“A little more rallentando from you apples, please. Pears, that’s an eighth note at the start there … “
Just how many weeks Jaap van Sweden will spend in Dallas was a matter of discussion when he was hired to run the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Actually, the 12 (and then, later 15) weeks he’ll spend with the DSO are a pretty good run in these days of multiple posts for conductors all over the world. As Scott Cantrell wrote in the Dallas Morning News when van Sweden was appointed:
In addition to the DSO, he’ll continue his appointment with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, and he’s due to become principal conductor of the Royal Flanders Philharmonic Orchestra in Antwerp, Belgium, in 2008.His initial DSO contract calls for him to conduct 12 weeks in the 2008-2009 season, and then 15 weeks in each of the next three seasons. His contract with the Dutch orchestra is for 14 to 17 weeks per season; the Belgian orchestra involves just seven weeks….
Once the norm, truly resident music directors, such as Mr. Litton, have become much rarer in today’s jet-set world. The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra recently hired Austrian conductor Manfred Honeck to lead a mere 10 weeks per season. Mr. van Zweden’s 15-week commitment to Dallas is virtually unheard of these days.
But in his Artsjournal blog, on the record, Henry Vogel, president of the League of American Orchestras, asks, just how much time should be expected? What about the conductor’s presence in the community? His commitment to it, his ‘feel’ for it?
Sometimes search committee members like to say, “It is important for people to see our conductor at the supermarket.” Well… I’ve seen no evidence in music director successes or failures that the “supermarket factor” was a critical one. So they’ll shop once a week and run into two or three people who might recognize them. That isn’t where a conductor makes a community impact.
But he also makes this surprising suggestion: Conductors should —
— give half-again, or nearly half-again, as many weeks as they are required to be on the podium. So if a conductor is required to be there for eight conducting weeks, another three or four weeks is a reasonable expectation (and they don’t need to be consecutive seven-day weeks–let’s call them 20 to 30 additional days). It is frankly unfair to expect a conductor to spend much more time than that in town and not conducting. Everyone must remember that conductors conduct. That’s what they do–and unlike instrumentalists, who can take their instrument home and play alone, or get two friends together and make chamber music, conductors can only conduct standing on a podium in front of an orchestra. Doing that is what they need to do. …
But, and this is the important part, it is the quality of that time in the community, both during the conducting and non-conducting weeks, that can make the impact.
Read his post here.
image from outsidetheboxblog.