Posts Tagged ‘Orchestre de Paris’

Random Musings On the Paris Music Scene

Tuesday, April 16th, 2019

By Frank Cadenhead: The short list of candidates to be the incoming GM of the Opera National de Paris has been known for a few weeks now and we expect an announcement any day. President Macron, however, has been occupied with other matters, not the least of which is the Notre Dame catastrophe of yesterday afternoon. I was at the Apple Store a few meters from the Palais Garnier opera house. It was late afternoon when I exited and I saw yellowish smoke in the sky and, walking to the Metro, saw emergency vehicles and police cars passing, sirens blaring and threading their way between rush-hour traffic. It was only when I got home that the news hit.

The Cathedral of Notre Dame is, of course, one of the iconic symbols of France and its rich heritage. We learn this morning that the exterior structure is secure but the interior has sustained damage in the range of 70%. News, just minutes old, declares that the main organ, built by Francois Thierry in the 1730s, has survived the conflagration.

Because of the French Catholic tendency to have their cathedrals reach for the sky, the vast interior spaces do not offer a comfortable acoustic setting. While concerts are a frequent feature in the Notre Dame schedule, they are very seldom important or feature major musical groups. Notes frequently tend to wander around the vast spaces and return to the stage at inappropriate times. Music in the less ambitious Protestant German churches, for example, do not have acoustical problems to that extent. The temporary absence of the cathedral from the Paris music scene will not have an important impact on the local music scene.

What will have an Impact is more delay in naming a successor to Stephane Lissner at the Paris Opera. Lissner’ mandate ends in July 2021 and the Élysée Palace announcement has been expected for a few weeks now. It is generally known that opera houses plan at least three years in advance. The Opéra is always competing with the other top companies for star singers and directors so Paris is already hurt. Serge Dorny, who leaves the transformed Opéra National de Lyon to head the Munich State Opera at the same time, was named in March of last year and certainly has his own Munich staff busy planing rep and schedules for 2021-2022 and beyond.

Names still on the list are Peter de Caluwe (La Monnaie de Bruxelles), Christophe Ghristi (Capitole de Toulouse), Alexander Neef (Opéra de Toronto), Joan Matabosch (Teatro Real in Madrid), Jean-Marie Blanchard (ex-director of the Grand théâtre de Genève), Olivier Mantei (Opéra Comique), Jean-Louis Grinda (Opéra de Monte-Carlo), Dominique Meyer (Vienna State Opera), Laurent Joyeux (Opéra de Dijon) et Marc Minkowski (Opéra de Bordeaux).

The Orchestre de Paris season is filled with talented conductors, some being looked at to replace Daniel Harding when his three year term ends with this season. Women are a feature of the next season and some have noted particularly that American conductor Karina Canellakis is conducting the opening concert September 4th and 5th and one other in the season. She shares the season with Susanna Malkki, Martin Alsop, Simon Young and young Corinne Niemeyer. Male guests include Esa-Pekka Salonen, Riccardo Chailly, Christoph Eschenbach, Francois-Xavier Roth, Christoph von Dohnányi, Herbert Blomstedt and Valery Gergiev.

The Paris Philharmonie’s Second Year Numbers.

Friday, March 17th, 2017

By:  Frank Cadenhead


There was considerable concern about the future of the Philharmonie complex when it opened its doors in January of 2015. It was two years later than originally scheduled and almost three times the original cost estimate. It was still not totally finished and was in a poor area of town next to the highway that circles Paris. Would it attract the bourgeois audiences accustomed to going to traditional venues in the center of the city?

The first year was a surprising success even though the famed architect who designed it, Jean Nouvel, protested that his ideas were not fully achieved. The Orchestre de Paris, one of the principal residents, saw their traditional audience augmented by new attendees (“They applaud between movements!” it was noted with a shake of the head). The house was always full, whether for soloists, chamber groups or visiting orchestras and the outreach to local kids to experience music attracted thousands of participants. The dramatic architecture became part of the landscape as you drive by on the Boulevard Périphérique.

