Friday, November 16, 2012

Christoph König

German conductor Christoph König, whom we heard conduct the Milwaukee Symphony one week ago today.

It is said that König is under consideration as Hans Graf’s replacement in Houston (Graf will step down at the conclusion of the current season). My instinct tells me that Houston will not select König.

The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra is in desperate need of a conductor. The SPCO made a grievous error in eliminating the position of Music Director eight years ago. The inevitable result is that the ensemble’s playing has become faceless and bland, uninteresting and unmusical.

König would be an ideal choice for Saint Paul—as would Graf, for that matter—but the organization is currently in a financial crisis and may not survive.

In its 53-year history, the SPCO has had six Music Directors: Leopold Sipe; Dennis Russell Davies; Pinchas Zukerman; Christopher Hogwood; Hugh Wolff; and Andreas Delfs.

Only Wolff was an unqualified success—and the only SPCO Music Director to leave of his own volition. The other five were told that their contracts were not to be renewed.

Sipe was a purely local figure.

Davies, a rather odd man, put the SPCO on the map, but he has never been able to develop an important, high-profile career. His post-Saint Paul days have been consigned to working the lower rungs of the provincial European orchestra circuit.

Zukerman, Hogwood and Delfs were out-and-out artistic disasters; their unsuccessful Saint Paul tenures ended—permanently—their American conducting careers. (Zukerman, it should be noted, was good at the box office if not on the podium.)

Someone like König could make the SPCO relevant—and interesting—once again.

If the SPCO remains alive . . .

The SPCO’s most lasting legacy may turn out to be the Teldec recordings made during the Wolff years. The extensive, wide-ranging Wolff/SPCO Teldec discography is a very distinguished one. Most, perhaps all, of the Wolff/SPCO Teldec issues are out-of-print now—but their quality assures that they will be reissued in future.

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