The player who forgot his place

The player who forgot his place


norman lebrecht

December 18, 2008

– Hold the front page, hot story coming in.

– What is it?

– There’s a player in the orchestra who didn’t like last week’s conductor.

– Come again? Yeah, that’s right. There’s a trombone in the New York Phil beefing on his blog about the guy who did Mahler 2. Get some pictures in.

Is this some kind of mistimed joke, or the end of journalism on the New York Times? For reasons better left uninvestigated, the Times has made a C1 splash today of comments made by a trombonist – the third trombone, I believe – about the amateur conductor Gilbert E Kaplan who led Mahler Second last week.

According to the player, Kaplan ignored ‘a blizzard’ of Mahler’s instructions and had a beat the band could not follow. Any good that came out of the performance was entirely to the credit of the players, working against impossible odds.

Well, let’s get a couple of things straight. There isn’t an orchestra in the world that does not represent a diversity of views. Every time Simon Rattle steps onto the podium in Berlin, a dozen players grunt and grumble. When Abbado rehearsed the LSO, they complained of boredom. When Dudamel does his hightail tricks, they accuse him of showmanship. Musicians complaining about conductors is not news. It’s part of their job description.

The difference here is that a player decided to blog his dissent and the local fish-rag picked it up. Before we consider the facts of the matter – and I attended the performance, as the Times reporter evidently did not – let’s just consider whose failure that is. Is it Kaplan’s, or is it the New York Philharmonic’s for failing to impose appropriate corporate discretion on its musicians?

Every self-respecting orchestra in the world maintains certain public courtesies in the interest of self-preservation and maintaining audience mystique. What we have just seen at the NY Phil is a failure of  management procedures. If I were chairman, I’d have the chief executive and the PR on my carpet before the morning’s coffee break.

And while we’re in the blame game, let’s just ask ourselves if the trombonist would have slagged off a professional conductor, whom he might have to face again next season? I think we know the answer to that.

Now to the performance. I make no secret of being a long-standing friend and admirer of Gilbert Kaplan’s. I have published that disclaimer several times and have no reason whatsoever to be ashamed of it. Having watched him master the work over almost 25 years, I am convinced – and so are many musicians – that no-one alive has such detailed knowledge of the score. My own credentials on the subject are as the author of one published book on Mahler and another in progress.

But don’t take my word for it. Players in the London Symphony Orchestra, the Vienna Philharmonic and the Stockholm Phil will testify to his grasp of minutiae – not just the annotations that Maher made on 14 different scores but the reasons for those annotations. If the trombonist is feeling frisky, perhaps we should put him on a platform with Kaplan to see which of them knows more of the notes.

There is certainly criticism to be made of Kaplan’s technique – he is an amateur, after all – and he does not bring to the rostrum the encyclopaedic knowledge of repertoire and orchestral psychology that one can expect from a Jansons or a Maazel. But he can deliver a memorable performance and he seldom fails, in my experience, to illuminate something new in the score.

I have heard him do the Mahler 2 several times, on occasion with greater impact than he made at Avery Fisher last week. The original NY Times review was very positive and there were rhythms in the second and third movements that he delivered more idiomatically and true to score than I have heard from most professionals. The performance as a whole achieved its intended catharsis – and if the New York Philharmonic think they can do that without a conductor, as the trombonist suggests, well, let’s see them try. Go on, book a date.

I had the impression, watching the orchestra’s body language, that they were not comfortable on the night. They are a bunch of very fine players. They also have a reputation for very bad attitude. There is a reason why many of the world’s best will not conduct the NY Phil. And that may be the same reason why the next music director barely ranks in the top league.

If there was a story to cover here, it was about the New York Philharmonic behaving badly. But are we going to read that in the New York Times? When pigs can fly, perhaps.






