Monday, April 16, 2007

Faced With New Classical WETA Lite And Recent Developments At NSO And Washington National Opera, American Classical Music Under "Challenge" In Capital

"Ivan Fischer will become the principal conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra at the beginning of the 2008-2009 season, the NSO announced yesterday [Thursday, April 12, 2007].

It is an interim appointment, slated to last two years while the search continues for a full-time music director to replace Leonard Slatkin, who will step down at the end of the 2007-2008 season. Fischer will not serve as music director.

A principal conductor generally has authority only over the concerts that he or she conducts, while a music director sets the creative philosophy for the ensemble, oversees artistic operations and has the right to initiate the re-seating, or even the replacement, of musicians, subject to conditions in the labor contract.

Fischer, 56, who made his debut with the NSO in 1997, is currently the orchestra's principal guest conductor. In the 2008-2009 season, he will spend eight weeks in Washington, including five weeks on the orchestra's formal subscription series. The following year, he will spend seven weeks with the NSO, six of which will take place during the subscription season.

... This will be only the second time in its 76-year history that the NSO has not had a music director waiting in the wings to step in at the close of another director's tenure.

According to a participant who spoke only under the condition that his name not be used, the NSO had "serious and substantial" talks with Fischer about the position of music director. In the end, he said, negotiations broke down over Fischer's determination to continue his work as the founder and director of the Budapest Festival Orchestra in Hungary, where he lives with his wife and two small children.

"The music directorship may have crossed some people's minds," Fischer acknowledged yesterday from Budapest. "But in the end, this was the best arrangement for everybody involved. I am very busy and committed to my orchestra here. But I love to work with the NSO. I really appreciate its collection ambition and search for good quality. It is very close to my heart, this orchestra."

Fischer is a specialist in Central European music, including the works of Bela Bartok and Antonin Dvorak. Yet he has led Mozart opera at the Glyndebourne Festival in England, conducted an all-Mendelssohn program on his last trip to Washington and has made widely admired recordings of Mahler and Tchaikovsky.

Rita Shapiro, executive director of the NSO, said that she admired the "intensity of [Fischer's] musicmaking, the depth of his preparation, his attention to detail and the color and nuance he draws from the orchestra...."

Shapiro declined comment on any aspect of the music director search yesterday but said that she would plan the seasons and steer the orchestra's direction for the next two years, in tandem with the NSO's recently appointed director of artistic planning, Nigel Boon, and with advice from Fischer. Shapiro has an extensive background in orchestra operations and touring. She served as operations manager of the Cleveland Orchestra for 12 years.

Fischer had been the clear favorite to succeed Slatkin for some months.

"What I really think has happened here is that the NSO put all of its eggs in one basket and just assumed Fischer would take the job," a member of the orchestra who spoke only under the condition of anonymity, said yesterday. "Now, with just about all the good guys already snapped up by other orchestras, the list of possible candidates, other than heavies like Lorin Maazel, is growing thin." ...

Indeed, interviews with several NSO players indicated strong admiration for recent guest conductors such as Maazel, Kurt Masur and Christoph von Dohnanyi, all in their late 70s, toward the end of distinguished careers and unlikely to want the challenges of another music directorship. "If we could work with one of these people for a few weeks a year, we'd be in better shape than we would with some younger and less authoritative person who gives us three or four months," one said." ...

Tim Page "NSO Picks Fischer as Interim Maestro: Hungarian to Become Principal Conductor for 2 Years at the Start of 2008-09 Season" Washington Post April 13, 2007


American classical music, in the Nation's Capital, is increasingly concentrated in the hands of such individuals as Classical WETA Lite's Jim Allison, the National Symphony's Rita Shapiro and Nigel Boon [and Michael Kaiser], and Placido Domingo of the Washington National Opera [who is, reportedly, facing opposition from American classical music- disfavoring Board Members for the National Company's historic commitment to program one American classical opera each and every season].

The NSO's recently appointed director of artistic planning, Nigel Boon, will work with distinguished, but Central Europe-focused, NSO Principal Conductor Ivan Fischer (above), to try to counteract the pernicious influence that the new Classical WETA-FM, under Jim Allison, Dan De Vany, and Sharon Rockefeller, is having on American classical music culture in the Nation's Capital.

Photo credit: (c) Budapest Festival Orchestra. With thanks.


Post a Comment

<< Home