The real measure of its success has just been made public: the results of the second year of operation suggests that the success of the first year was not a fluke. The Philharmonie complex which includes the new hall, now named the Salle Pierre Boulez, and the earlier hall in the adjacent Cité de la Musique, counted 1.2 million seats filled, a remarkable 97% of capacity in 2016. This is essentially the same as the first year (a fractional 10,000 seats less) and points to a complex which is now an integral part of the Parisian music scene. Ticket sales, business and foundation donations and even international donor support guarantee 53% of the budget and the future looks secure. The support of the state (34 million euros) and the city (6 million) continues without counting the auxiliary benefit of the jump in real estate prices in the surrounding area along with other signs of local economic growth.

The just-opened Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, also absurdly over budget, is architecturally dramatic and has a similar open auditorium and widely-praised acoustics. Will it follow Paris and become not only a landmark which will be an important part of the city’s identity but produce corollary financial returns and new audiences? The Paris experience suggests yes.

A Surprise Choice: Emmanuel Krivine as head of the Orchestre National de France.

Saturday, June 18th, 2016

by:  Frank Cadenhead

On Wednesday, during a morning interview on France Musique, Emmanuel Krivine was blunt. “I’m trying to go to the end by being a little less of an ass than at the beginning” His selection as the new music director of the Orchestre National de France, starting with the coming season, was much delayed and many see it as controversial. His statement is certainly a reference to his reputation as a difficult taskmaster. At 69, he also bucks the trend toward young music directors by Paris orchestras. Mikko Franck, 37, is the new head of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and Daniel Harding, 40, is the incoming director of the Orchestre de Paris. Philippe Jordan, 41, is music director of perhaps the most talented orchestra of the four majors, the one at the Opera National de Paris.

Krivine replaces Daniele Gatti, who is going on to lead the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and is among top-ranked conductors, with regular appearances in Vienna, Berlin, Salzburg and Bayreuth. But Krivine’s career has not at that level and his leadership of the Barcelona Symphony and the Catalonia National Orchestra will come to end with this season. Since September, 2015, he has been the principal guest conductor of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and he has recently ended a nine year stint as music director of the Luxembourg Philharmonic. He continues his direction of La Chamber Philharmonique, a chamber orchestra he founded in 2004. Like Krivine himself often does, It focuses on the original instrument performance style but mostly for the Romantic repertory.

It was the end of his term as music director of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France (1976-1983) that I first heard about him. I remember the orchestra being more than a little unhappy with Krivine who had an difficult reputation with the musicians and who even avoided engagements with the orchestra during his last years at the helm. He also lead the Orchestra National de Lyon from 1987 through 2000 and, some say, brought them greater unity and international recognition but with much of the same grumbling by orchestra members and relief at his departure.

Monday’s announcement, by the CEO of Radio France, Matthieu Gallet, and the Director of Music and Cultural Creation at Radio France, Michel Orier, presumably was made after consultations with musicians of both radio orchestras; the Philharmonque’s office is a few doors down the hall from the Orchestre National, and there should be musicians there who remember his rule. We hear nothing about the ONF interim artistic director, Steve Roger, who was appointed for a one year term in July of 2015. One can assume that M. Orier or perhaps Gallet himself are taking on the role of artistic director (to save money?). The same is apparently true for the Orchestre Philharmonique with the angry departure of Eric Montalbetti, after 18 year of service, in late 2014. One does note that both Mikko Franck and now Maestro Krivine are found to be discussing an overall artistic concept and ideas for guest conductors, etc. in the press and interviews. One could assume that both orchestras have made the post of artistic director redundant.

The threats of combining the two radio orchestras and the subsequent strikes and controversy of more than a year ago are now in the past. Krivine seems assured that the budget threats are behind the orchestra and Radio France will not shrink its musician numbers. Much has been made of the fact that Krivine will be the first French conductor of the National since Jean Martinon (1968-1973). Not known for his French repertory, Krivine will not be, in his words, a “jingoistic missionary” but comments that “French music, it must be delt with, it’s very interesting.” He admits his repertory in this area is “limited.” “Therefore, I will invite whoever does the best work that I do not know, the type that would be absolutely appropriate for that composition.”

Regarding his previous experiences with the Orchestre National, he was equally candid: He recalls a 2004 engagement: “It was messy. It is true that it was not at all messy with Kurt Masur and with some other conductors. I’m just saying that I, that time, I felt I had too much to take care of with discipline.” His more recent experiences, in September of last year, were more positive. He found the discipline “was by listening, and that’s very healthy.” We will certainly know more about his alleged mellowing in the coming months and years.