Gergiev takes baton from Davis

This morning brings the news that the Russian Valery Gergiev is to take the baton from Sir Colin Davis as Principal Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra in January 2007. Sir Colin is to become President of the LSO, and thanks heavens will continue his close association with the orchestra. In Pliable's book Sir Colin is one of the few musicians with teeth around today, and he is a conductor par excellence as well.

Valery Gergiev is something of a legend in his own lifetime, and works closely with most leading orchestras worldwide. He is best known for leading the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg through the tumultuous period of the collapse of the Soviet Union, and remains as its Artistic and General Director. He will retain his positions at the New York Met and Rotterdam Philharmonic.

The appointment of Gergiev as Principal Conductor is something of a coup for the LSO which inevitably will face upheaval as its long serving manager Clive Gillinson leaves in July 2005 to become Executive and Artistic Director of the Carnegie Hall in New York. Gergiev will undoubtedly add excitement and quality to the London orchestra scene. It is a shame though that the growth of the Early Music music ensembles seems to be causing a concentration of specialists in the the late romantic repertoire in charge of our major symphony orchestras. Hopefully specialisation will not lead to fragmentation. I hope I'm too young to say 'in the old days', but Sir Thomas Beecham was pretty damn good in Mozart as well as Richard Strauss. And Sir Colin Davis' recordings of Haydn Symphonies with the 'modern' Concertgebouw are something to treasure.

I can't help but finish with a quote from Beecham from the days when the conductor's life was a little less jet set, and there were fewer specialists around.....

'There are two golden rules for an orchestra: start together and finish together. The public doesn't give a damn what goes on in between.'

Update - it has emerged that because of his present recording contract Gergiev cannot record for the LSO Live label. This must be a major blow to the orchestra's own label as Sir Colin Davis' recordings with it such as Berlioz's The Trojans have been award winners. But on the other hand it may be a secret relief to incoming LSO Managing Director Kathryn McDowell . Sources suggest that the LSO Live label is unprofitable, and Gergiev's inability to record on it may give a the management a good reason to wind it down - see my post More on musician run record labels.

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Pliable said…
Simon, I can only echo your thoughts entirely. There are Sir Colin's wonderful performances (and recordings on LSO Live) to treasure. But I will also show my age, and recall hearing his marvellous music making with the BBC Symphony Orchestra when Music Director, and his often overlooked time at Covent Garden including a fine Ring in the 70's, and I remember an inspirational Tannhauser (the first time I heard it live, and I nearly missed the last train home!) which he then went on to conduct at Bayreuth.
Anonymous said…
Mm, I seem to have been reading a lot recently that Gergiev is the Emperor's New Clothes. Now I shall have chance to see for myself...

It is rather tempting to quote another Beechamism - why use Third Rate Foreign Conductors when we have so many Second Rate British ones.

I'm not saying it's apposite, but...

(I found you via Alex Ross..)

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