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February 2013 - Posts

How Long Can The Boston Symphony Orchestra Go Without A Music Director ?

  It's been nearly two years since the great American conductor James Levine was forced to resign from  the Boston symphony  because of  serious  back trouble , sciatica, arm tremors  and other  ailments .  He has not  conducted at the Metropolitan  opera, his longtime  post , for nearly as long .  He remains technically musical director there and continues to  work with singers etc , but  Italian maestro Fabio luisi  has  assumed the post of prinicpal conductor for the time being and has taken over much of Levine's work .

     But the Boston symphony continues to  languish without  a music director , and has had to  rely on a steady stream  of geust conductors, some of whom  could possibly  be appointed  as Levine's successor .  The veteran Dutch maestro  Bernard  Haitink , 83,  ha sbeen a steady presence with the orchestra for many years and  is  greatly repsected , but is too old for  the job .  Younger conductors such as the rising Latvian  Andris Nelsons  have been touted as possible  choices , and neslons had had considerable success  in Boston so far .

    But  it is definitely not a good idea for a  world-class  and  storied orchestra like the B.S.O. to  go on without  someone  in control ;  music directors in American orchestras have the final say  in  deciding which candidates  get the job  at auditions after much  deliberation by the  audition committee, the musicians in the orchestra  who  choose  the finalists from the preliminary rounds  to  be advanced to the final audition , and there are many other administrative tasks  and decisions to be made by the man (or possibly, the woman,) in charge . 

    After the  brief  term of Christoph Eschenbach , now with the Washoington National symphony with  the Philadelphia orchestra several years ago , the  orchestra was able to  obtain the services of th eveteran  Swiss conductor Charles Dutoit  as a caretaker  principal conductor  for a time until the recent choice of  young French-Canadian Yannick-Nezet-Seguin, who is now in his honeymoon with  the "Fabulous Philadelphians" ,as they have come to be known .

    After  Daniel Barenboim stepped down from the Chicago symphony several years ago, the orchestra appointed a caretaker team of Bernard Haitink and Pierre Boulez  until Riccardo Muti was chosen  as the new  music director . 

     Choosing a new music director is never an easy task  ; the orchestra's administration and the  members of the orchestra must find someone  who is felt to be right for the job . But there are so many  distinguished ocnductors in so many different posts that it's hard  to find someone who is  willing to take the job  on many occaisions .  The orchestra will invite a number of  guest conductors to  lead concerts , and sometimes a dark horse  who makes a  highly favorable impression on the musicians and audiences . after making a debut  . Sometimes it is a conductor who has been a regular guest  . 

    There are more orchestras an dopera companies thna ever before , and they all have to vie for the services of  a  limited number of conductors .  No conductor can  lead every performance  throughout the season  . This is simply unfeasable .  Coordinating  the schedules of all these different orchestras etc  is  rather like  a jigsaw puzzle of the most difficult kind .

     Sometimes an orchestra may want a particular conductor but he or she may simply be too busy with  a post of his own somewhere .  There are many  rpomising young conductors in the 20s and 30s  beginning to make  international careers , but  appointing them to a prestigious post such as Boston, Philadelphia, Cleveland, New York,  Chicago, Los Angeles  or  various  major European cities  could be rsiky, given  their inexperience . 

    Bu tlet's all with the administration and musicians of the Boston symphony  good luck  in fdinding the right maestro for the job as soon as possible . James Levine is scheduled to return to the Met beginning next season, and let's all wish him a speedy recovery, too .



Posted: Feb 01 2013, 10:24 PM by the horn | with no comments
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