  • Marko says:

    Well, I didn’t hear the performance (but hopefully it will turn up on the Philharmonic’s website eventually), but I heard Mr. Kaplan conduct the National Symphony 4 years ago, and based on that I would have to agree with the Philharmonic’s trombone player. Even conceding that Kaplan knows the score as well as anyone alive, what struck me was that he simply did not have the charisma to produce a compelling performance. Having mastered the minutiae and preparing an ur-text of the score isn’t enough; I’ll take a real conductor with inauthentic tempos, dynamics, etc. any time over Kaplan’s sterile rendition. It was interesting to hear him do it once, but I wouldn’t go back. You’re a better man than me if you have.
    Since you’re one of those regularly (and properly) lamenting the decline of classical music, I would like to think you would admire an orchestra musician who is actually willing to put himself out there and tell people what he thinks of a conductor, and remove some of the mystique of the orchestra business that IMHO does nothing to enhance its attractiveness. I do hope he has the temerity to do the same about someone he may play for again. The larger point of the trombonist’s critique was that it was unfair not only to the players, but to audiences and other conductors to give such a lofty platform to a mediocre amateur (in his opinion) like Mr. Kaplan. Perhaps audiences don’t always know from quality, but orchestras should never fail to do their best to put their best foot forward, and engaging Mr. Kaplan may have been such a failure. And please don’t focus on the trombone player; he posted his comments on his blog, but the NY Times quoted several players who were less than impressed, and apparently there were enough to even demand a meeting with Zarin Mehta to complain about Mr. Kaplan’s engagement. This certainly strikes me as something worth writing about; Mr. Kaplan has gained a lot of attention for his engagements with orchestras around the world, and it’s perfectly fair game for some of the musicians who played with him to call him a fraud if that’s their impression.
    Time will tell about Alan Gilbert and whether he “ranks in the top league,” but in his programming inclinations he certainly seems a breath of fresh air for the Philharmonic. There aren’t a lot of 41 year-old conductors in the top league; give him 20 years and we’ll see.
    NL to Marko: Since when was charisma a pre-requisite? Georg Szell had none and he formed the best orchestra in America. Alan Gilbert has none either. Let’s not confuse superficial visual perceptions with the musical and organisational skills. They are eseential. The rest is tinsel.

  • Charley says:

    I’m sorry, but let’s get one thing straight: David Finlayson is a trombonist, not a “trombone”. Gilbert Kaplan is not a baton, Gil Shaham is not a violin, etc.
    Thank you,
    NL to Charley: Have you, for heaven’s sake, ever watched a conductor in rehearsal? He says: ‘trombone, too loud at three after measure 16, trumpet too quiet.’ If conductors can call a player by his/her instrument, so can I.

  • Maxim Gershunoff says:

    Even a horse for hire senses its rider or turns back to the stable if not in capable hands. Yes, be kind, but call a spade a spade.
    NL to Maxim: In all your years as an artists manager did you ever go public to say that one of your clients was not fit to appear on stage? I don’t think so…

  • Mark S says:

    Come, come. You’re a good friend to defend him, but Kaplan has been a affront and a laughing stock to so many people for such a long time. A pimple waiting to be popped. The stunt might have been ok once or twice, but to indulge in the ecstasy of pretending to conduct the Mahler Second for 25 years, 50 times, commanding thousands of musicians far more trained and talented than he, is an egregious sin against artistic standards, verging on indecency, and quite newsworthy. Why should he be immune to honest outspoken criticism? Why should the issues raised by his unique performances be glossed over?
    NL to Mark S: I respect your views, but as a Mahlerian I have learned much from what Kaplan does, in both rehearsal and performance. I won’t go into details here and now; another time, perhaps. You may have a different opinion, but many good musicians – Leonard Bernstein, for one – have sought Kaplan’s views on aspects of this symphony. That’s no pimple, to me.

  • Luciano says:

    He may well know all the details of the score – afer over 20 years of only conducting one piece, he should know them by now!
    I don’t see why it’s a problem that the trombonist (what do you mean ‘only’ the 3rd trombone?) posted this on his blog. It’s a free world. And while the NY Times does mention his blog, it also quotes other people and makes it clear that the orchestra as a whole was very unhappy.
    As you say Kaplan is an amateur. So why should he be standing in front of any of the great orchestras of the world. Would he have been able to achieve this if he was not excessively wealthy?
    NL to Luciano: He’s there because they invite him. To invite a man and then to allow one of your employees to insult him is, in my book, very bad manners and exceedingly bad management. I think we need a response from Zarin Mehta.

