With the air of the College of Cardinals electing a new Pope, the 32 members of the New York Philharmonic-Symphony's board of directors last week filed out of their board room in Manhattan's Steinway Hall and announced the new holder of the most prestigious post in U.S. music. The postmusical director and conductor of the New York Philharmonicwill be filled by a Dalmatian-born Pole, Artur Rodzinski, bushy-haired, gangling present conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra.
The Philharmonic's board hopes that Rodzinski will provide the solution of a problem that has vexed Manhattan critics and audiences for six years: how to make the Philharmonic sound like the near million dollars a year it costs to run. Since the great Arturo Toscanini left in 1936 the Philharmonic has slipped from first place to a weak third or fourth among U.S. orchestras.
For five years, under the good-natured, timid leadership of Conductor Barbirolli, it acted like a willful nag without a rider. When the directors supplemented Conductor Barbirolli with a string of famous guest conductors, the orchestra became more balky and independent than ever. The visiting conductors began to refer to its undisciplined and arrogant members as "the Dead End Kids." Meanwhile, one-man orchestras like Serge Koussevitzky's Boston Symphony and Frederick Stock's Chicago Symphony continued to take top honors. This year even the Philharmonic's board got around to thinking that the Philharmonic probably needed a tough boss.
With the wartime U.S. swarming with refugee maestros, there were plenty of bosses to choose from. Highest on the list of candidates stood: 1) Arturo Toscanini, who for a sufficient fee might have been lured away from his job with the NBC Orchestra; 2) Serge Koussevitzky, who until recently (TIME, Dec. 7) was growing extremely restless in Boston over his union trouble with A. F. of M. Boss James Caesar Petrillo; 3) Sir Thomas Beecham, who has not had a steady assignment in years; 4) Bruno Walter.
But Conductors Koussevitzky, Beecham and Walter were all in their 60s, and Conductor Toscanini was 75. The directors decided on a younger man, hesitated over the name of Dimitri Mitropoulos, glabrous Greek conductor of the Minneapolis Symphony, and finally gave the job to the less brilliant, much tougher, 49-year-old Rodzinski.
Biggest factor in the choice of Conductor Rodzinski was probably his reputation as an orchestra builder. In ten years he raised the Cleveland Orchestra from a second-rank outfit to one that threatened to take the Midwest championship from the late Frederick Stock's Chicago Symphony. When, in 1937, Arturo Toscanini wanted a man to assemble and weld to gether the NBC Symphony for him, he picked Rodzinski.