Monday, 14 June 2010

Yannick to head Philadelphia

Yannick Nézet-Séguin has been appointed to conduct the Philadelphia Orchestra from 2012. He looks about 14, but he'll be 37 by then, about the same age as Eugene Ormandy and Riccardo Muti were when they took the job. People just look fresher these days because we're more health and fashion conscious.  "It's only when the Pope starts to look young you worry", quipped someone.

There's a story in the Philadelphia Inquirer. "The offer came after  Nézet-Séguin had made only two visits to Verizon Hall in 2008 and 2009, meaning the orchestra has had less contact with him than with any other conductor since 30-year-old Leopold Stokowski came sight-unseen in 1912. Blair Bollinger, bass trombonist with the orchestra and a member of the search committee, said the young conductor's "energy" and "enthusiasm" made him the choice. "It just kept coming back to chemistry," he said. "It's so hard to describe in words."

Not so long ago, conductors were slammed on principle because they weren't geriatric. Nowadays learning to shave seems to mean instant superstardom.  Both extremes are nonsense. What matters is how they conduct, and allowances have to be made so a conductor develops properly and isn't pushed by false expectations. At 30, it's not easy for any conductor to have vision, so gut instinct does come into the equation. But "what" gut instinct ? My gut instinct, having heard Nézet-Séguin, is that he's capable of good things, if they nurture him. Perhaps Philadelphia may have learned after all these years since Eschenbach left, that good conductors don't pop out of cookie cutters.

Again, the sad drama of Dudamel. He is basically good, but instead of growing through experience, he became a media monster adored by those who think noise means music. It wasn't fair on him, or on music, but he's too established now  to escape. Even the very newspaper that made him an overnight sensation in the first place has turned nasty. Shame, not on Dudamel, but on the shallowness of those who "went caracas". So shallow that they've forgotten where and how it all started.

So good luck to Nézet-Séguin, to Philadelphia, to Alan Gilbert and to all who listen because they like music, not the packaging.

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