  • Charley says:

    Thanks for replying, “NL to Charley: Have you, for heaven’s sake, ever watched a conductor in rehearsal? He says: ‘trombone, too loud at three after measure 16, trumpet too quiet.’ If conductors can call a player by his/her instrument, so can I.”
    I’d like to get this correct:
    A conductor says “trombone, too loud” because the sound of the instrument is too loud. While you’re referring to an instrumentalist in this blog, you’re not giving him an artistic direction based on the performance of the instrument. He’s an “instrumentalist”, not an “instrument”, and the context determines the correct use.
    However, in a literary sense, using the word “trombone” to refer to a person who plays that instrument does have the effect of subtly dehumanizing him. Which, in the context of what you’ve written, seems to be the point. Don’t get me wrong- I’m not saying you’re a Nazi or anything- but word choice is everything in writing. And regarding a person who you feel “forgot his place”, it makes a lot of literary sense to use language that shows that he’s somehow less.
    But, “for heaven’s sake”, I’m a trombonist in an orchestra myself, so I watch conductors all the time, and I’m intimately familiar with conductors’ everyday use of instrumental terminology. It’s precisely for this reason that I’d like you to understand the distinction. Among my professional colleagues, to refer to someone this way is slightly off-key or immature, like something high school band mates would do. But then, being an instrumentalist, and not a critic, maybe I’m out of my “place” to make the comment.
    On the larger subject of the article, I couldn’t agree with you more: I would never say anything publicly that would reflect badly on my orchestra. It wouldn’t be in the orchestra’s interest or in my own interest (they pay me very well to make noise on the trombone!). And, though I enjoy the Times and read it every day, I have to say that this was not their best Arts coverage. Basing the article on a blog entry is lazy and sensational.
    I should point out that saying someone has “forgot his place” has uncomfortable cultural and historical overtones to an American (I am). I understand the meaning, but this inflammatory phrase sure brings up a lot of probably unintended connections to slavery and segregation. This might go some length toward explaining why I bothered to write a comment on such a fine point as the contextually correct use of the word “trombone”.
    P.S. I enjoyed The Maestro Myth.
    NL to Charley: Point taken. Conductors in private conversation often refer to players by instrument. You’re quite right: it dehumanises the musicians and they should stop. So should I. I will try. best, Norman

  • John F says:

