The essential points of the editorial aren't far off the mark...orchestras have become so uniformly marvelous these days that it is more and more difficult to see the individual stamp of the conductor. And yet conductors are still important--to morale, to marketing, and to the music.
The dependence of the marketing machinery on personality cult of the conductor as the "face" of the orchestra seems difficult to overcome. Even now, marketing depends on easily defined personality--and the occasional freshness of a new conductor is always an opportunity to stoke audience excitement.
San Francisco is blessed to have MTT for so long, and yet, is the third or fourth go round on a piece still as exciting as the first, even if the interpretation and the playing are ever improving? It's not like the *personality* is getting more distinctive, more defined.
Even a good conductor gets "old'--with the musicians and the audiences alike. Goodness knows Ormandy was less and less of an exciting commodity in the late years, even as his Fabulous Philadelphians remained fabulous.
Gatti wasn't around long enough to make a mark or get stale. To say the Concertgebouw won't miss Gatti, or to compare the personal stamp he left on that orchestra to the personal stamp of a Szell or a Karajan is terribly disingenuous of Hurwitz. Gatti's tenure is a mere blip compared to those illustrious partnerships Hurwitz is citing.
Interesting, too: how soon we forget how long it took for Philadelphia to be Ormandy's sound, and not Stokowski's. Maybe due to the war it was easier for the Concertgebouw to transition out from the personal stamp of Mengelberg. The "crisis" in Cleveland is vastly overblown--Szell's death left them in the lurch, so a couple of years of gap in leadership was inevitable, but the parade of candidates in that time, plus Leinsdorf's return, was a guarantee of excellence in its own right. Kertesz, Abbado, Maazel (Fruhbeck-deBurgos and Kubelik too)--what great options! Even then, Dohnanyi was still talking about Szell getting all the credit for his orchestra's success in the 1980s and 90s.
More likely it was due to intelligent music director choices that fit the personality of the orchestra. Ditto with Welser-Most. By contrast, Muti quickly erased Ormandy's influence; Barenboim was a major switch after Solti, as was Haitink a change thereafter, and Abbado a clean break from Karajan. I'll bet Rattle is quite a contrast to Gergiev before him, in London.
I heard Cleveland in a transition, awaiting Dohnanyi's arrival. Leinsdorf, ever the caretaker, delivered a superb concert. The music was there, even if the marketing had gone into a lull.