Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Kerres successor fixed

So that was quick. The Konzerthaus hasn’t confirmed yet, but presumably thinks that swiftly announcing a replacement will quell speculation and make the whole thing look a little more planned. Vienna doesn’t tend to do fair and open competition when it comes to Intendanten and official appointment processes, insofar as they exist, tend to get undermined by parties with interests to protect (Dominique Meyer was the Vienna Philharmonic’s candidate for Staatsoperndirektor). But let it at least be said that the Vienna Philharmonic pulls strings openly and without shame; the whiff of a backroom stitch-up is worrying in this case even by Viennese standards, since despite this leak there is no indication yet of how the decision was reached. I wrote yesterday of it being time for a woman and in any transparent process Angelika Möser, current general secretary of Jeunesse who already worked for over ten years at the Konzerthaus, would have been a candidate.

And so my prediction of yesterday turned out half-right: new Intendant Matthias Naske is an outsider who has led the Philharmonie Luxembourg, by most accounts impressively, since 2003, but also a born Wiener who cut his Intendant’s teeth at the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester, Camerata Salzburg and Jeunesse, which he led from 1996 until his Luxembourg appointment. Having overseen the 2005 transition to a new building evidently inspired by a vacuum cleaner filter, Naske has stamped a profile on the Philharmonie identical to that of the Konzerthaus: orchestral programming is split between the local Philharmonic and top international visiting ensembles; as in Vienna, November sees a contemporary music festival; and HIP, jazz and world music are treated as important elements of the house’s artistic mission. Both halls run a strong Kinder programme and excellent ticket deals for students. Naske is said to love the financial side of the job and his PR team has shown a flair for offbeat advertising:

So whats not to like? Nothing really, except for the small matter of him starting at the Konzerthaus in September 2013 and being contractually bound to Luxembourg until December 2015. The Viennese call this trying to sit on two Sesseln and do not like it when their Intendanten are seen not to be Wienertreu, even if with the 2013-14 programme largely fixed Naske’s first year will be a light one. In the Luxembourg press he speaks of not wanting to leave the Philharmonie in the lurch, but to survive in Vienna there is no option but for that to happen. The appointment has also done nothing to quieten the expected Hinterhäuser muttering – his interim stewardship of Salzburg has been sensationally mythologized as the stuff of Festspiele legend and he has a free year before taking over the Festwochen in 2014, or could even run both that and the Konzerthaus, so his supporters suggest.

Then there is the question of what the Konzerthaus is thinking in all of this. Trusty leakers Gert Korentschnig and Christoph Irrgeher claim that Kerres, whose contract was extended one year at a time, jumped before he was pushed by a dissatisfied Präsidium looking for a change of direction. A sure sign that this is however purely personal is that the style and records of Kerres and Naske at the Konzerthaus and Philharmonie respectively are virtually indistinguishable. The courtesy of allowing an Intendant a dignified departure is also being eroded by anonymous whingers with spurious grievances: last year’s 99th season was respectable if smaller in scale than usual so that monies saved could be rolled over into the generous budget for a special season to mark the house’s 100th anniversary, though despite the commonsensical logic this is now seized upon by those who feel the Präsidium is best defended by lame straw clutching. In truth, last season was hardly disappointing and painting Kerres’ programming for the coming one as Pereira-like is daft.

Yesterday I was urging the family reasons shtick to be taken credibly, though of course in Vienna no amount of intrigue should ever be discounted. So much of it turns out to be true. But Kerres is reportedly already receiving job offers and hopefully from institutions that will appreciate him more. This blog wishes him all the best.

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