tue 29/07/2014

Another Brit conductor makes lightning progress | Classical music reviews, news & interviews

Another Brit conductor makes lightning progress

Nicholas Collon, already winning his laurels
Nicholas Collon, already winning his laurelsMaximilian Baillie

Anyone who's attended an Aurora Orchestra concert at Kings Place will know that twentysomething conductor Nicholas Collon - oddly, the birth date seems elusive - is a force to be reckoned with. When he speaks, he looks as if butter wouldn't melt, but in action his technique is disciplined as well as sufficiently free to get the flexibility he needs. So the London Philharmonic Orchestra has made an excellent choice in appointing him as assistant conductor to Vladimir Jurowski from the beginning of the 2011-12 season.

Collon says of Jurowski that he's "already been a huge support to me", and adds that he looks forward to "working with the London Philharmonic on such a wide range of wonderful repertoire". His canny programming scope with his equally youthful Aurora players has already won him his laurels: earlier this season he stepped into an indisposed Sir Colin Davis's shoes for an all-Mozart concert with aplomb; and whatever I may have thought of the new Nico Muhly concerto he helped to commission and premiere a couple of weeks back, I couldn't praise too highly his tough, brilliant work on the fiendishly difficult John Adams Chamber Symphony. Less than a decade ago we were asking where the young British conductors were going to come from after Rattle and Daniel Harding: now there are Ed Gardner, Aurora Orchestra co-founder Robin Ticciati, Leo Hussain (who's currently matching the radical look of the ENO Britten A Midsummer Night's Dream)... and Collon. It's getting better all the time.

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The first thing to be said is that talent's talent, and I stick by that from what I've seen. But Mike is right to ask that question, and it can hardly be coincidence that three of the best young contenders - Collon, Ed Gardner and Leo Hussain - are all old Etonians. Now that our orchestras are roughly 50-50 in the distribution of the sexes, conducting can't be far behind. I'd like to see more of Carolyn Kuan, regarded by most of the other participants on the Orkney Conducting Course the year I attended as the most promising. Susanna Malkki gave a stunning concert with the BBC Symphony, too, and it would be good for their reputation if they considered her as next principal conductor. Sez I, anyway. But, yes, we need to actively nurture more.
But I just saw him last night ("Pavilions" with the London Sinfonietta) and he was one of the most boring dull conductors I've ever seen! Yes, just another safe bet: but where's the life, where's the genuine spark? No, taking on a woman would be too much of a dodgy Artistic risk. Carry on the treadmill in the same old unmessy, neatly ironed, bejumpered classical music world. (And don't worry Mr D, if that concert comes up here, I'll probably give it all I've got for the utterly banal and boring so-called new music middle-England fare the Sinfonietta were putting on too) But everyone loves it! And these safe conductors!
Yes, but, once again, where are the women?

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