    NL quite rightly discloses his friendship with Kaplan and with that on and off the table, some points can be made.
    NL is correct that orchestra players have often had beefs with their conductors. Players from the Chicago Symphony danced on Fritz Reiner’s grave when he died. There is no love in Cleveland (Welser-Most), or in recent years in Philadelphia (Eschenbach) or Boston (Ozawa). There is no news here. What the NY Philharmonic trombonist (NYPT) has done on his blog (which seems created for the express purpose of the rant in question) is to publicly denigrate Kaplan’s conducting and musical ideas while at the same time taking apart the very thing he hopes to preserve as a result – the reputation of the NY Philharmonic.
    It seems lost on NYPT (and he is the second, not bass trombonist of the orchestra) is that to attack Kaplan is to attack the orchestra’s artistic administrator and music director who were the ones who engaged Kaplan. They – not the orchestra’s second trombonist) – are the “gatekeepers” of the standards of the orchestra. They decide who conducts and who comes back.
    NL is also correct when he says the player in question would not have published such a rant against a “real conductor” who could, someday, become his music director. It should come as no surprise that the NY Philharmonic public relations office is dealing with a major damage control issue with this whole matter. It would not surprise me if the NY Philharmonic has a clause, similar to those in other major orchestra contracts, that prohibits a player from engaging in activity harmful to the orchestra. It’s not unlikely that the trombonist has been called in on the carpet and given a vigorous tongue lashing. Who knows, he could be fired.
    What his player does not seem to understand is that he has a role to play in the orchestra. He is to play second trombone to the best ability. He is not the conductor, music director, even principal player of his section. HIS JOB is to play trombone. Determining who conducts the orchestra is SOMEONE ELSE’S JOB.
    The orchestral world is full of pretenders to the podium. One does not have to look at an admitted amateur like Kaplan. There is a dearth of “great conductors” and even a paucity of “good conductors.” That so many renowned soloists, malcontent to simply be a great soloist, have taken up the baton (Pearlman, Rostropovich, Domingo, Zuckerman, etc) and assume that their star power extends to the podium (it does not, they are/were all abysmal conductors) shows the state of the situation.
    There is no denying that Kaplan loves the Mahler 2. Actually, he is obsessed with all of Mahler’s output. He has done a tremendous service to the art of music by funding exquisite facsimile scores of Mahler’s 2nd Symphony, the Adagietto of the 5th, and the Klopstock Chorale sketches. His book with every known photo of Mahler is revelatory. One can argue whether the relative success of his London Symphony and Vienna Philharmonic recordings are a product of his intimate knowledge (and ability to communicate same) of the score or a tribute to the skill of the players. You can put Big Bird from Sesame Street in front of the LSO and they will still play like the LSO. They are professionals and will put out, whether or not they are rolling their eyes.
    But let’s put this in perspective. When trombone players in orchestras start spouting off about how inept the conductor is, is it not time for conductors, on their blogs, to talk about the huge clam the second trombone player laid during the performance? Mahler survives all of this unscathed – he has been conducted over the years by geniuses and idiots. Kaplan? He admits he is not a “great conductor,” but is a fan, a lover of the music. If orchestras want to engage him, they do so for their own reasons – either to sell tickets or because they are convinced he will put over a good performance. Kaplan did his job. As to the second trombone player? Methinks he doth protesteth too much, and would do well to do his job rather than elevate himself to a self-aggrandizing position of gatekeeper for his orchestra. There is a story in a famous book about taking out the plank in your own eye before pointing out a splinter in your brother’s. It looks to me like the trombone player is blinded by his own sense of self-righteous anger and can’t see that he has simply served to harm not only his orchestra but his own reputation.

  • Rudolf Grainger says:

    Knowing the score is besides the point when you can’t conduct — much like knowing the road doesn’t help if you don’t know how to drive. And not conducting is not just about the beat — it’s about rehearsal. Saying “something” doesn’t sound right but not being able to say what exactly or how to stop it (just one example) is a liability. It’s only good that a non-conductor had his comeuppance. Domingo, Zukerman, Rucizka and their ilk are next. Hopefully.
    NL to Rudolf Grainger: There are professional conductors, too, who struggle to conduct. The instance that springs to mind is Serge Koussevitsky, who was unable to find a beat for The Rite of Spring until Nicolas Slominsky wrote the score out for him without bar-lines. Leonard Bernstein, Slonimsky told me, needed to use the same bar-less score.
    You’re right, of course, that it’s not just beat and physical comportment but what a conductor brings to rehearsal. Kaplan’s USP is an unrivalled knowledge of the details of the score and the circumstances of its composition. Most players in good orchestras appreciate the benefits of that tutorial. Not the NY Phil, though. They know it all.

  • Wes says:

    As a recovering trombonist from orchestra-world, may I be allowed to slide my opinion in?
    We have way too much time on our hands back there, waiting long intervals between entrances, surrounded by glorious music being made by other people. Then, we’re called upon to play passages that are like sinking twenty-foot downhill putts in front of large crowds.
    Perfectly. Every time. The only time you are noticed is when you miss.
    So, at times, frustration can build.
    Trombonists are a loquacious bunch, and it’s easy to bellyache. That’s why the Almighty invented beer! Ever notice how well-fed the trombone section looks?
    Conductors are conductors. Some are wonderful, some are idiots, most fall somewhere in between.
    That said, orchestras and musicians in them are paid with the discretionary and donated dollars of the public. No orchestra or musician is owed a living. The audience(rightly) does not care about a trombonist’s opinion of a conductor. They are there to hear us play, not opine. Most of tales of the weird stuff that happens on stage should be published after we have retired to the great tavern in the sky.
    I miss those days, and would jump at the opportunity to do it again, unwise as that may be. I miss being surrounded by that glorious music, and I miss beers with the boys. I even miss the public downhill putts, heaven help me!
    The war stories belong at the pub, not on the blog.
    NL to Wes: I couldn’t have put it better.

