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The Column: All (or Most) Change in United Kingdom's Classical Music Scene?

By James Inverne j.inverne@classicalite.com on Jan 29, 2014 05:43 PM EST

Every so often, the U.K.'s music world revolves and a game of musical chairs ensues. It rarely happens all at once, but over a shortish period music directors move on, their replacements come in and a new "face" is somehow grafted onto the body musical. It last happened four years or so ago, maybe a little more, when Vasily Petrenko arrived at the Royal Liverpool Phil, Kirill Karabits came to the Bournemouth Symphony, Andris Nelsons to the City of Birmingham Symphony and Edward Gardner to English National Opera. That all felt fairly seismic.

I just wonder whether it's all about to happen again. What do we know? As anyone who has been following Classicalite will be aware, we know that Ed Gardner is set to move from ENO, to be replaced by Mark Wigglesworth. We know that Nelsons is leaving Birmingham for Boston, and there has been some speculation that Gardner might nab his old podium (a job everyone with a baton will be after). Petrenko has a new berth now in the Oslo Philharmonic and having done a good (great, actually) job in Liverpool might feel that the time is right to up sticks altogether. Valery Gergiev is leaving the London Symphony (everyone thinks that Simon Rattle is arriving from Berlin, though some tell me that's still not a done deal).

Where else? A few years ago there was intense speculation that Antonio Pappano would decide to leave Covent Garden after the London Olympics, some suggested for the Metropolitan Opera (but it now seems as though Pappano is committed to London for the foreseeable future--lucky London). Mark Elder, who has brought calm, continuity and superb music-making to Manchester's Hallé Orchestra doesn't look like he's going anywhere (lucky Manchester, though I wish an opera company would also give him a directorship again).

But I wouldn't bet against Kirill Karabits being snapped up. Bournemouth has historically been a springboard for higher-profile appointments--and being from that town, myself, I yield to no one in my borderline fanatical admiration for its orchestra. But Marin Alsop stayed for six years before Baltimore came calling, the late Yakov Kreizberg stayed for five, Andrew Litton for six. Rudolf Barshai for six. Karabits started there in 2009, so you do the maths. And as I wrote recently, I wouldn't entirely wager against Vladimir Jurowski starting to get a bit restless at the London Philharmonic, though I wouldn't put that anywhere near the "probable" column, they do still seem very happy together.

So, where does that all leave us? Bournemouth and Liverpool are maybes. Birmingham, ENO, LSO and by the way Scottish Opera as well (whose music director left abruptly some months ago) and in Northern Ireland the Ulster Orchestra (also on the hunt) will definitely see change. Sea change? Could be...

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TagsThe Column, James Inverne, Halle, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra, CBSO, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Simon Rattle, Valery Gergiev, Andris Nelsons, English National Opera