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Six New Names in BSO Conductor Roster


With the announcement of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s 2011-2012 season, discussed below in the accompanying article by Mark DeVoto, came the announcement of conductors for the season (and the unsurprising revelation that James Levine would not be conducting at Tanglewood this summer) . Knowing that all eyes are on who is invited and who might be in the running for consideration to take over the music directorship, BMInt staff assumed readers would be interested in the guest conductors’ professional careers. Six conductors make their BSO debut in the coming season, and nine return. The debuting conductors first. One is very well known to the classical music world but has never conducted in Boston — reputedly because of animosity between him and BSO’s (now) Conductor Emeritus Bernard Haitink. So Boston audiences will hear Riccardo Chailly for the first time. The 58-year-old Italian, now chief conductor of the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig to 2015, has a numerous and varied repertoire in recordings, one of which is the recording with the Cleveland Orchestra of  Igor Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du printemps, which he will conduct in Boston with music of Prokofiev and Debussy (Jan. 19-24). Chailly will stay in Boston for the following week’s performance of Mendelssohn’s Lobgesang (Hymn of Praise).

The other five new guest conductors are much less well known to the general music public.

Czech conductor Jirí Belohlávek, who leads the BSO in works by Beethoven and Harbison in December, was born in 1946. Chief conductor of the Prague Symphony Orchestra for many years, he resigned after a controversial reshuffling, then founded and headed the very successful Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. He currently heads Pražské jaro, the internationally known Prague Spring Festival, and this past December returned as Chief Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic until September 2012. He also studied cello.

Spanish conductor  Juanjo Mena, born in 1965, will be conducting Dvorák and Bartók in October. He becomes the chief conductor of the BBC Philharmonic in the coming 2011-2012 season, with an initial contract of three years, and his current contract with the Bergen orchestra is through 2013. From 1999 to 2008, Mena was artistic director and principal conductor of the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra, with which he conducted commercial recordings for Naxos Records of music by Jesús Guridi and Andrés Isasi.

Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons, born in 1978, comes to the BSO in January to conduct the American premiere of Turnage’s From the Wreckage but with music of Haydn and Strauss. Nelsons is principal conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, through the 2013-2014 season. Although he has not before conducted the BSO in Boston, he made his Carnegie Hall debut substituted for the ailing James Levine two months ago, in the BSO’s performance of Mahler Symphony No. 9. Nelsons studied the trumpet and also sang bass-baritone, with a special interest in early music, in his mother’s ensemble. In 2003, Nelsons became principal conductor of the Latvian National Opera.

Slovakian conductor Juraj Valcuha was appointed chief conductor of the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI, Torino from 2009 until 2013. Born in 1976, he studied composition, conducting, and cymbalon at the Bratislava Conservatory. He appears with the BSO for the first time, leading a program of works by Kodály, Dvorák, and Mendelssohn, in March. Valcuha has conducted many orchestras in France and has conducted opera extensively, primarily in France and Italy, increasingly in Germany and England.

Jaap van Zweden, fifty-one years old, is currently music director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, head of Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, and chief conductor of the Royal Flemish Philharmonic Orchestra of Belgium. He has an extensive symphonic repertoire from Mozart through the late Romantics and into the twentieth century and has conducted much opera.

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Of the nine returning conductors scheduled for the 2011-2012 season, all but six, popular as they are, are not contenders for consideration by virtue of their age.

Christoph von Dohnányi will lead Brahms’s A German Requiem in April. The 82-year-old grandson of composer Ernst Von Dohnányi, who has been a frequent BSO guest conductor, led  the Cleveland Orchestra for twenty years and was also music director of Orchestre de Paris and Frankfurt Opera. He conducts everything

Charles Dutoit, who is conducting this week’s performances of Berlioz’s Romeo and Juliet, will conduct Debussy’s La Mer on a program with Dutilleux’s Tout un monde lointain, for cello and orchestra, in February. Dutoit, who is seventy-five, directed the Montreal and Philadelphia Symphonies and Royal Philharmonic. He is noted for the French and Russian twentieth-century repertoire.

