Mention Franz Welser-Möst to almost any London musician and you'll get the smirking reply, "Frankly Worse than Most." This was the savage nickname bandied about by enemies of the young Austrian conductor who was catapulted into the top job at the London Philharmonic in 1990.
Since he quit these shores in 1996, he's never looked back: he's music director of the prestigious Cleveland Orchestra, and has just relinquished the helm of Zurich Opera to prepare himself for the stratospheric leap to music director at the Vienna State Opera. This week, Deutsche Grammophon releases his superb recording of Beethoven's Ninth. He no longer needs the approval of London.
Welser-Möst is happy to be quizzed about his rough ride there. "I got it because I was a greenhorn," he says. "I didn't recognise how complex the political situation I was walking into was." Why did certain journalists hound him? He laughs: "You'll have to ask them! But it was a great learning experience. It's not only children who learn faster when they get hurt – it can be true of adults as well. I have absolutely no bitter feelings. And going into this job in Vienna – which is also highly political – I have useful experience to draw on." What are the critics like there? "They can be just as mean and irrational as they are in London."
Was he really not hurt by them? "Of course I was. When you are young, and on your way up, of course it's painful. But my question to critics is: do you really think that the next day I am going to conduct that piece differently, because of what you have written? That would be corrupt of me. I can only do what I believe is right."
Now, audiences in Birmingham and Cardiff will get a chance to make up their own minds.
21 October (0121-780 3333); then St David's Hall, Cardiff (029-2087 8444), 22 OctoberReuse content