  • If we’re going to criticize the Times for hack journalism, we might as well get the facts straight. The article says that “some of the musicians” (i.e., more than just one particular instrumentalist) had a problem with Kaplan. It then specifically names two (not one) of them — trombonist David Finlayson and violist Peter Kenote — who were willing to go on the record. I don’t see any reason to suppose the Times would have named all of the musicians rather than the representative pair that they did. In any case, to trumpet the idea that this hullabaloo is all due to a single trombonist is not on.
    NL to Michael Drake: Facts straight? The reporter made no attempt to contact players who enjoyed the experience and appreciated what they had learned. Yes, there were plenty, and I suspect that some of them would not have minded being quoted before this whole scandal was manufactured (now they will probably keep quiet in the hope the whole thing will blow away).
    However, for the reporter to have tracked them down would have blown away what was already a tenuous story, leaving him with a blank work sheet. This was just another unbalanced piece of work from a New York Time section that is notorious in the profession for its questionable standards of reporting.

  • Tibor says:

    Here’s a video reminiscence of the Philharmonic Mafia of old:

  • Alastair Scott says:

    Ten, or even five, years ago this story could not have happened; there was no mechanism to allow an orchestral musician to vent his or her feelings, unmoderated, and be heard (read) by thousands, possibly even millions. Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe there is only a handful of 20th-century accounts of the life of rank-and-file orchestral musicians (as opposed to musicians who became conductors or composers) and almost nothing before then.
    Now there is such a mechanism – the blog – and it is probably unstoppable. The NYPO did not “allow one of [its] employees to insult him” – consent doesn’t come into it – and “a response from Zarin Mehta” would be pointless because he has no control over the blog, and could never conceivably have control. A writ after the event would only draw even more unwelcome publicity …
    If anything, I am slightly surprised that something like this has not happened before – to my knowledge – and I suspect it will be the first of many such contretemps.
    NL to Alastair Scott: The fact that it hasn’t before in half a decade of blogging is a tribute to the self-discipline that prevails in most orchestras. It is not, however, unstoppable. Orchestras have disciplinary procedures for players who bring the ensemble into disrepute or weaken its public standing. The New York Phil has come out of this looking like a very ragged line-up.

  • bob the trombone player says:

    There is another issue here.
    The NY Phil is one of the top orchestras in the world today. I think that if one rises to the point where they play in the NY Phil, they have the right to not play “gigs”.
    Yes “Gigs” are like something you do to just make the money. Maybe it’s sitting at the back of an operetta pit or doing a pops concert.
    The discipline of conducting has fallen over the last couple of generations. Before, it was taken VERY seriously. There are a lot of poorly trained conductors out there. I see this every day in my orchestra job.
    A concert of Mahler with the NY Phil is also something to be taken very seriously, and it shouldn’t be available to someone just because they have the money to “rent” the orchestra. That sound like prostitution, doesn’t it?
    Well, that’s how these top top musicians feel. They feel like they are being jerked around after sacrificing there lives to music. Of course they pulled the amateur conductor along. They shouldn’t have to do that.
    They deserve more respect.
    NL to Bob the trombone: Refer to the facts. Lorin Maazel invited Gilbert Kaplan to conduct and attended one of his rehearsals. Kaplan was there with the authority of the music director. He did not pay for the concert. If the players had a problem they should have taken it up with Maazel. Did they have the guts to do that? Do they deserve any respect at all for tattling on a blog what they dared not say to their boss?

