Maestro quits Tanglewood to have baby

The knock-on effects of Oliver Knussen’s visa denial are becoming ever more dramatic.

Act One: Ollie, booked five months ago to conduct a Gunther Schuller tribute, gets snarled in the US visa system and has to cancel at two days notice.

Act Two: Modernist concert is split up between two resident young Brits, Jonathan Berman and Stefan Asbury. Stefan got landed with Elliott Carter’s extremely difficult A Sunbeam’s Architecture.

Act Three: On the night, Stefan pulls out of both the pre-concert talk and the concert itself. Turns out his wife his having a baby (a boy, congrats all round). So Jonathan steps up and conducts the whole show, never having rehearsed the Carter.

Act Four; He’s been asked to replace Stefan again today (Sunday).

 

jonathan berman

 

First review:

Jonathan Berman conducted all five of the large works, a heroic feat. The evening lacked two of its scheduled conductors. Oliver Knussen, who co-curated the FCM with John Harbison and Michael Gandolfi, will apparently not be making it to the Festival at all because of “visa problems.” He had been engaged to conduct both Schuller pieces and the Maderna. Stefan Asbury was also unavailable; at the preconcert talk it was disclosed the reason was the impending birth of his child, and by the opening of the concert we learned they had a boy. He was to conduct A Sunbeam’s Architecture. Jonathan Berman, a young English conductor with a sizable contemporary-music résumé, was scheduled to conduct only Megalith, but somehow managed to step in for all five works and did a spectacular job, his performances confident and shapely and alive. There may have been some tentative ensemble moments in the Carter, but the achievement was impressive. Berman was assisted by the astonishing level of accomplishment from the TMC Fellows, whose ability to play difficult scores together is one of the abiding wonders of the FMC.”

 

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  • Remarkable feat, must be a very gifted fellow.

    “…… some tentative ensemble moments in the Carter” will not have made any difference, since they will not have affected the result: one of the advantagements of sound art.

    • PS: My butler, who peeped on my screen while pouring tea, corrects me: it’s “advantages”. Sorry about that – rambling typing DOES affect the result.

      • Don’t worry, John. The day we can all speak and write Dutch as well as you do English we’ll start to nitpick..

  • Is it really a feat?

    The thing is, with contemporary music, no one can tell if you’ve played a wrong note or came in late.

    What is a note wrong if there are no incorrect chords? When is an ensemble not together if tempi are not fixed? How can it sound bad when nothing sounds good?

    • Can’t you simply say, “I don’t like contemporary music!” instead of making hollow, grandiose, semi-arguments about its quality? Your dislike of contemporary music in no way invalidates the scale of this conductor’s achievement. Back to the Strauss waltzes you go.

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