Christoph Eschenbach, who last appeared in Symphony Hall with the orchestra in 2000, will conduct Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique and his overture to Benvenuto Cellini on a program with music by Ravel  in early March. The seventy-one-year-old pianist, who later directed Tonhalle in Zurich, Ravinia, Houston, Philadelphia, and the National Symphony, is known for interpretations of Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, and Schubert.

Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos conducts two programs, including one of music by Schumann and Strauss in the October into November program, and a second program of music by Haydn and Wagner the following weekend. Seventy-eight years old, Frühbeck de Burgos, who has directed the Rundfunkorchester Berlin, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Bilbao Orchestra, Vienna Symphony, Dresden and Cincinnati Orchestra, will take the helm of the Danish National Orchestra in 2012. He is known for choral works such as Felix Mendelssohn’s Elijah, the Mozart Requiem, Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, Georges Bizet’s Carmen, and the complete works of Manuel de Falla and Albeniz.

BSO Conductor Emeritus Bernard Haitink will lead three weeks of concerts in the 2011-12 season, including the season-ending program of Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, in May.  Always an audience favorite, the eighty-two-year-old Haitink directed  Concertgebouw Orchestra, London Philharmonic, Glyndboune, and Covent Garden. His main repertoire is Classical, Romantic and Post-Romantic masters as well as opera, from Mozart through Pelleas.

Kurt Masur leads an all-Brahms program in October and Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis next February. Eighty-four years old, he leads the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra Komische Oper of East Berlin and has conducted the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, New York Philharmonic, London Philharmonic and l’Orchestre National de France. He is noted for German romantic  repertoire.

Ludovic Morlot, now music director designate of the Seattle Symphony, returns to the BSO podium to lead two programs: Bartók’s Suite from The Miraculous Mandarin and Carter’s Flute Concerto, featuring BSO principal flute Elizabeth Rowe, and Harbison’s Symphony No. 4, Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloé Suite No. 2, and Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 in two weekends in November.  He is thirty-seven years old and conducts every period of music, with a particular bent for twentieth-century to contemporary repertoire.

The youngest conductor for the season, thirty-year-old Sean Newhouse was music director of the Young Musicians Foundation. He has guest conducted with the BSO, Cleveland Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony, Silesian Philharmonic, New World Symphony, and Aspen Concert Orchestra, and also likes the twentieth- to twenty-first-century repertoire. Newhouse returns to the BSO for Britten, Prokofiev, and Sibelius in October.

Esa-Pekka Salonen returns to the BSO podium for the first time in over twenty years, leading Stravinsky’s Firebird on a program with the first BSO performance of the conductor-composer’s own Violin Concerto, featuring Leila Josefowicz as soloist  in mid-April. The fifty-three-year-old resigned from his conducting job at the Los Angeles Philharmonic to pursue his composing, but currently has directed Philharmonia Orchestra in London Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Philharmonia Orchestra in London Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. He is especially known for twentieth- to twenty-first-century repertoire.






9 Comments [leave a civil comment (others will be removed) and please disclose relevant affiliations]

  1. “Of the nine returning conductors scheduled for the 2011-2012 season, all but six, popular as they are, are not contenders…”

    So 3 of the 9 listed are contenders? Salonen surely is age-eligible. Newhouse and Morlot are too young IMHO. And is Eschenbach is too old at 71? Maybe you should tell us your cutoff points.

    What of Myung-Whun Chung, David Zinman, Stéphane Denève, Anne-Sophie Mutter?

    Comment by Bill McLaughlin — May 6, 2011 at 11:51 am

  2. You’re right.

    There are actually TWO play-conductors next season: Anne-Sophie Mutter will perform all five Mozart violin concertos, making her first appearance in the dual role at the opening concert, and Leonidas Kavakos will be featured as both conductor and soloist in Bach’s Concerto in D minor for violin, strings, and continuo in March. We can probably safely assume that they will continue their primary solo careers for a while.

