The Philadelphia Orchestra announced that its less-than-loved music director Christoph Eschenbach will return regularly through 2010. I gave James Undercofler, the orchestra's president and CEO, a call to see how he was taking the happy reversal.
MG: Hey, I heard you got back together with Christoph! That's great!
JU: Yeah, thanks. Word got around pretty quickly.
MG: So, are you happy?
JU: Yeah, I guess so.
MG: What happened to change your mind? Sounded pretty grim there when he announced he was leaving.
JU: I don't know, really. We just started talking, and both realized we missed each other. He brought a lot to Philly, and we gave a lot to him. You know?
MG: Sure, of course. He told me as much a couple years ago.
JU: He did?
MG: Sure, he did. He never said he didn't like being in a relationship with you.
MG: Yeah. Even though there were musicians who were opposed to him before he even arrived. Honestly, I'm happy for both of you. Who hasn't been there? You're on, you're off, you're on...
JU: [suddenly begins crying]
MG: Dude, what's wrong?
JU: Okay, okay. He's bald! Okay?! He shaves his head! Why can't we get someone who looks normal? I mean, we've got Charles Dutoit as "chief conductor," whatever that means, but he's got that dyed pompadour-looking mop. Homeland security ought to keep an eye on that thing. Why can't we find someone who just has nice hair, or normal hair, parted on the side? Is that too much to ask?
MG: What about Kent Nagano?
JU: He won't return my calls. And I thought you didn't like him?
MG: Everybody says nice things about him, so I guess I just haven't seen him in his element.
JU: That could be. I'm that way with Jimmy Levine. I swear, to read the critics, you'd think the guy was Carlos Kleiber's long-lost brother.
MG: Yeah, but what can you do? So what are you and Eschenbach calling each other? Is he the principal guest conductor?
JU: No, he doesn't want to put an "official" name on it or anything, just wants to take it slow and see what develops.
MG: And you're okay with that?
JU: Yeah, sure, I mean, we just want to have him around, you know? And if this is what it takes, it's what it takes.[bursts into tears again]
MG: Oh, man, come on. Dry those tears.
JU: I just don't understand why no one wants to be with us full-time! Is it me? Am I that unattractive?
MG: No, no, it's not that. It's just that, well, conductors these days don't like to settle down like they did in the past. They like to play the field for a while.
JU: But he's 67 years old! And that dapper air Dutoit has about him only goes so far.
MG: I hear you. But seriously, there are a lot more fish in the sea.
JU: Oh, yeah? Like who?
MG: Are we still off the record?