Normally I find it a good idea to try and come up with some kind of catchy title if I’m writing an opinion piece. Sometimes it uses a metaphor, sometimes it uses a pun, sometimes it uses an obscure “Big Lebowski” reference, but it’s always meant to bring a touch of mystery to the actual substance of what was written.
In this case, however, I could think of nothing remotely interesting or competent to say. It is not unlike the conducting of Eivind Gullberg Jensen in that respect.
Not long ago, I lamented the fact that a musician such as Walter Weller dwells in relative obscurity despite being one of the very best conductors alive while guys still in their 20s and 30s continue to be handed prominent posts in spite of what I consider pretty “meh” results on the podium (if not in the dreamy eyes!). In that post, I mentioned Keith Lockhart by name, Robin Ticciati by inference, and Gustavo Dudamel by osmosis and the fact that I said “young conductors” and he’s ultra-famous.
But no conductor, and I even include my dismally failed career, is as horrible as Eivind Gullberg Jensen. Of the dozen or so recordings (which is what I’ll be stopping at) of his I’ve heard, there have been exactly zero that have been anything better than dreadful. He has destroyed lots of good music, and taken some great soloists down with him, too. Whether it was a Dvorak 8 so sloppy that it made the NDR Radio Philharmonic sound like the 4th-best youth orchestra in West Virginia or a Shostakovich Piano Concerto no. 1 in which he clearly employed the Hunter S. Thompson method of directing and left Alexander Toradze missing Valery Gergiev’s toothpick baton, Jensen has displayed a rare knack for laying waste to great works of art.
Take a listen to this recording of the Romanian Rhapsody no. 1 of Enescu, for example. It sounds as if Jensen prepared for the performance by constructing a cave out of the sound of late Bernstein and Stokowski “we don’t give a fuck what the score says” mode and spent the final week watching The Real Housewives of New York (“what we need is more drama!”). Never in my life have I heard a conductor so egregiously drop trou and take a catastrophic shit all over an otherwise delightful piece of music. The Enescu is supposed to be fun and exciting. Jensen makes it as crisp as a hot bowl of cheese grits and as laborious as an Indonesian sweatshop.
You can inflict all sorts of tempo shenanigans on music if you have the chops. Jensen, in spite of his rugged and pronounced cheekbones, does not have them. He seems to lack skill, a coherent approach, and a remotely human sense of decency.
But hey, at least he’s stuck working with groups like the Orchestre de Paris, Oslo Philharmonic, Zurich Opera, and Munich Philharmonic.
Eivind Gullberg Jensen, on behalf of Walter Weller and anyone else who wants in: I internet-hate (which is obviously much worse than real hate!) you. I would advocate shoving your baton up your own ass like the asshole I am, but you would almost assuredly misinterpret that and try to shove it up mine. With little precision, either.
UPDATE: Here are some additional thoughts on Jensen found in this space: