems you do not either. If you have thoughts about his race, or anyone else’s for that matter, just keep it to yourself. You speaking out about it helps absolutely no one.

            But if you do want to mention race, we can point to more examples of it holding people back than pushing them forward. Not only in my orchestra but also other orchestras, I know it has because I have heard the conversations. I have watched it play out time and time again. Conductors, soloists, orchestra hires. This is real. If a few mediocre musicians of color slip into the profession, it is a disaster because they are mediocre but it is also not the norm for that to happen nor will it ever be. It also does not hurt us or them overall any more than when the mediocre people show up who are white. Speak about mediocrity in general if that is truly your concern.

            If someone sees a musician of color and assumes that they are bad only because they met or saw other bad ones, then that is a problem of that person’s internal biases whether acknowledged or not. Stop bringing your baggage to others.

          • John says:

            “John, I never said anything about relaxing standards or accepting the mediocre ones?” ======
            I never said you said that. But that is what’s happening. If anyone thinks having more performances of Florence Price than Aaron Copland is not relaxing standards then they are delusional.

            But it’s really a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Why did you write stuff like:

            “If someone sees a musician of color and assumes that they are bad only because they met or saw other bad ones, then that is a problem of that person’s internal biases whether acknowledged or not. Stop bringing your baggage to others.”

            What did I write that would justify that comment? And that’s the problem. People are afraid to debate this since the common tactic on your side to cast the most disgusting aspersions on people they disagree with.

            I think classical music in recent years has really been a well functioning meritocracy. I’m for keeping it that way. Elevating the second rate based on skin color is harmful to classical music (and I’ve already cited examples if this….Quin Mason, etc.) and also the many fine classical artists of color in the field. If you want to read something else into that….maybe that’s your baggage.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    It could be part of the same continuum, but I cannot say for sure as I don’t know the particular case.

    • John says:

      Thanks so much for sharing that article. I hadn’t seen it. It’s sobering. Btw, I can’t figure out why you got so many thumbs down just for sharing that…..? Go figure.

  • tramonto says:

    Saw Cox last year in Prokofiev 5 and his interpretation was so fresh and enthralling I ended up going to the subsequent repeat performances.

  • NotToneDeaf says:

    Race aside, an insufferably rude and arrogant person.

    • Anon says:

      I do wonder if you would still say that if you took anti-bias training. I have learned that many people are bothered by the experience of having to follow a confident, successful, strong, Black conductor. Roderick is all of these things. That’s why he conducts orchestras like LA and Minnesota.

  • weegie says:

    For generations, under-qualified straight white men got the gigs because they were white, straight and male. I’m delighted that under-qualified people of all races, sexualities and genders are now getting in on the lucky tickets. Don’t kid yourself about the past, and don’t kid yourself about your biases

  • Michel Lemieux says:

    Cox is a wonderful conductor who has been very popular with audiences. I can assure you that German orchestras like the Dresden Staatskapelle don’t employ conductors based on their race or gender. They have him conduct because he’s damn good.

    Very few conductors are good enough for the people on this board. Since we can’t resurrect Karajan or Levine, let’s enjoy the conductors that we do have, especially since most of them do get better with age.

  • Sammy says:

    He’s a terrible conductor. There are many terrible conductors out there. Some are white and some are black. It’s not a racist remark. Plain ol’ terrible

    • True Musician says:

      Can you name one performance of his you experienced was so terrible? Can you send show us a terrible review? Or send us a terrible video? Can you explain why he is re-invited consistently to great orchestras if he is so terrible? Can you tell us why the New York Times listed his recording recently and the BBC Magazine nominated him if he is so bad? You sound like a sad individual who have a vendetta.

      • Cave Dweller says:

        Indeed awful. I’ll give you three guess why he keeps getting re-invited and the first two don’t count!