norman lebrecht

August 31, 2023

The least surprising feature of the withdrawal of Sir John Eliot Gardiner from all engagements for the rest of 2023 is the lack of reaction one way or the other, from those who have worked with the condcutor for up to half a century.

JEG, 80, has always been a controversial figure. Stories about him abound wherever singers and musicians congregate. They were still being whispered in social media corners this past week, but never in public media.

Why is that?  A number of reasons.

1 Many well-known performers owe him their start in life. Whatever he may have said or done to them since, the sense of gratitude persists.

2 Many musicians nurture hopes that he will engage them in future. As a self-starter, he casts by his own rules, not the formbook maintained by the music industry.

3 Quite a few musicioans are fond of one or other of his ex-wives and children and wish to spare them distress.

4 JEG is reputed to have friends in high places.

5 Most important of all, no conductor has created more work for more musicians at his own personal risk over a longer period in music history. JEG may have stepped back for the rest of 2023, but the music biz expect he will be back before very long, and there will be no want of bookings.


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