Perhaps the closest thing that the rarified world of classical music has to sports is an orchestra's search for a new music director, or in Europe, a new principal conductor. Much speculation ensues about which conductors are available, as well as the right match (or at least "right now") with the musicians. Recently, the biggest orchestral prize on the planet just opened up, with the announcement that Sir Simon Rattle would step down from the chief conductorship of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in 2018. On the other side of Germany, the Munich Philharmonic (MPhil) had the opposite situation, with their announcement this week of the appointment of Valery Gergiev as their new chief conductor as of 2015.
One Munich reporter, however, was far from happy with this choice, Robert Braunmüller of the Munich Abendzeitung, where he wrote here, bluntly:
"Valery Gergiev wird ab 2015 Chefdirigent der Münchner Philharmoniker. Er ist der falsche Mann am falschen Ort"Ouch. More below the flip.....
Almost Google-translation: "Valery Gergiev becomes chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic in 2015. He is the wrong man at the wrong place"
First, to set some context, it helps to know that Gergiev is one of the most famous and in-demand conductors working now. You can watch interviews he did with Charlie Rose here and here. He has two major posts currently:
1. General Director, Artistic Director, and Principal Conductor, Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg
2. Principal Conductor, London Symphony Orchestra (LSO)
This doesn't include guest-conducting gigs, of course. In addition to the fame, the money and all that, Gergiev has also acquired a reputation as one of the most overworked and time-squeezed conductors around. This 2008 FT article by Andrew Clark might give some idea, of arranging interview time with Gergiev:
"This is the one day of the month when he is not travelling, rehearsing, fundraising or managing the companies he leads."(You'll note some choice political comments there.) Back in 2007, an ArtsBeat post on the NYT blog here (sounds somewhat like Anthony Tommasini in style) posed the question, after Gergiev missed his first official concert as the then-new principal conductor of the LSO:
"....as always, the question with this barnstorming international conductor is: Why does he take on so much?This is one subtext running under Braunmüller's article noted earlier, where, using quickly reworked Google translations, he criticizes the appointment further:
Back home in St. Petersburg, he runs the Maryinsky Theater, the opera and the ballet companies, both administratively and artistically. At Lincoln Center, between the New York City Ballet and the Metropolitan Opera, it takes four people to do what Mr. Gergiev is doing in St. Petersburg.
In addition, he is the principal conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic, the principal guest conductor of the Met and an active guest with orchestras around the world. Now he is adding the London Symphony, though he will leave Rotterdam next year. Not even Plácido Domingo, who sings everywhere, conducts almost everywhere and runs two opera companies, is this crazily busy.
Mr. Gergiev's schedule surely accounts for the sometimes erratic quality of his work."
"So - once again - the conservative faction has prevailed among musicians. You have from the lost years under James Levine learned nothing and wasted the time with the interim chief Lorin Maazel......Braunmüller has an additional write-up on this appointment, where he noted that after conducting a cycle of the Dmitri Shostakovich symphonies:
But Munich's core business interests him only in so far as it serves his personal interests......
Gergiev has no more to offer than just a brilliant name.....A tonal refinement is not expected of him nor an extension of the repertoire towards old or new music. He cannot make either youth or the stronger social roots in the city a top priority because he lacks the communication skills and language proficiency."
"Nobody had similar 'artistic depth layers' as Gergiev reached in the Shostakovich cycle in the previous year. He became the preferred candidate of the orchestra - a love that was returned by the conductor."Braunmüller also has a beef that Gergiev's salary isn't public knowledge from this announcement, although there's no doubt it'll be hefty.
Another article by Braunmüller lays into his perception of Gergiev's artistic weaknesses in core classical repertory:
Under his leadership, one could experience horrible performances - such as Verdi's "Requiem" in January 2010 with the Philharmonic. But he also has a sensational 1998 "Parsifal" with Plácido Domingo in 1998 conducted at the Salzburg Festival and is unrivaled in Russian music. Whether he has to say even with Beethoven and Brahms is something less secure, because the international market has not demanded such music from him."He also criticizes the language barrier:
"[Gergiev] speaks only Russian and Russian-tinged English. Whether as the conductor of the orchestra, he can handle future crises and to be firm, remains to be seen."Well, Gergiev is a megastar conductor, with an ego the size of Siberia, presumably, so no doubt he'll assert his authority over the musicians where he has to. In terms of being overcommitted, according to the UK classical music writer Jessica Duchen at a blog post here, Gergiev will leave the LSO in 2016. However, she unfortunately relies on Norman Lebrecht, the Matt Drudge of classical music when it comes to reliability (i.e. minimal at best). Nothing is on the LSO's website as of yet on this, although Lebrecht has claimed on his blog that people on the LSO have contacted him. Admittedly, overall, Gergiev leaving the LSO in 2016 sounds somewhat plausible.
The other issue that might bite Munich down the line is that for Gergiev, his 1st, 2nd, 3rd through 100th priorities are his leadership of the Mariinsky Theatre. Every other Gergiev commitment takes a back seat. Gergiev certainly has a marquee name, and will attract a certain glitz factor, based on the fact that he's a pretty reliable box-office draw. In fact, a recent documentary on him was called You Cannot Start Without Me. I'm not so sure the Munich orchestra will grow, but it's not really for me to worry, I suppose. It probably can't do worse than currently, with the 82-yo Lorin Maazel as its current chief conductor.
No, nothing important (or interesting?) here for most DK'ers, but I couldn't come up with anything better (typical loser, that 3CM). With that, time for the usual SNLC protocol, namely your loser stories of the week.....