I don't think we're running out of conductors. Donald Runnicles' Ring in San Francisco had me plotting ways to kidnap him for a stint down here. Among visitors here in the past couple of years I've been impressed by Fischer (at the Bowl last season, with his own orchestra), and at the Philharmonic by Vonk and Gergiev, by the extraordinary tiny Japanese demon Junichi Hirokami, and by yet another splendid Finn, Sakari Oramo. Among local heroes I number Pasadena's Jorge Mester, and wonder why so inventive and widely capable a figure doesn't have a full-time orchestra somewhere. In a relatively short time, Jeffrey Kahane (on the podium, at the piano or both) has greatly enhanced the excitement around the L.A. Chamber Orchestra's activities. I also admire Kahane's continued loyalty to his excellent minor-league orchestra in Santa Rosa (as I admire Kent Nagano's loyalty to his Berkeley Symphony despite the rising of his star all over Europe).
Meanwhile, back at the Music Center . . . It's ironic, sort of -- lots of solid, respectable performing talent around, but nobody to run things, sign the checks, keep the stage swept, the stuff of management's job. Labor negotiations loom on the near horizon; we also scan that horizon for signs of concrete being poured atop Mrs. Disney's parking garage. Esa-Pekka's contract runs into the next millennium; what there'll be for him to conduct, and where -- an orchestra, a program, a stage -- adds up to one helluva big question. The public -- ticket-buying, taxpaying, music-loving, tone-row-deploring, some or all of the above -- deserves a better answer than the present cloud of double talk. The time is up for the Tooth Fairy.