Lorin Maazel to orchestra: ‘My stubbornness is greater than your incompetence’

Levi Hammer is a young conductor who worked with the late maestro at the Castleton Festival. He has sent us a third intimate memoir to complement those we have published by a cellist and a violinist.

Here’s a sample paragraph:

He wasn’t a natural teacher, and he often couldn’t explain his legendary stick technique, at least not in terms of mere mechanics.  Instead he taught “the craft,” the innumerable individual skills that go into “the profession,” (both terms he used regularly).  He lamented the decline of the profession: that modern conductors no longer know the languages of the operas they conduct, that the fundamental skill of fluently reading a score is a rarity, that the basic study of harmony and counterpoint is neglected, that the exacting standards of the giants of his youth (especially de Sabata and Toscanini, whom he always called “Arturo”) have declined.  And despite my probing for him to name names, he gentlemanly remained silent, though he didn’t hide his approval of Gustavo Dudamel. 

Now read on here.

young lorin maazel

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  • I am sometimes amazed by the superficiality of some conductors and the way works are prepared.
    Dudamel is too young for the job .He conducted a famous concert for the pope….It was a disaster.Bombastic,and incompetent.
    Kleiber was my very favorit conductor.

    • Um, which Kleiber?

      Unfortunately, neither is currently available to conduct concerts. The younger generation has to start somewhere. Dudamel landed a plum job at a very young age, but if the LA Phil is asking, would one say “no”? Maybe he’ll grow into the job; maybe he’ll be yesterday’s promising young conductor who never really fulfilled his potential.

      Was Maazel the latter? When he was “on” and engaged, he was brilliant. Other times, he didn’t phone it in – he mailed it.

  • The sad news of the death of Maestro Maazel drove me to play most of the recordings of his that I possess. By far the most amazing example of his craft is the recording he made in Paris at the age of 30 of Ravel’s short opera, L’Enfant et les Sortilèges. The recording itself belies its age – it still sounds phenomenal – but the conducting is quite superb too. Clarity, precision, transparency, balance: even at that tender age Maazel was already working miracles.

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