Posts Tagged ‘jeffrey kahane’

A Möst Rewarding Partnership

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

By Edna Landau

To ask a question, please write Ask Edna.

In March of this year, I was invited to speak to a wonderful group of arts supporters in Pasadena, California, by the name of Metropolitan Associates. They were interested in hearing about my career in artist management and in having the opportunity to ask questions about it. In preparing for the talk, I asked what questions I was likely to be asked. Among them was, “What were the most satisfying experiences in your career over the past thirty years?”

Last week, I had occasion to add such an experience to an already sizeable list. As I sat in Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall for three nights of works by Bruckner and Adams, magnificently performed by the Cleveland Orchestra and its music director, Franz Welser-Möst, my mind wandered back to 1981, only two years into my association with Hamlen/Landau Management, when Charles Hamlen and I decided that I would go to Ft. Worth, Texas, to see if there were any pianists in the Van Cliburn Competition whom we might wish to sign. As it turned out, I was totally smitten with the playing of a young pianist by the name of Jeffrey Kahane, who we were very proud to sign after the competition and who has gone on to a brilliant career as both a pianist and conductor. An unexpected by-product of that trip was meeting a manager from Liechtenstein who raved about a twenty-year-old conductor he was mentoring, for whom he predicted a major career. He was intent on giving him to an American manager who would develop his career slowly and intelligently. At the end of the competition, fortunately for me, he decided that I was such a manager and since I felt that this conductor needed to gain more experience before embarking on an international career, he said he would wait until I was ready.

Five years passed, during which I periodically received reviews, all in German, mostly from youth orchestra concerts. One day I was having breakfast with a leading London agent who told me that an amazingly gifted young conductor by the name of Franz Welser-Möst had just stepped into a cancellation situation and conducted a rather brilliant Mozart Requiem with the London Philharmonic. My heart skipped a beat and I nearly ran back to my office after breakfast, fearing that I would now be too late to sign Mr. Welser-Möst to our roster, since news spreads like wildfire in our industry. Fortunately, that was not the case.

After seeing Mr. Welser-Möst conduct the Tonhalle Orchestra in Zurich later in 1986, we formally agreed to work together and subsequently settled on a first North American season (1988-89) that would ease him into the orchestra system over here while still providing him with a high-level artistic experience. His debut was scheduled with the St. Louis Symphony, followed by weeks with the Toronto and Atlanta symphonies. We gradually built the American career while taking great care to balance it with Mr. Welser-Möst’s increasingly busy schedule and commitments overseas. His debut with the Cleveland Orchestra took place in February of 1993 and he returned nearly every season until he assumed the music director position in September 2002.

This coming season is Franz Welser-Möst’s tenth with the Cleveland Orchestra. There were certainly many highlights along the way in Cleveland, in New York and on tour both here and abroad, but I doubt that anyone present in New York last week who has heard his concerts over the years would disagree that these were among the most sublime. The unlikely combination of Bruckner and Adams seemed not only revolutionary but increasingly logical by the end of the week, and both the cheering ovations and the superlatives of the critics demonstrated the artistic impact of this mini-festival in New York during the hot days of summer. As for me, no longer Mr. Welser-Möst’s manager, I had the luxury of sitting back in my seat at each concert and marveling at the mastery and ease that he brought to the performances, as well as the commitment and virtuosity of the players who seemed totally invested in this special undertaking, confident in the results of their nine year association with their music director, and inspired by the opportunity to play Bruckner symphonies with a conductor who shares the composer’s birthplace and tradition. I reflected on the fact that even a truly great artist’s career develops gradually, and that there is no substitute for the hard work and artistic, intellectual and personal growth that propel it to ever higher levels of success. I felt immensely proud to have had the privilege of sharing that experience with Mr. Welser-Möst over the course of 21 years.

Why, you might ask, am I relating this experience in my blog? It is because I consider myself extremely fortunate to have enjoyed a long career in artist management and I fervently hope that young people with training in music might consider the rewards of such a career. The world of artist management is smaller than the number of deserving artists seeking representation. Very few agencies have sprung up in recent years. I recognize that these are difficult times in which to launch such an enterprise but I believe it is possible to succeed. The first step is to learn the trade by working in (or at least interning at) an established agency and thereby seeing how artists’ careers are managed and developed. (While a degree in arts administration or an MBA can certainly prove helpful, especially if one has hopes of starting one’s own agency, there is no substitute for this type of hands-on experience.) Patience will be required in abundance, as this learning experience is gradual; however, I have seen gifted, enthusiastic individuals, still in their 20’s, advance in their responsibilities from logistical to managerial in only three to five years. Some who seem more destined for a career in sales have become booking representatives in an equally short time. What are the most important characteristics of such people? A knowledge and love of music, excellent organizational and writing skills, healthy self-confidence, good psychological instincts, and sensitivity in dealing with people, openmindedness, perseverance and humility. Above all, they seem to exhibit a sense of joy that derives from feeling privileged to work with some of the world’s most gifted performers and giving them the behind-the-scenes support they require in order to rise above the rigors of a life on the road and reach ever higher levels of artistic success. The thrill of sitting in the audience and knowing that you enjoy such a professional partnership with the artist, or that you booked the concert that enabled the artist to earn the adoration of a cheering audience is an indescribable reward for a job well done. The beauty of it is that it can be repeated many times over in the course of a long and meaningful career.

To ask a question, please write Ask Edna.

© Edna Landau 2011