The West Australian Symphony Orchestra in Perth is allegedly on the verge of hiring Edo de Waart as its next chief conductor. The Australian yesterday quoted orchestra insiders who describe the rumored appointment as "the worst-kept secret."
De Waart, a former music director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra and Netherlands Opera, would be quite a catch for a band in such a far-flung town as Perth. (The city is roughly 2,000 miles from Sydney and 2,400 miles from Singapore.) But de Waart's career has been concentrated in that part of the world lately: in 2004 he finished up a very successful 10-year stint as chief conductor of the Sydney Symphony and went directly to the Hong Kong Philharmonic, where he is now artistic director.
He would succeed Matthias Bamert, who came to the WASO in 2003 and was effectively dismissed from the post last month. The Australian reported in late May that the orchestra's board of directors had decided not to renew the 63-year-old Swiss conductor's contract when it expired in 2007. (A major issue in this regard, according to the paper, was the sense, among management and musicians alike, that he preferred to concentrate his attention on the well-funded Malaysian Philharmonic, where he became principal conductor in August 2005.) Bamert was reportedly informed of the board's decision just before the WASO departed for a five-city tour of China; due to the conductor's understandably low morale as well as a hand injury he suffered and major logistical snafus in-country, the tour was generally considered by the orchestra to be a fiasco, according to the paper. WASO management issued a brief press release shortly thereafter, on June 15, saying that orchestra and conductor had "decided mutually to terminate their contract," effective immediately.
De Waart appeared with the WASO in April as a guest conductor in concerts that were very warmly received all around. According to The Australian, he returned to Perth briefly in June for meetings with orchestra and Western Australia state officials. De Waart is reported to want to increase his and the orchestra's involvement with West Australian Opera; WASO management wants its chief conductor to spend 12 weeks per year in Perth, the standard commitment expected from the chief conductors of the Melbourne and Sydney Symphonies. (Bamert spent seven weeks annually with the WASO.)
Bamert, though he was sometimes criticized for "inconsistent" interpretations of the standard repertoire, is credited with raising both standards of musicianship in the WASO ranks and audience interest in its performances through his programming choices. De Waart, meanwhile, is considered one of the world's great orchestra builders.