The greatest rivalries are frequently between people who were once close colleagues, and may even have grown up together. Think of Cain and Abel, Lenin and Trotsky, Blair and Brown, Lennon and McCartney. Now the classical music business is enthralled by something similar in the murky world of agents.
The world’s most charismatic young conductor — Gustavo Dudamel, the Venezuelan who achieved sensational fame with the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra and is now music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic — has been snatched from one agency by another. The money involved isn’t big by Hollywood or pop music standards. Music-business insiders reckon that the agent’s commission (typically 15 per cent) on Dudamel’s fees over the next five years (at, say, £20,000 a concert) will amount to about half a million quid — though of course Dudamel could earn his agent millions if he conducts at the highest level for the next 50 years.
But the preening on one side and seething annoyance on the other attest to the pride involved. To add spice to the story, both agencies are based in London, the world capital of classical music deal-making. And both are run by men who, 30 years ago, cut their teeth in the same office.