  • cyberflote says:

    Dear Mr. Lebrecht,
    What gives the NYPhil musicians the right to question the qualifications of Mr. Kaplan or any conductor standing before them? Perhaps it
    isn’t clear to how one arrives at a position playing with the NYPhil.
    Did they make a fortune elsewhere and then try to buy their way into the orch.? No, for orchestral musicians it could never happen that way. Not in a million years.
    These musicians have been trained musically from an early age. They have been educated at the finest conservatories in the world – institutions where acceptance alone is a mark of musical privilege. They hold college and university degrees, both undergraduate and graduate, in the specialized field of performing their instrument. They have undergone grueling auditions and a selection process, all at their own expense, to be considered for their positions. They have had
    to pass rigorous trial periods before being officially accepted. Many have spent years in lesser orchs. before arriving in NY.
    Every day that they come to work, perfection
    is expected of them. They don’t have the privilege of missing notes or playing out of
    tune or counting wrong when they have a headache. These players are as hard on themselves and their own colleagues as they are
    on Mr. Kaplan or any guest conductor.
    When a conductor, any conductor, takes the podium, that person must be in a position to
    guide and even teach, this orchestra of virtuosos. There are few people in the world
    qualified to do that. These players are of a
    level where, yes, they do have a right to criticise anyone who is not qualified to lead them.
    As far as the NYPhil “behaving badly”, let me ask you this:
    Did orchestra members disrupt Mr. Kaplan’s
    rehearsals? Did they refuse to follow his
    instructions? Were they insubordinate or rude to him? No. They were professional and did their jobs, despite what they thought of him. Their opinions were vented outside of the workplace. That is their right, and not the under the jurisdiction of NYPhil management. A fundamental difference between US and European
    orchestras is that our Constitution protects,
    and our political heritage encourages, the right to free speech. Orchestras included.
    Lastly, you must know, Mr. Lebrecht, that orchestra musicians have been, until now,
    an important part of your fan base. We buy
    your books, we read your columns, we support
    your point of view in situations where others
    might not. You are alienating leagues of us
    with your alarming comments on the Kaplan
    Kind regards.
    NL to Cyberflote: This is not a free speech issue. We all have a right to express an opinion. The issue is how and where. I don’t, on the whole, insult people who have been invited into my house by a member of the family (in this case, by Lorin Maazel). If I need to share something about them, I keep it within the house. The trombonist here was grandstanding. He was looking to grow an ego. In doing so, he damaged the orchestra.
    I do know that other members of the orchestra stringly disagree with his view of Kaplan, and of the action he took – though whether they will speak out remains to be seen.
    Dear Cyberflote (I do like the name), you must know that I have always fought for the rights of orchestral players in distress. Here, the boot is on the other foot.

  • Nathan L says:

    Two points: David Finlayson is a 23-year veteran of the New York Philharmonic, and I’m sure he knows quite well that it is inappropraite for orchestra members to speak publicly of their problems within the ensemble. That should underscore how important he thought this was. This encounter with Kaplan must have been so offensive to his professional sensibilities that he went public, in addition to complaining to the orchestra’s mamangement (which on its own indicates a BIG problem).
    Second, NL brings up the point that orchestra’s frequently have problems with their conductors. NL cites Rattle in Berlin, Abbaddo in London, and Dudamel as a guest in various cities. There are hundreds of other examples of player/conductor friction but they differ from Mr. Kapan’s case in one important way. Mr. Kaplan is NOT a professional conductor. All of the above-mentioned conductors have worked and studied for years to get to where they are. Mr. Kaplan is a wealthy music lover and self-styled musicologist, neither of which qualify him to be a conductor. While you make a somewhat valid point that Mr. Kaplan probably knows the score of Mahler 2 better than anyone in the orchestra, I’m sure many other widely repsected musicologists do as well and this does not qualify them to launch conducting careers either. Also, it isn’t like there aren’t professional conductors who posses this kind of knowledge. I would guess that Claudio Abbaddo, Bernard Haitink, Pierre Boulez, Seiji Ozawa, and Michael Tilson Thomas could all go head to head with Kaplan in terms of practical knowledge of Mahler 2.
    The bigger question in all of this should be why an amateur conductor is being engaged to conduct Mahler with a top orchestra when there is no lack of qualified conductors out there who could do a better job.
    Also, Mr. Lebrecht, I take issue with your classifying Alan Gilbert as “barely in the top league.” I think the NYP deserves as much praise as they can get for selection Gilbert to succeed Maazel. When was the last time a big-five orchestra (excluding LA) hired a Music Director under the age of 50? It’s about time the major orchestras in this country began recognizing the talent of younger conductors like Mr. Gilbert, Robert Spano, David Robertson, Ludovic Morlot, et al.

