Who Will Succeed the Departing Mariss Jansons at the Royal Concertgebouw?

By Christian Rockafeller on Apr 23, 2014 01:55 PM EDT

Mariss Jansons is to leave the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, once dubbed by Gramophone as "the world's best orchestra". It has certainly been a successful tenure (since 2004), the more remarkable for the fact that Jansons concurrently runs another world-class band, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, and has indeed recorded some of the same repertoire with both -- and yet each orchestra has kept its sense of unique identity. That takes special players, but it also takes a special conductor. The big question now is who can fill Jansons's shoes?

The orchestra haven't announced a successor, nor even any candidates. Neither does looking at the past seem to help much. They have had only seven chief conductors since 1888 - Willem Kes, Willem Mengelberg, Eduard van Beinum, Eugen Jochum, Bernard Haitink, Riccardo Chailly and Jansons. So, given that there are no leading conductors around today called Willem, which might appear to give a slight advantage, not much can be discerned from that list. A sense of drama allied to keen instincts for shaping might bind them as a group, and the orchestra itself certainly puts those qualities front and center.

So any candidates we suggest is really pure guesswork. But glancing at the list of recent guest conductors, three do appear to stand out who have these elements in abundance (Valery Gergiev could qualify too, but with his new Munich Phil job it is unlikely the Dutch would feel they have enough of his attention). First up is Semyon Bychkov, a most original thinker and a conductor who became truly great only as a mature artist - but now in demand at all the major bands. Vladimir Jurowski, if he could be prised from the London Philharmonic (or persuaded to add another orchestra) is an intellectual and emotional firebrand. And Ivan Fischer, a conductor who for years declined many big career opportunities to focus on the projects most personal to him, is as fine a conductor as any and has a certain fascinating mystique about his work.

Of these, we'd put Fischer in pole position, if he wanted the job. But then we're not the ones doing the hiring...

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TagsMariss Jansons, Concertgebouw, Ivan Fischer, Vladimir Jurowski, Semyon Bychkov, Munich Philharmonic, Valery Gergiev

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