NEWS: Jaap van Zweden named New York Philharmonic music director

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Los Angeles Newspaper Group

With the New York Philharmonic’s decision to hire Jaap van Zweden as its next music director (LINK), the merry-go-round of music director searches among the nation’s largest orchestras comes to a temporary halt (barring death, serious illness or conductor-management conflict nearly all of the recently appointed music directors are signed to 2021-22 or beyond). The New York Times article on van Zweden’s appointment is HERE.

There are, of course, several orchestras seeking leaders. Lisa Hirsch in her “Iron Tongue of Midnight” Blog (HERE) lists some here although she apparently thinks that the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and Long Beach Symphony are not important enough to merit her attention (the San Diego Symphony does make her list). However, for the largest U.S. ensembles, the searches are over, for the moment.

The NYPO decision to tap van Zweden (his name is pronounced Yahp van ZVAY-den) predictably met with mixed reaction in the press and elsewhere (see Hirsch’s Blog HERE for a list of media reviews). The 55-year-old Dutch native currently leads the Dallas Symphony and the Hong Kong Philharmonic but stepping up to the NYPO will be a quite different challenge and the media folks are quick to point up the issues.

Chief among them is that the NYPO will have to raise big, big bucks to renovate its home, now known as David Geffen Hall, and the orchestra will have to find new home(s) for at least two years when the project begins, tentatively set for 2019.

What’s interesting to note (from my perspective) is how the choices came down overall. Three of the orchestras chose young conductors (Gustavo Dudamel by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Yannick Nézet-Séguin by the Philadelphia Orchestra and Andris Nelsons by the Boston Symphony) while three went for older maestros (van Zweden, Riccardo Muti, 74, by the Chicago Symphony, and Gianandrea Noseda, 51, by the National Symphony of Washington, D.C.).

No women or U.S. born folks made the cut; all except Dudamel are white males from Europe or, in the case of Nézet-Séguin, Canada. Two are from Italy; Nelsons is from Latvia. At least one woman, Los Angeles Philharmonic Associate Conductor Mirga Grazintye-Tyla, has seen her name mentioned lately as a potential up-and-coming leader.

All except Muti have other music director commitments, two of them — Dudamel with the Simón Bolivár Symphony Orchestra and Nézet-Séguin with the Orchestre Métropolitain in Montreal — long-standing relationships with ensembles that nurtured their talent early (good for them, IMHO).

(c) Copyright 2016, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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