Room at the top: another departure from RTÉ’s performing groups
Several key vacancies persist at the top of RTÉ’s performing groups, and one man is currently covering three roles
John Wilson makes his debut as principal conductor of the RTÉ CO in a Hollywood Rhapsody programme on Thursday. Photograph: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland
It was so quick and quiet that you might not have noticed it, but there’s been a major departure from the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra. Two days before Christmas, RTÉ announced that general manager Declan McGovern was leaving. The general manager is the person with overall responsibility for the artistic, organisational and financial management of the orchestra.
The RTÉ announcement did not give a reason for the departure, but quoted McGovern as saying he was “looking forward to embarking on a number of new projects in 2014 and I wish the orchestra continued success on its journey in the years ahead”.
McGovern is moving on before the first orchestral season for which he had responsibility is even halfway through.
His departure adds to the extraordinary turnover within RTÉ’s performing groups in recent years. The job of executive director has been vacant since Séamus Crimmins’s retirement last summer. McGovern’s predecessor, Christine Lee, resigned unexpectedly in May 2012, after less than three years in the job. Oscar Wilde’s quip that “to lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune . . . to lose both looks like carelessness” hardly covers it.
The NSO’s outgoing principal guest conductor (Hannu Lintu) and associate artist (pianist Finghin Collins) were not replaced when they completed their terms last May. The orchestra’s principal conductor, Alan Buribayev, is contracted up to May 2015, so unless a successor has already been chosen, the recruitment process is going to be severely hampered by the absence of a general manager and executive director.
The angel in all of this, at least from RTÉ management’s point of view, is Aodán Ó Dubhghaill. His full-time job is as head of RTÉ Lyric FM. But since Crimmins’s departure in July he has also been interim executive director of RTÉ’s performing groups. And since December 23rd he has been interim general manager of the RTÉ NSO. What more could any organisation ask of someone than to do three jobs rather than one?
The artistic succession in the RTÉ Concert Orchestra and RTÉ’s string quartet was more smoothly managed late last year. John Wilson makes his debut as principal conductor of the RTÉ CO in a Hollywood Rhapsody programme on Thursday, January 30th. And at the beginning of the month, Galway’s ensemble in residence, the ConTempo Quartet, officially succeeded the Vanbrugh Quartet as RTÉ’s string quartet in residence.
Sadly, though, there has been no announcement yet of any concerts or other events in ConTempo’s RTÉ residency, and no word on Wilson’s RTÉ CO work beyond March. His first Dublin appearance of the year will be with the NSO, in an all-English programme (Vaughan Williams’s Wasps Overture and London Symphony, plus Walton’s Cello Concerto with Guy Johnston) on January 17th.
The NSO season resumes on Friday, with the Dublin debut of US conductor Jayce Ogren in John Adams (The Chairman Dances), Gershwin (the Piano Concerto with Michael McHale) and Sibelius (Second Symphony). The NSO also begins its annual Horizons series – which focuses on Irish composers – next Tuesday with a programme chosen by Rhona Clarke: her own Where the Clouds Go and Shift, with Gerald Barry’s La Jalousie Taciturne and Pascal Dusapin’s Go. Later concerts in the series, which is conducted by Gavin Maloney, feature Marian Ingoldsby (January 21st), Brian Irvine (28th), and Seán Clancy (February 4th).