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Philly's Future

The Philadelphia Orchestra has been without a music director or chief executive for more than a year. Peter Dobrin at the Philadelphia Inquirer has been speculating recently about the next chief administrator in terms that make it pretty clear he knows who the candidate is.

Today, Dobrin, and Pierre Ruhe in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (where they evidently are still using the services of their former staffer), have spilled the beans, naming someone who had come to the minds of a number of us when we read that the Philadelphia board had a unanimous choice in mind. Alison Vulgamore, who's done a formidable job as executive director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, is choosing not to renew her contract with that orchestra, after 16 years, when it expires in June. According to Ruhe, it is expected that her Philadelphia appointment will be announced as early as tomorrow.

Vulgamore is a terrific innovator and forward-thinker who both appreciates the music and has shown herself willing to think in creative ways about funding it and helping it grow. The orchestra has expanded, recorded, performed intriguing repertory under Robert Spano and Donald Runnicles, and came very close to getting a brand-new concert hall designed by Santiago Calatrava, the product of an exhaustive and thoughtful planning process, that ultimately had to be shelved when the orchestra failed to raise the requisite $300 million. It was a big disappointment in a successful tenure. Vulgamore could bring some much-needed energy and spark to Philadelphia, and it is to be hoped that this rumor is indeed true.

By Anne Midgette  |  September 22, 2009; 6:00 PM ET
Categories:  national , news  
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I said it with another occasion but I think it merits to be repeated: the way the Philadelphia Orchestra treated Charles Dutoit - and Christoph Eschenbach for that matter - is shameful. Dutoit should have been appointed music director. He's a seasoned hand who could give the orchestra well-needed stability, and, on top of that, he's interested in recapturing some of the old fabled sound. I hope whoever is hired as new MD will try to preserve this sound but I am not hopeful (Jurowski, whose name is mentioned, is a wonderful conductor but he tends to ask for a leaner sound of the string, not the rich one for which Philly is known.)

Posted by: cicciofrancolando | September 23, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Dutoit is also a world-class jerk who would have alienated the orchestra more than Philly needed.

Posted by: groundhogdayguy | September 23, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

"Dutoit is also a world-class jerk who would have alienated the orchestra more than Philly needed."

Dutoit is already in Philly - albeit with a smaller role - and I am not aware of him alienating the orchestra. Au contraire, the one who should be alienated is Dutoit.

Look, I don't believe that Dutoit is the greatest conductor today. But he is an experienced leader who could guide the orchestra through today's muddy waters. His repertorie is also enormous, though how much he can do with a conservative public remains to be seen. That he may not be the most pleasant person is not for me to say since I don't know him, but in the conflict with the Montreal orchestra I am definitely on his side.

Posted by: cicciofrancolando | September 24, 2009 8:29 AM | Report abuse

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