The LA Philharmonic replaces its 40-something conductor, Esa-Pekka Salonen, with a 27-year old phenom named Gustavo Dudamel. The Chicago Symphony then replaces its 65-year old leader, Daniel Barenboim, with the 66-year old Riccardo Muti, a veteran, universally-respected conductor. So, which one would YOU rather see next season?
This conversation can veer dangerously close to ageism, and that’s not what it’s about. If Dudamel is the live wire he seems to be, then forty years from now, the LA Phil will still be happy to have him, and we’ll be happy to hear him. But the classical music world can’t have it both ways – you can’t cry about the “graying of the audience” – and then continue to make safe choices, avoiding the “risk” of tabbing one of the younger generation of leaders who could actually lure curious younger listeners into the hall to see what the buzz is about.
The Chicago Symphony musicians are reportedly delighted to have Muti on board. They play well together, and Muti’s reputation is well-deserved. Dudamel, as we say in the horse-racing world, “could be any kind.” Maybe he will light up LA next year only to crash and burn, or maybe he will bring a younger crowd and perhaps reach out to LA’s huge Hispanic community. We just don’t know. But again, which one would you rather see? (Photo: Dan Porges)
Tell us: Are veterans or rookies better equipped to lead arts organizations into the future? Why?