The Seattle Symphony’s music director has been asked to replace an ailing colleague as guest conductor of this week’s concerts with Berlin Philharmonic -- one of the world's most prestigious orchestras.
It’s a career-defining opportunity.
With only three days’ notice, Seattle Symphony music director Ludovic Morlot has been asked to fill in as guest conductor with the Berlin Philharmonic, a contender for the title of world’s best orchestra.
Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the French-Canadian head of the Philadelphia Orchestra and Rotterdam Philharmonic, was originally scheduled to conduct. Nézet-Séguin is an intensely watched podium star who has also been appointed James Levine’s successor as music director of the Metropolitan Opera (starting 2020). An arm injury forced him to cancel all three concerts in Berlin (Thursday through Saturday). Both in their early 40s, Morlot and Nézet-Séguin are almost exact contemporaries.
“It’s very humbling, because these are musicians I hold in such great esteem and admiration,” Morlot said when reached by phone in Berlin. “I’m looking forward to this incredible opportunity to engage with them.”
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It’s not his first time concertizing in Berlin, where he usually has at least one guest engagement a year. Morlot has conducted two other ensembles in this city that abounds with music: the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin. Some of these performances have even taken place at the Philharmonic’s home base, the Philharmonie.
“The Philharmonie is always a rewarding space to make music in, and it’s inspiring to think of its history and tradition, of all the music that has been performed there before,” Morlot added, referring to the concert hall designed by Hans Scharoun in the early 1960s — one of the music world’s acoustical as well as architectural landmarks, which is situated just west of where the Berlin Wall used to stand.
The repertoire originally scheduled for the Berlin Philharmonic concerts is — as Seattle audiences well know — an ideal fit for Morlot: Ravel’s “Mother Goose” Suite, Stravinsky’s “Firebird” ballet and a Berlioz rarity: “The Death of Cleopatra,” featuring mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, who starred in the SSO’s sparkling gala program last September to open the season.
Instead of taking the breather he had scheduled ahead of his final season concerts with the SSO (June 22-24), Morlot flew to Berlin at the start of the week and will have the usual rehearsal time allotted to a Philharmonic program: three rehearsals and a fourth dress.
Morlot’s high-profile appearances at the Berlin Philharmonic podium might be more than 5,000 miles away, but you can experience the final concert (Saturday, June 17) via live streaming from the Philharmonic’s technically superb Digital Concert Hall — given the time difference, it starts at 10 a.m. local time.