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N.Y. Philharmonic may again consider Jansons for post

Thursday, July 20, 2000

By Andrew Druckenbrod, Post-Gazette Classical Music Writer

Conductor Mariss Jansons has again been caught in the rumor mill regarding the next music director of the New York Philharmonic.

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's music director was mentioned in a New York Times news report yesterday as a possible replacement for outgoing New York music director Kurt Masur. La Scala conductor Riccardo Muti, who was the leading candidate, turned down the position in a statement released Tuesday, citing his other commitments.

Given that Masur leaves after the 2001-02 season, the New York Philharmonic now does not have much time to select a new music director, since conductors' schedules are booked far in advance. Jansons has a three-year evergreen contract with the PSO that he can renew every year.

Jansons was mentioned as being on the Philharmonic's short list prior to the orchestra's focus on Muti. In addition, incoming executive director Zarin Mehta has said in the past that he would be interested in prying Jansons out of Pittsburgh.

"You should be pleased with the caliber he has, given that he's on everybody's list," Mehta told the Post-Gazette yesterday.

"But at this point, we don't have a list. We had one person, and we worked with him and came to the conclusion that it would not work out."

Mehta, who is about to leave the post of president at Chicago's Ravinia Festival, added that he has known Jansons for 20 years and called the conductor "a close friend as well as a musical colleague." Jansons has conducted twice at Ravinia since Mehta has been there.

Although Mehta will not start at the Philharmonic until after Labor Day, he has been part of the decision-making process for a new music director since May.

"Mariss Jansons has been a guest conductor for the Philharmonic and had a wonderful experience with the orchestra," said Philharmonic spokesperson Eric Latzky. "I have heard the orchestra's experience with him was rewarding and warm."

It has also been reported that conductor Christoph Eschenbach of the NDR Symphony in Hamburg might be a good fit with the Philharmonic. Mehta has ties with Eschenbach, who is also music director of Ravinia.

Jansons was in Switzerland on summer holiday and could not be reached for comment.

He recently left the Oslo Philharmonic but has given no public indication that he would be interested in the Philharmonic position, nor that he wants to leave Pittsburgh, although he has criticized the lack of attendance at PSO Heinz Hall performances.

Post-Gazette Cultural Arts Writer Caroline Abels contributed to this report.

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