The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: What qualities are needed to be a world-class conductor? New York Times critics weigh in. What do you think? | April 11, 2015

By Jacob Stockinger

You may recall that Alan Gilbert (below), the conductor of the New York Philharmonic, surprised the music world when he recently announced he would step down at the end of the 2017 season after only eight seasons on the job.

New York Philharmonic

Speculation about a successor — with Marin Alsop (below top) of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Finnish native Esa-Pekka Salonen (below bottom)  former director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, topping the lists — began immediately.

Right now, The Ear leans toward Marin Alsop. It would be great to see a woman in such a high-profile post. It would also be fitting for a protege of Leonard Bernstein to ascend to the podium where American-born and American-trained conductors first made their name. Buy American!

Marin Alsop big


The sensational Venezuelan-born and Venezuelan-trained superstar Gustavo Dudamel (below) seems to have taken himself out of the competition by agreeing to stay longer in LA. But every performer has his or her price, so his story may not yet be over in terms of going to New York.


But Gilbert’s move also raises the issue: What qualities should one look for in a world-class music director and conductor?

These days, it involves a whole lot more than holding the baton and leading the players.

Anyway recently music critics for The New York Times weighed in with their preferences and points of view.

Here is a link to the story:

Read and see what you agree and disagree with.

And also let us know who you think would be a good choice to be the next music director and conductor of the New York Philharmonic.

The Ear wants to hear.

1 Comment »

  1. Well, the reason to NOT clap at the end of a middle movement in a multi-mvnt. work is to not interrupt the musical continuity, much as many churches now do not permit any applause for performers in liturgy.
    That is NOT stuffy protocol, it makes sense. Remember the scene in Amadeus where Don Giovanni has been turned into a “vaudeville”, with the attendant relaxed atmosphere? That ain’t the symphony I wanna go to, not at these current prices.
    As for what particular person should get this gig, I do not follow the arcane and high-falutin’ world o’ conductors nearly close enough to have an informed opinion.
    I WILL say that having a composer/conductor has really seen its time come and go. Writing any modern music takes a LOT longer than even writing the extended forms and tonality of Mahler, software notwithstanding. So, I think they ought to let proficiency with OTHER people’s new music override the ability to create it oneself.
    There are at least three types of NYC concert-goers. The first group is the average income person, who loves the music, and can make the season with a subscription discount, or cherry-pick the shows they love, as all of this group really likes the Music, not the social scene or the Being Seen in Evening Dress by Those who need to See those Who Need to be Seen.
    The second group is a middle-class bunch, often married couples, who have a wide and consistent participation in most of the cultural life in the City. These stalwarts will be there, unless the whole thing collapses in a dusty heap.
    The Third Group are the upper-class supporters, who may or may not have informed or particular musical tastes or ideas. This group is mostly invested in how the Orchestra is viewed in the national and world media.
    I think getting a female conductor is not as essential for NYC as it would be for many smaller, that is to say not the pinnacle of American music-making-type orchestras. If she were to have difficulties on such a visible and economically important platform, the howling from critics and general media would be fierce. New Yorkers have opinions that are based on a rather unique set of criteria, which is to say they are NYC-centric to the practical exclusion of many other factors.
    NYC is really a bunch of small cities all butting heads up against each other, so pleasing them all is not a realistic task. Pleasing a certain target group is more viable, and so, pick your target, and make them HAPPY first, and let the musical and fund-raising chips fall where they will.
    MBB, who does not like most modern music, but is willing to listen, and compose, because he does NOT conduct anything…


    Comment by 88melter — April 11, 2015 @ 10:36 am

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