Jurowski and Nézet-Séguin Extend London Contracts

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The London Philharmonic Orchestra and its two conductors - the same two who happen to have important, future-looking relationships with the Philadelphia Orchestra - have extended their commitments to each other, Gramophone reports.

As expected, and as already reported several weeks ago in The Inquirer, Vladimir Jurowski has a contract extension keeping him there through 2015. Yannick Nézet-Séguin, its principal guest, will stay on through 2013-14 under the terms of his freshened pact with the LPO.

None of this all by itself means anything new for the Philadelphia Orchestra, whose search for artistic leadership can now be fairly called protracted. It's been clear for some time that if Philadelphia wants Jurowski, it will have to find an interim until 2015. Would Dutoit cover the years until 2015 if given the title of music director? He has indicated that he might. Many players, though, are against it.

But let's dream for a moment. Wouldn't it be exactly the public assurance the orchestra needs if it could spell out its leadership for the next decade or so? The artistic picture has been wobbly since Sawallisch's departure in 2003. If the orchestra could simultaneously name, say, two or three conductors to titled positions - perhaps a principal guest to start immediately and a music-director-designate to begin in 2015 - it would show donors and ticket buyers that the orchestra has a long-term plan.

Of course, a more creative leadership team is also possible - like the one at which Philadelphia Orchestra president Allison B. Vulgamore placed herself at the center during her days at the Atlanta Symphony. What's not clear is whether Dutoit, who can be balky, would be willing to stay active here without a music-director title.

Hiring a music director who would not actually start the job for another five years is taking a chance, to be sure. But there is another way to think about it. Simultaneous appointments, whatever the titles, would put specificity to the orchestra's future well into the next decade. When was the last time the orchestra could provide such long-term assurances? You'd have to go all the way back to 1980 - the orchestra's last real artistic spring - with the start of the Muti era.

The advantages of a decade-long strategic plan are enormous. This kind of long-range vision makes it easier to plan seasons (hiring the artists you want), repertoire, ambitious projects, recordings and tours; forecast budgets; sell tickets; and reassure nervous donors - particularly foundations.

Think about a season with several weeks each of Dutoit, Rattle, Jurowski and YNS (as Nézet-Séguin is called internally at the orchestra); each has his repertoire and, especially in the case of the first three, his fan-base.

An orchestra spokeswoman declined to comment on the status of the search.

There are a lot of factors in play. Harnessing it all will be a test of Vulgamore's creativity. And charm. It packed extra meaning to read recently that Riccardo Muti had no intention of becoming music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, but eventually agreed because CEO Deborah Rutter just would not leave him alone.

"Deborah kept coming and visiting me here and there, so I realized that when she (said she) wanted me there, she really meant that she wanted me," Muti told the Chicago Tribune. "I felt that she was a woman of great personality, and the same time could be strong, and after one second could be charming. And could be deep, and at the same time to have a great sense of humor that is very important in life. (At) a certain point, I felt if this lady is the face of the orchestra, why not?"

That kind of clarity of institutional purpose - and the persistence to go after it - is exactly what's been missing so far in the Philadelphia Orchestra's poky search for an artistic future.

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