Alan Gilbert has been named Lorin Maazel's successor at the New York Philharmonic, and Riccardo Chailly has (again) been identified as the chief candidate to assume the post of Music Director of the Chicago Symphony.
Today’s news from the world of music is quite intriguing, creating a lot of comment everywhere, including here in the office, where a lot of persons regularly attend Minnesota Orchestra and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra concerts, and follow the orchestral world very closely, and serve on various boards.
The amazing thing is how tepid was the New York Philharmonic announcement. Could a more lukewarm endorsement of the orchestra’s chosen new conductor possibly have been conceived?
Acknowledging that Gilbert is “a risk”, announcing that he will conduct the orchestra for “only” twelve weeks a year, describing him as “a good musician”, and pointing out that one of his qualifications for the New York Philharmonic post was the fact that he became “acquainted” with the Boston Symphony while attending BSO concerts during his college days in Boston (along with many thousands of other students), constitutes the most feeble and unenthusiastic announcement of a major appointment I have ever seen.
If I were Alan Gilbert, I would sue.
At least the announcement was free of puffery—but did it not tend to go a little too far in the opposite direction?
The announcement tacitly acknowledged that the Philharmonic knew that it could not get anyone good, and that the orchestra was well aware that everyone else—from music critics to subscribers to casual concert-goers to the music-loving public—already knew that the Philharmonic could not get anyone good, and that there was no point in trying to dress up the announcement by pretending that the best person for the job had been hired, and that the orchestra, having been publicly turned down by every conductor of note, had simply settled upon someone who was willing to accept the job in order to end the search.
What an overwhelming display of graciousness on the part of the New York Philharmonic!
Happily, things in Chicago operate pursuant to a far different set of rules.
As reported today by John Von Rhein, America’s most knowledgeable and finest writer about orchestral matters, nationwide, the Chicago Symphony wants Riccardo Chailly--and the Chicago Symphony wants Riccardo Chailly very, very badly--and the orchestra is willing to do practically anything to get him, including waiting, for years, if necessary, for Chailly to become available.
This is consistent with what I have been told, by knowledgeable persons, for the last year. The sticking point will be: can Chailly be cajoled to come to America to work? Since Chailly flatly turned down the orchestras in Boston and Philadelphia in the late 1990’s, surely no one is getting his or her hopes up that the world’s finest conductor can be enticed to Chicago.
That said, my instinct tells me that Riccardo will accept the Chicago post. My father says the same thing, with one caveat: that Riccardo will accept the job, unless someone on the Chicago Symphony administrative staff gets up Riccardo’s nose during contract negotiations.
At least Chicago takes its orchestra seriously—and lets everyone know it.
The President of the Chicago Symphony stated, on the record, that Chicago had never entertained any fears whatsoever that New York would be able to grab a conductor that Chicago wanted.
Turns out she was right.