Announced yesterday, the Seattle Symphony's choice of Ludovic Morlot as its next music director--to take over for Gerard Schwarz after the 2010-11 season, his 26th--might at first look like a bandwagon jump; he's only 35, and young is the new black in classical circles after the ascension of Gustavo Dudamel, 29, that combination of Michael Jackson, Michael Jordan, Taylor Lautner, and Mozart whom the Los Angeles Philharmonic recently hired. But it's really a continuation of a tradition; Schwarz was but 38 when he took the job, and his predecessor, Rainer Miedel, was 37.
This is Morlot's first music directorship, though he has a dazzling list of guest-conducting appearances, with some of the world's greatest orchestras, on his resume: New York, Cleveland, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, and more. This could mean some fresh and exciting ideas, and also could mean some rocky times as he learns-by-doing just how much his job entails beyond conducting.First impressions from SSO players are positive, though I'm curious to hear more about what he's like in rehearsal. He guest-conducted the SSO twice this season; in his second appearance, he had to change the program at the last minute to make up for a soloist detained by the Iceland volcano. The canceled piece was a cello concerto by French elder statesman Henri Dutilleux; that Morlot chose a (gorgeous) contemporary piece for a guest-conducting gig was gratifying.
The real proof will come sometime next February, as the orchestra announces its concert lineup for 2011-12, Morlot's first season. We'll then see if he can generate the sort of interest Dudamel and Michael Tilson Thomas, in SF, have worked up for Seattle's West Coast sister orchestras.