  • Steve Meikle says:

    All this bitching is one reason why I got out of the profession.
    I was a double bass player.
    There is less arrogance and back biting in the factory floor where common labourers work. It is refreshing to work without precious artistic egos prancing up and down in my face
    I must admit i had never heard of Kaplan before last week and i certainly have not heard his recordings of Mahler 2

  • Baron Zlatkovski says:

    Since when is playing in a professional symphony orchestra personal or humanizing? We’re there to play our roles, our parts in the fabric of the whole to the best of our abilities. I would be extremely offended if a conductor referred to me by name in a rehearsal unless we were always working together. He is commenting on my work, my role, not me as a person. That shields us from insults which simply roll off my back. I don’t believe a conductor can get great results when people are playing boringly without some jabs, gibes, and ribs. The necessity of politeness and humaneness may be one of the reasons there are no great conductors. You can’t do something great if you’re too busy being nice to everyone. That was my chief impression of Simon Rattle: a nice guy, managing everyone very nicely and making nicely boring music. Give me a tyrant anyday, as long as he is making musical miracles.

  • Jeff Davis says:

    Thanks for your comments. The bad attitude of the phil is well-known, of course, and I can’t help but suspect that each of them individually have a deep-seated feeling they could do better than anyone in front of them. (And, in many cases, probably could.) Being a full-time orchestral musician has to be the most soul-deadening job the musical world has to offer, and when an amateur–so-called–such as Kaplan shows up he really shows the difference between the working stiffs in the ensemble and someone who actual loves what he does. Kaplan has given us the most stunning Mahler 2nd recording available in terms of actually hearing–and easily–the little marks that Mahler wrote in the score. His understanding of the work is phenomenal. The third trombone player probably doesn’t even know his own part as well as Kaplan does.
    I like the idea of having them perform the work without a conductor and then, having some really critical discussion about how well they did. The New York Philharmonic can play louder, more coarsely, more out of tune, more out of balance, and more shoddily, with more attitude, than any other major ensemble. This is their proud legacy. They need a reality check as they sit so nicely paid in their musical museum.

  • Michael Kim says:

    “The player who forgot his place”? Say what you want about the NYP’s PR management but the title of this blog suggests that the trombone player in question is not entitled to have an opinion about this or any other conductor. No one, in my opinion, is in a better position to critique the aptitute of a conductor than the orchestra musician. I think you need to be clearer in your distinction of who (if anyone) was at fault here: was it the trombonist, the NYT, or the NYP management? Do you think you’ve had the same level of experience as this trombone player? Have you played under all conductors he has? Have you undergone the grueling training it takes to get into an organiztion such as the philharmonic? I’m not saying your opinion is not valid, I just think you should make the same concession with respect to the musician’s opinion and change your title.
    NL to Michael Kim: Absolutely not. The title says exactly what the player did – he spoke out of place. He is entitled, of course, to his opinion, but the proper place to exprss it is internally, with his colleagues and management.
    Going public will be regarded as an act of cowardice rather than courage – unless he does so about a professional maestro, whose can strike back.

  • Dr. Dunsbury says:

    To something completely different:
    Maazel, Kaplan and Lebrecht – I only say: Oy vey …
    NL to Dr Dunsbury: Is this an anti-semitic comment? If so, do specify.

  • Alkanfan says:

    The jury (NYPO management) has apparently delivred its verdict: Mr Kaplan will trouble the orchestra no longer.

  • ariel says:

    If any saw the new years eve concert without
    bringing up ,you would realize the orchestra
    players haven’t a leg to stand on when discussing
    musical performance.