Hardest Working Man in Show Business!

Didier de Cottignies hasn’t quit his day job… he’s doubled it! An old Decca boss, he came over the channel to Paris in May of 2002 with the appointment of Kurt Masur at the head of the premiere French radio orchestra, the Orchestre National de France. As the artistic head of the orchestra, he (with a little help from the towering maestro) made the ONF one of the hottest tickets in town and left the supposed leader, the Orchestre de Paris, in the shadows. He helped snag hot property Daniele Gatti who took over from Masur in September of last year.

With their artistic standards slipping, the musicians of the Orchestre de Paris tried to figure out whether or not they liked their maestro, Christoph Eschenbach. Finally, the answer was no and Eschenbach’s last season will start in September. The designated successor, Paavo Järvi waits in the wings for the 2010-11 season. What’s more, the long time and respected GM of that orchestra, Georges-François Hirsch, was given a major post – responsible for all the performing arts – in the French Ministry of Culture in April of last year and has not been seen or heard from since.

The Orchestre de Paris had no official manager from April to November when de Cottignies was given the post of artistic director. Trouble is, since that time, he has not been replaced at the ONF so he’s working both jobs. He tells me he is supposed to share the day “four hours here, four hours there.” But is is very much like 8 hours each (with few weekends off). The French press does not seem to be bothered by the failure of Radio France to find his replacement at the ONF or the fact that the same guy is making artistic decisions for competing orchestras. It would be hard to imagine something like this happening in another major city. De Cottignies tells me there is now some hope in the horizon but there has been hope before which never materialized.

You can hear this tireless and remarkable man talk about his work with Stanley Kubrick in the movie, “2001, A Space Odyssey”

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