The musical flight from Japan – and the conductor who doesn't want to know

The musical flight from Japan – and the conductor who doesn't want to know


norman lebrecht

March 16, 2011

The Czech army sent two planes to airlift the Philharmonic out of Tokyo. The Maggio Musicale are straggling home to Florence. The BBC Philharmonic are back in Manchester. 

Violinist Anne Akiko Meyers has posted heartfelt regrets in cancelling her tour and the conductor Daniel Harding sent me a downcast tweet from Narita airport: He had worked as hard as anyone to keep music alive in disaster-stricken Japan.
Meanwhile, the NHK orchestra of Tokyo is performing in Montreal on Friday night. That should be an occasion for Canada to show solidarity with the suffering nation and maybe raise a few hundred grand for reconstruction. Local media are trying to give the event the highest possible profile and you would expect the conductor to take the lead in raising awareness.
But the conductor is Andre Previn.
photo: NHK all rights reserved
The glory days when Previn hogged the media limelight are long gone and he is now picking up bits of cash work where he can. Previn, it appears, has nothing to say about the the plight of the country whose orchestra he is conducting. A colleague who requested a few words received this response from the Place des Arts press officer: I just spoke to Maestro Previn and I am afraid he does not wish to do any
interviews while on the tour….

A conductor’s job is to lead. If he cannot lead in the thick of disaster, he should not be conducting. Shame on him.


  • GW says:

    The last thing the Japanese people need is a few soundbytes from a conductor; his silence while continuing the tour is dignified and respectful of his musicians’ emotions at this time; criticizing Previn for this is height of insensitivity.
    Your uncritical adherence to Fleischmann’s disagreements with Previn is getting dull. Previn rescued the LA Philharmonic from the sleep of the Giuliani era, insisting on better audition and rehearsal standards, introducing marvelous chamber music annexes to the main programming, and most of all, simply being present in the city of Los Angeles after so many years of absentee directors. This presence was, of course, previn’s undoing with Fleischmann who insisted on being the public face of the orchestra and refused to tolerate any independent programming choices on the part of his music director. Previn’s much younger was easier for Fleischmann to work around, but had all the advantages of Previn’s work in turning the orchestra around, arriving in town to a band that was already playing at a peak level.
    NL: This heated response conflates two unrelated issues, Previn then and now. On a matter of factual accuracy, Previn was never renowned for his rehearsal energy and Giulini continues to be revered by most musicians I know in LA.

  • Marie Lamb says:

    From the Montreal Gazette: the NHK concert will go on as scheduled, and the Red Cross will take donations, but this and the Carnegie concert on Monday will not be fundraising concerts. Here’s more:

  • Stefan says:

    I just heard a report from someone who attended the concert in DC that Previn appeared very old and frail and even had to be helped onto the podium. He probably just doesn’t have the energy to take on this additional burden in the middle of an international tour. Maybe the question should really be why would the orchestra consider such an old man, who is clearly not in the best of health, a good choice to lead an international tour? Doesn’t seem like such a wise idea to me.