Friday, April 15, 2016

Stop Holding Your Breath.

Everybody wants him.

Between the announcement of Alan Gilbert's departure from the NYPO and the somewhat surprising appointment of Jaap van Zweden as his successor, the favorite candidate of almost everyone in NY was Esa-Pekka Salonen, the orchestra's composer in residence. And you can can hardly blame them for it, given that Salonen is a great conductor and composer, charismatic, and photogenic, with a long and hugely successful tenure at the LAPO behind him.

Now there's a new leadership opportunity in NY, and once again Anthony Tommasini, in his review of the Chereau Elektra, floats Salonen as a successor to James Levine.

Tony, give up. Salonen has made it perfectly clear that he is not interested in this kind of position. He has already been through building a concert hall, with Ernest Fleischmann as the executive; the Met is going to need major renovations in the next few years, and Peter Gelb is no Fleischmann. The Met has enormous financial problems, and Salonen does not want to be a US-style music director who gives a huge amount of time to glad-handing, fund-raising, and administration.

Peter Gelb should certainly go out of his way to engage Salonen on a regular basis as a guest conductor; in fact, he should commission an opera from Salonen.

And while I'm giving advice to the Met, while I think there is no way he would be offered the top job, there's another available conductor I can think of who is a top-notch champion of new and recent music and who should be engaged immediately for future appearances: Alan Gilbert.


Anonymous said...

I agree. From all that he's said about his desires, the one thing the Met could do that would make Salonen most happy is to commission him to compose.

Immanuel Gilen said...

Agreed with part one, but strongly disagreed on part two. Gilbert is about uninspiring a conductor of standard repertoire as he is (some seasons) imaginative as a programmer. I'll take Yannick Nezet-Seguin over him any day.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I've heard him do some good standard rep (Sibleius and Nielsen), but I was definitely trying to recommend him as a conductor of new and recent opera, not the standard rep. If that's unclear, I will edit my post.

Immanuel Gilen said...

Fair point. I would almost want him more to program the season than to actually conduct most of the works.

That said, his Doctor Atomic is one of my most memorable experiences at the Met. That sort of thing is definitely his strong suit.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Yes - first time I heard him, he conducted Naive and Sentimental Music at SFS.

The Met has never done Nielsen's Maskerade, which sounds fabulous on record. He'd be a natural to conduct its Met premier, and oh, so much else. St. Francois? Something by Birtwistle? or Henze?

Big sigh.