High-flying orchestras and opera houses experience migratory movements of musical directors at every change of season. Each rentrée lets see a new world order on international podiums. And on this occasion the baton dance is starring such popular names as Simon Rattle or Gustavo Dudamel, who have made drastic decisions such as leaving London or Paris.
The British maestro, fabulous head of the Berlin Philharmonic for two decades, had his reasons for announcing, in January 2021, that, after seven years at the helm of the London Symphony, he would become its emeritus conductor for the 2022-2023 season. and would leave the country for Germany. But it wasn’t all “personal” reasons, as he implied when he revealed that his next stage would be at the head of a classical Rolls-Royce like the Bavarian Radio Symphony, with its characteristic full and dark.
Discontent with London
Rattle has already left the London Symphony in the hands of Pappano to lead the Bavarian Radio Symphony
Living in Berlin with his wife, the mezzo Madgalena Kožená, and their children, the main problem for Rattle was that the concert hall project he promoted as the new headquarters of the London Symphony (in place of the already defunct Barbican Centre) had no prospects. of reality. After Covid and Brexit, the facility for which Rattle had been campaigning for five years, a room that was going to have transformative power for classical art in Britain, as the Tate Modern had for the visual arts, was seen as a elitist idea that could be dispensed with.
Curiously, the Munich orchestra that Sir Simon Rattle is now going to lead has perhaps found in him a follower of the dream of Mariss Jansons, its last director, who died in 2019: a new music hall in the financial district of the Bavarian capital . “London and Munich are cities that don’t have a proper music venue,” Rattle declared.
His vacancy in the London Symphony is now occupied by a released Antonio Pappano, who this October is already performing at the National Auditorium in Madrid and at the Palau de la Música Catalana. The one who has been musical director of the Royal Opera House in London for two decades and also of the Accademia Nazionalie di Santa Cecilia in Rome has been forced during these years to reject singular proposals: from La Scala, Paris, Bayreuth… The English maestro of Italian descent has not been able to step on those podiums and has conducted only once at the Met in New York.
If Pappano excelled in Verdi or Puccini, Covent Garden now has Jakub Hrůša, a specialist in Central European and Slavic repertoire
The throne of the Covent Garden fiefdom is now handed over by the versatile maestro born in Essex (1959) to the Moravian Jakub Hrůša (Brno, 1981). And if Pappano excelled in Verdi or Puccini more than in Central European and Slavic opera, Covent Garden is now embarking on an opposite stage with an expert in those repertoires, so it is to be assumed that for the Italianità he will use guest batons.
On the other hand, the void that Pappano leaves in the Santa Cecilia is filled by Daniel Harding, the gifted conductor/pilot who continues to lead the Swedish Radio Symphony (in addition to being principal guest of the London Symphony).
The French scare
The projects that Dudamel had in Paris are assumed by batons that are not necessarily known, such as the one that will direct the new ‘Lohengrin’ by Serébrennikov
As for Gustavo Dudamel, his escape from the Paris Opéra last May suddenly left the French institution without a musical director. But he is in no hurry to find relief. “We want to be very safe,” admitted the mayor of the theater, Alexander Neef, after those two brief years of happy marriage with the Venezuelan. Thus, the projects that the desired Dudamel was going to assume are transferred to different batons and not necessarily known: like the new Lohengrin by Kiril Serébrennikov.
Dudamel assures that he wants to be “with his own”. Paris was too absorbing and inflexible with the schedule of a global star like him. And he wanted to have time for exciting projects in America, such as ownership of the New York Philharmonic, which will begin in 2026, although he is already opening his mouth, without abandoning his adventure with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and his moments of glory at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Barenboim’s state of health invites a replacement at the Staatskapelle Berlin, but which baton would have a direct connection with the German chancellor?
Back in Europe, another hot spot that the classical world follows with special attention is the replacement of a totem like Daniel Barenboim, already in poor health, at the head of the Staatskapelle Berlin. In his hands, this orchestra has become the best-endowed in Germany, with first-rate institutional connections. What other personality talks to the sponsors? What direction would he have as direct a line with the German Chancellor as he does with Angela Merkel?
Keeping all distances, his replacement could be Christian Thielemann. Or not. The point is that the German musician, director of the Salzburg Easter Festival and (frustrated) candidate for the Berlin Philharmonic podium, leaves in the summer of 2024 the ownership of the Staatskapelle Dresden, which he has held since 2012 and which will now have Daniele Gatti. The musical world would have thus considered it to have overcome the erratic behavior that the Milanese had with some women from the Concertgebouw Orchestra in 2018, shortly after taking over the venerated position in Amsterdam.
No one is surprised that despite his youth, the Concertgebouw appointed him associate director, announcing that he would be a regular director from 2027.
After that, the members of this formation detected what is called to be the baton of the future. And they are taking it easy to tie her up. This is the very young Klaus Mäkelä. The 27-year-old Finnish maestro (who has directed the Paris Orchestra since it broke up with Harding) leaves audiences speechless wherever he goes. And no one is surprised that despite his youth, the Concertgebouw appointed him associate director, announcing that he would be the director starting in 2027, since it is an orchestra that has maintained its leaders for decades.
By the way, the Israeli Lahav Shani at the head of the Munich Philharmonic during the recent San Sebastian Musical Fortnight was a resounding failure. In 2026 he begins ownership in the German city, after the invasion of Ukraine led the team to dismiss Valery Gergiev.
Gustavo Gimeno will go to Real, but who will replace Pons at the Liceu?
The Teatro Real has already done its homework regarding the future of its musical direction: Gustavo Gimeno will replace Ivor Bolton starting in the fall of 2025, when the Valencian’s period at the helm of the Luxembourg Philharmonic also ends. And a question arises about the future of his main guest conductor, Pablo Heras-Casado, after his success in the Parsifal from Bayreuth.
Now it is the Liceu that has to decide who will take over from Josep Pons when in 2026 he completes the work begun in 2012 as a forger of excellence in the theater’s artistic bodies. The chosen person will inherit an orchestra that is artistically and humanly cohesive, so in many aspects they will be invited to be continuity, but also to generate a contrast. It remains to be seen if the Liceu will become the first major opera house in the world to have a woman in the musical direction, because, after the first quarter of the 21st century, it is still pending for a woman – and there are ready ones – to direct a of the top ten orchestras. The vaunted revolution has not just arrived.