Favourite names in Berlin Philharmonic's hunt for new chief

GMT 08:30 2015 Friday ,08 May

Arab Today, arab today Favourite names in Berlin Philharmonic's hunt for new chief

Classical music conductor, Italian Riccardo Muti
Berlin - AFP

The legendary Berlin Philharmonic meets to elect its chief conductor on Monday in one of the most closely watched appointments in the world of classical music.

Current artistic director, Britain's Sir Simon Rattle, 60, is laying down the baton in 2018 of an orchestra widely regarded as the best in the world.

The following is a list of the candidates most frequently mooted to take over:


The 72-year-old Argentine-born Israeli conductor currently heads Berlin's flagship opera house, the State Opera, and had already been mooted as successor to Herbert von Karajan, who led the Philharmonic until 1989.

He is much feted for his work with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, which brings together talented young Israeli and Palestinian musicians.

There are few other musicians alive today with the same knowledge and breadth of repertoire.

When Rattle was asked about Barenboim's suitability, he replied: "What can you say? He IS music."


A Berlin native, Christian Thielemann, 56, is nearly unrivalled in the core German repertoire of Beethoven, Brahms, Wagner and Strauss.

But after Rattle worked so hard to expand the Philharmonic's repertoire and audiences, Thielemann's much narrower conservative tastes could be a step back -- and he is feared for his prickly character, too.  


After the success of Rattle's efforts to make classical music more accessible, many believe the baton should go to a younger, rising star, such as Latvia's Andris Nelsons, 37.

Currently chief conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and also music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Nelsons has already conducted to great critical acclaim at the world-famous Bayreuth Festival.


At 34, the charismatic Gustavo Dudamel is even younger than Nelsons. Having worked his way up through Venezuela's "El Sistemo", a form of musical education that provides youngsters with a way of out poverty, the "Dude", as he is sometimes known, is chief conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmomic where his contract runs until 2021.

With his mop of curly black hair, his boundless energy and winning smile, the appointment of Dudamel would score the Berlin Philharmonic a significant PR coup.


Kirill Petrenko, a 43-year-old Russian, would probably be the critics' favourite. He is a "musician's conductor", painstaking in his preparation and rehearsals who can draw out the very best from his orchestra.

Currently general music director of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, his shyness -- and lack of recordings -- could count against him.

Riccardo CHAILLY

Italian conductor Riccardo Chailly, 62, is chief conductor of Germany's oldest orchestra, the Leipzig Gewandhaus.

But rumours of health problems and his recent appointment as music director at La Scala opera house in Milan mean he has only an outside chance.

Riccardo MUTI

The other Italian in the running is 73-year-old Riccardo Muti, music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

But insiders believe the chances of another Italian after Claudio Abbado, who was in the post until 2002, are slim.


If Petrenko is the critics' favourite, for both audiences and musicians, 72-year-old Latvian-born Mariss Jansons must be one of the best-loved conductors today.

Rattle described him as "the best of all of us".

Jansons leads both the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in Munich and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. But his health is ailing.

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