This is what I dream for my beloved New York Philharmonic

One of the first things I did when I went to New York City was to walk around Lincoln Center. I wanted to visit Avery Fisher Hall, home to my favorite orchestra in the world: the New York Philharmonic. I just felt the need to step on the same concrete Leonard Bernstein, one of my absolute music heroes, must have surely walked on.

I was lucky to arrive in New York (June of ‘09) when Alan Gilbert had just taken the reins of the ensemble. I was a close witness to the beginning of his exceptional tenure. Even when I don’t live in its hometown anymore, I still feel very close to New York’s principal orchestra.

The New York Philharmonic needs to leave Avery Fisher Hall due to renovation works. Since Gilbert didn’t want to go through that transition, he decided to step down of the podium. That been said, the orchestra is on the brink of its most critical moment of its recent history: it needs to find a new conductor and a -temporary- new home.

Over the last few months there have been plenty of changes among some of the most well known orchestras: contract renewals (Dudamel/LAPhil, Nezet-Seguin/Philadelphia, Jansons/Bavarian Radio), new appointments (Nelsons/BSO, Rattle/LSO, Gatti/Concertgebouw) and the election for the conductor of what’s arguably the most prestigious symphony orchestra: the Berlin Philharmonic.

When choosing a new conductor, orchestras must find a person that possesses a set of features that goes beyond than just waving a baton. The chef d’orchestre is also in charge of overseeing the programming, dealing with members of the board, alluring potential donors, commanding the ensemble’s mission and acting as the most visible face of the organization -all daunting tasks, indeed.

Music lovers, critics, bloggers and musicians around the world have already started to make their bets on who may replace Gilbert. Among the candidates, the most remarkable names include David Robertson (who will, in my opinion, end up taking the position); terrific-but-too-young conductors like Pablo Heras-Casado, Ludovic Morlot and Daniel Harding; and a few underdogs like Manfred Honeck and Susanna Malkki.

But if I were to choose the perfect candidate, I’d pick Esa-Pekka Salonen. The Finnish composer and conductor has been one of the most outstanding personalities in the classical music scene. He became known for transforming the Los Angeles Philharmonic into the most modern orchestra nowadays (a status diligently maintained by his successor Gustavo Dudamel and its CEO Deborah Borda). He was also a key figure throughout the construction and opening of LAPhil’s marvelous new home: Disney Concert Hall, an accomplishment that might be Godsent for the New York Philharmonic’s upcoming reaccommodation.

As a composer, Salonen has written magnificent pieces of music like the gorgeous Nyx and Wing on Wing, impressive Concertos for Violin and Piano, and the arresting Insomnia (my personal favorite). As a recording artist, he’s been able to craft exciting interpretations of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and Oedipus Rex, the superb Henri Dutilleux’s Correspondances, and pretty much any Bartok work that has his stamp on.

Salonen is just perfect because he imbues a bold sensibility into the classical canon and a devoted and proficient approach into contemporary works. He’s also handsome, cool and cosmopolitan -features that make him simply irresistible for a fashionable city like New York.

There’s also a lot that may play against his appointment, I’m afraid: Salonen quit the LAPhil because he wanted to dedicate more time to his music. It also seems he has found an enviable balance between composing and performing -he’s being regularly invited to conduct top-notch orchestras around the world. Hence, truth be told, he may have more than one reason to decide not to conduct the NYPhil.

Nonetheless, my intuition foresees great things for a shared future between my admired Esa-Pekka Salonen and my beloved New York Philharmonic: a match made in -my- heaven.

This is what I dream for my beloved city: an excellent musician leading its main orchestra. A pairing that will surely inject excitement to classical music and put it back on track to what made it so great in the first place: the most transcendental expression of the human condition.


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