Ludovic Morlot conducts the New York Philharmonic in 2007. Photo courtesy Michael DiVito.

BREAKING NEWS Thirty-six-year-old French conductor Ludovic Morlot—a man known for his energy and unostentatious style—will succeed Gerard Schwarz as music director and conductor of the Seattle Symphony, signing a six-year contract that starts with the 2011-2012 season. After the 2010-2011 season, Schwarz will step down from the post he’s held since 1985, becoming conductor laureate.

This is exciting news for our classical music community, considering the rave reviews Morlot has received in North America, the UK and Europe.

New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini said, of Morlot’s Big Apple debut with the New York Philharmonic, that "he conducted the entire program with fluid yet unostentatious technique, palpable confidence and appealing energy. Mr. Morlot elicited a colorful, persuasive and breathless performance from the Philharmonic players." The Times also noted that he nearly danced on the podium when conducting the Juilliard Orchestra at Avery Fisher Hall in 2009.

The Guardian said of Morlot’s BBC Philharmonic debut in 2009: "Every so often in the musical world, a comparatively unknown quantity comes along and takes everyone’s breath away. Such was the case last week, when Ludovic Morlot—French-born, British-trained and better known in the US—made his debut with the BBC Philharmonic."

And when he made his debut with the Seattle Symphony in October 2009, the Seattle Times praised him for his "snappy, quick gestures and mercurial intensity [that] seemed to energize the orchestra."

So far, it’s difficult to find a negative review, even a lukewarm one. Closest thing is Chicago Times critic John von Rhein calling Morlot’s four seasons as a guest conductor for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra "not great, but admirable." Morlot, a trained violinist, has been touring the world as a guest conductor, leading the Boston Symphony, National Symphony (Washington, DC), Rotterdam Philharmonic, London Philharmonic Orchestra, even the Tokyo Phil. He’s contracted to conduct a minimum of eight weeks during his debut season in Seattle, and at least 13 weeks/season through 2017.

I’ll follow up with a more extensive profile of Morlot and comments from the Symphony soon.

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