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Ludovic Morlot Named as Music Director of Seattle Symphony

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Seattle Symphony Orchestra has named Ludovic Morlot to succeed Gerard Schwarz as Music Director, beginning with the 2011-12 season. Schwarz's last decade or so has been controversial, with a lot of controversy gone public, but what is shocking is how quickly the board made the decision. As David Brewster writes in Crosscut,

The appointment is a mild surprise. The Seattle Symphony is known for moving very slowly on big decisions, and the search committee got a late start, which limited the time to audition candidates by having them guest conduct the orchestra. But here was a fast, early decision with no short list or leaked names.

More articles:

Melinda Bargreen in The Seattle Times, who has timing details and quotes Morlot:

"I'm very grateful," Morlot said of his appointment in a phone interview last weekend from Algeria. "I will bring all my energy and love for music to the orchestra. They have unbelievable enthusiasm and energy, and they listen to each other like they were playing chamber music. We can both grow together."

At 36, Morlot will now be both the youngest director of the three major Seattle arts institutions, and Peter Boal will get to drop the "new" and "young" tag. As both articles note, the SSO has a history of hiring young Music Directors (Schwarz at 38, Miedel at 37); Seattle Opera chose Speight Jenkins at 46, and Francia Russell and Kent Stowell were in their late 30's when they took over PNB, which wasn't nearly the institution they would grow.

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Although I'm about as far away from Seattle as one can be in the continental U.S., I was drawn to the NY Times article:

Seattle Gets a Maestro of Skill And Luck

The road to conducting fame can follow many routes but usually has one or two crucial elements: a lucky last-minute substitution at a major orchestra; an influential mentor; reasonable doses of talent and charisma. All of those came together for the young Frenchman Ludovic Morlot, who will become the next music director of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra.

Of course "luck" only becomes "good luck" if one is VERY ready when you get the call. Apparently Mr. Morlot was well-prepared, even at short notice. I was most impressed by this:

His breakthrough moment came in March 2006, when Christoph von Dohnanyi, who was to have conducted the New York Philharmonic, withdrew from the engagement. The program included a difficult work by Elliott Carter, “Allegro Scorrevole,” which few conductors know and is a tough piece to learn at short notice. It happened that the Boston Symphony had recently performed it, so Mr. Morlot knew the score. And as a violinist, he was well acquainted with another work on the program, Brahms’s Violin Concerto.

The performance was a success, and the Philharmonic quickly invited Mr. Morlot back. “We said, ‘This boy is going to go far,’ ” said Zarin Mehta, the Philharmonic’s president.

A last-minute substitution for Riccardo Muti at the Chicago Symphony came later that year, and soon further engagements to conduct major orchestras flowed in. One came from Seattle last October, followed by another visit in April.

On the April trip, because of a travel delay caused by the volcano in Iceland, Mr. Morlot arrived the night before the concert, had two rehearsals the next day and then the concert in the evening.

The musicians seem to be welcoming. (But aren't they ALWAYS that way before the man actually arrives?) :angel_not:
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Thank you, bart -- I missed that article.

Are orchestra musicians the snarkiest people around?

With another conductor, it’s often “a display of mutual admiration between him and God,” said Eugene Izotov, the principal oboist of the Chicago Symphony, who played Mozart’s Oboe Concerto with Mr. Morlot. “He’s definitely not one of those people. He puts the music first.”
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