StÈphane DenËve Named Music Director of Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Wednesday, August 18, 2004
The Herald [Glasgow]
By Keith Bruce
GLASGOW, 17 August ó The Royal Scottish National Orchestra yesterday announced the appointment of StÈphane DenËve, the highly-regarded young French conductor, as its new music director.
DenËve has conducted the orchestra only twice but was the popular choice of both management and musicians to succeed Alexander Lazarev as principal conductor.
However, both his youth (he is 32) and his designation as music director immediately evoked comparisons with Sir Alexander Gibson, the great figure of Scottish music, who was exactly the same age when he took charge.
The new man heads up a very youthful artistic team at the RSNO: Garry Walker, the principal guest conductor, is 29 and James Lowe, the associate conductor, is 27.
DenËve is a graduate of the Paris Conservatoire and was an assistant to Sir Georg Solti before winning attention himself with the opera company in D¸sseldorf. He first conducted the RSNO less than a year ago and conducted a Prom concert in June. He makes his debut at the Royal Opera in Covent Garden in the autumn with CosÏ fan tutte.
Yesterday Simon Crookall, the RSNO chief executive, was eager to make the most of the drama of an announcement during the Edinburgh Festival, and was keen to emphasise that this was a romance as much as a contract.
Beginning one of the most laboured (and, arguably, premature) extended metaphors in the history of arts press conferences, he claimed that the reaction of the orchestra to DenËve had been "love at first sight".
After he had seen the orchestra cheering and whistling their guest conductor, e-mail addresses and phone numbers were exchanged, and Crookall flew to the south of France to make his proposal.
For his part, DenËve proposed "a very long honeymoon", adding: "From the first minute I met with the RSNO musicians I felt a particular connection with them. We share a similar passion for music-making, and I loved their powerful, energetic response. So I accept with great enthusiasm to make my musical home in Scotland."
The consummation of this relationship was witnessed yesterday by Frank McAveety, the Scottish culture minister; Rhona Brankin MSP, his predecessor; and his Westminster counterpart, Estelle Morris, amid much talk of Auld Alliances and Entente Cordiale.
Mr. McAveety said: "The alliance of his inspired direction and the undoubted strength of the RSNO's orchestral forces will take some beating."
Although DenËve will not officially take up his post and a three-year initial contract until September 2005, no one was talking yesterday of a shotgun wedding. On the contrary, the conductor was adamant that the initial term had to be only a beginning. "That would be a defeat. I want to make this a story, so I have to do longer."
DenËve said that he had twice turned down invitations to become the staff director of orchestras in the past two years and had not known the position was becoming available when he first appeared with the RSNO.
"When they invited me again it was a mutual test, but there was no pressure. The orchestra is very easy to work with. This is a national orchestra, a major orchestra of Europe, and they make fine recordings. I want to make sure that more people know it."
DenËve is signed to IMG, one of the world's biggest music agencies, and Wray Armstrong, the company's director of development, added yesterday that touring with the orchestra was high on the agenda, with a visit to Japan among the likeliest early moves.
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