    These conductors listed below bring to “thirteen” those who will have previously conducted the BSO:

    Stéphane Denève leads a program of music by Stravinsky, Ravel, and Shostakovich in February. His contract as music director of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra has been extended twice, to after the 2011-2012 season. Born in 1971, he is a champion of new music, French works, and opera.

    BSO Assistant Conductor, Brazilian-born Marcelo Lehninger, who I believe is 30, made his BSO debut in 2010 and in 2011 stepped in for Maestro Levine at short notice. He will conduct the February 21 performance.

    David Zinman, who is also a violinist, leads the world premiere of the BSO-commissioned Symphony No. 6 by John Harbison, on a program with works by Weber, Beethoven, and Strauss in January. Born in 1936, he champions historically-informed performances of Beethoven, as well as making classical music more accessible.

    South Korean conductor and pianist Myung-Whun Chung, 58, who last appeared with the orchestra in 1996, will lead Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6, Pathétique, on a program with music by Weber and Barber in November. He has conducted virtually all the prominent European and American orchestras in a vast repertoire, including vocal works and opera.

    Comment by Norton, Bettina A — May 6, 2011 at 5:23 pm

  3. Myung-Whun Chung would be phenomenal but unfortunately for him Boston will be a step down in his career and step down in artistic trade. David Robinson is still remaining my first choice but “little bird” tell me that it might not materialize. Surprisingly at this moment I less concerned about search for new musical director and I would be more welcoming to news about changes in BSO administration.

    TW, there was James Levine’s conversation with Terry Gross this week over GBH. If someone missed it then here is a link:

    The Cat

    Comment by Romy The Cat — May 7, 2011 at 12:18 pm

  4. The BSO a step down from Seoul, Tokyo and French Radio?

    Comment by Stephen Symchych — May 7, 2011 at 10:43 pm

  5. *** The BSO a step down from Seoul, Tokyo and French Radio?

    Of cause! BSO is relatively provincial orchestra nowadays. All that we have in Boston is a pride about BSO 50 years back, when BSO WAS one of the world leading orchestra. Talking about new BSO musical director we are not taking about past but about future and from a perspective of future I do not think that Myung-Whun Chung would have any interest to lead BSO. When he was leaving France whatever French were trying to solicit him did not work – he even then was too big for France, no sarcasm intended. Find some Chung’s recordings with Opéra de Bastille (many of them were not imported to US) – you will get a sense of Myung-Whun Chung’s magnitude.

    Comment by Romy The Cat — May 8, 2011 at 4:37 pm

  6. Andris Nelsons would seem a good choice, based on what I have heard of his work.

    It’s too bad Gianandrea Noseda is not a contender, he’s also a fine conductor.

    Comment by Klingsor — May 17, 2011 at 9:50 am

  7. With regard to Myung-Whun Chung, he has a twenty year contract with Deutsche Grammaphon, which he could apply to the BSO, and a long list of distinguished recordings. He always brings something unique and elevating to his performances. Further, his sister, Kyung-Wha Chung, the famous violinist, is currently teaching at Juilliard, so he has connections in America.

    Comment by Dan Lobb — September 15, 2011 at 11:33 am

  8. I think Charles Dutoit would work best with the BSO. My money is on him! That or Masur.

    Comment by Panharith Chhum — November 16, 2011 at 9:45 pm

  9. Charles Dutoit has a magnificent track record, but there was a blow-up with the musicians which caused his departure from Montreal, over his attempts to replace a musician. He is also rather advanced in age to assume a major music direction post, unless many of the routine responsibilities could be handled by an associate conductor.  Masur is also advanced in age, and is likely looking for a less stressful assignment, such as principal guest conductor.
         Chung would bring a major recording contract to the orchestra, and is a new-school conductor, free of ego and tantrums (unlike some other candidates frequently mentioned in the press). The musicians who play under Chung regard him as something of a saint.

    Comment by Dan Lobb — November 18, 2011 at 1:31 pm

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