First responses to Jaap Van Zweden’s opening night

First responses to Jaap Van Zweden’s opening night


norman lebrecht

September 21, 2018

From the composer Nico Muhly:

Super surreal concert last night at the NY Phil — an immersive, trippy, bendy & foldy & rigid & fragile & quite powerful première by Ashley Fure, then the Ravel both-hands concerto, then the Rite of Spring! I will say: the acoustics of that hall, for better or for worse, are a really good delivery system for some BRASS directly into the back of your skull — that was FUN.

Dutch critic Peter van der Lint: 

Opening Gala Concert met veel Amerikaanse beroemdheden op de rode loper, maar ook BN’ers zoals Paul de Leeuw en echtgenoot. In de matige akoestiek van de David Geffen Hall (voorheen Avery Fisher Hall) kwam Jaap tot mooie resultaten. Hij stond te glunderen na afloop. (Jaap got beautiful results. He was gloating afterwards).

Musician Joseph Alessi:

My 34th season and counting. This September begins the tenure of our new music director Jaap van Zweden our 26th music director and my 5th music director. From the way the concert went this evening, I’m very excited to be under the baton of this very talented conductor and musician. After the concert, my wife Kathie made a delicious pear cake. It was out of this world!

No reviews yet.




  • David says:

    I want pear cake.

  • Brian says:

    This guy was clearly not a fan…
    “Classical Composer Reacts to NY Phil Ashley Fure Premiere”

    • RW2013 says:

      Her “crap” (sic) is still more interesting than his.

      • John McLeod says:

        Extraordinarily unprofessional for a composer colleague to slag off another composer colleague with such vitriol on YouTube. Sorry, but I can’t imagine any British composer doing this with such disrespect! Did he think HE should have had the commission for opening night? Pathetic!

        • anon says:

          Why shouldn’t/couldn’t one artist voice his/her opinion about the work of another artist, regardless of motivation?

          Sure, one could very well discount that criticism as jealousy, pettiness, stupidity, ignorance, whatever, but there’s nothing in the act of criticizing another artist that is in and of itself illegitimate or out of bounds.

          If we value artists precisely because they have a different voice or vision, it’d be contradictory to say they can express everything except a negative opinion about another art work or artist.

          • John Borstlap says:

            There is no longer a serious debate about new music, only lukewarm approval of anything, because there is no longer a value framework behind criticism. A music critic who is supposed to have a serious opinion about a new piece needs to first establish his value framework before he can write anything meaningful, like saying: I expect from music, old or new, this and that, and I compare it with… etc. Disapproval of a modern piece always invites the accusation of conservatism, and the media don’t like that. So, new music can’t be bad because how could we know? Why are music critics so fearful of getting into the next edition of Slonimsky’s ‘Lexicon of Musical Invective’?

            Outspoken opinions about music, old or new, shows commitment to the art form.

        • anon says:

          In fact, I wished professional music critics were more normative in their reviews.

          Anthony Tommasini described Fure’s piece and how it affected him. I wished he had the courage to stake out a position. I mean, that’s what he’s being paid for, right? To make a critical judgment in the pages of the New York Times.

          So, was it a good or was it shit?

          • Max Grimm says:

            “So, was it a good or was it shit?”

            It appears to have been psychedelic….or in other words immersive, trippy, bendy & foldy & rigid & fragile & quite powerful

          • adista says:

            “immersive, trippy, bendy & foldy & rigid & fragile & quite powerful” – Is he describing music or shipping materials?

          • Enquiring mind wants to know says:

            it was some good shit. you can have it both ways

      • John Borstlap says:


        The difference is that sound art is often embalmed with ideological rhetoric, which makes it more difficult for audiences to hear through it, while the film music variety is plainly what it is, naked, for everybody to see / hear.

        • Saxon Broken says:

          You know, I originally thought John Macleod’s comment was yours, and I thought “how unusual”. But I see know it wasn’t, and you are back to form, prepared to bravely assert the right of an artist to express your opinions about the work of fellow artists. What would we do without you.

          • buxtehude says:

            What’s wrong with expressing opinions about other composers? Not to speak of whole schools? By a composer. Seriously, I’d like to hear.

          • John Borstlap says:

            But that nonsense is not by a ‘fellow artist’ at all.

      • buxtehude says:

        Her crap is still crap and anyone who calls it out is welcome to my ear, especially in such an entertaining manner as his.

        Versus John McLeod’s call for solidarity among composers, soi disants. “Let’s hit as many icebergs as we can, so long as we’re still at the helm! Don’t anybody give this game away.”

        Taieb points to the official description as especially hilarious:

        Prepare for compressed sucessions of abstractions, students! Then the long list of the young composer’s credentials and honors — frightening — and a photo of the she herself grinning as though she knows something we don’t, one of Taieb’s points about proponents of this type of noise.

          • John Borstlap says:

            I stopped reading after her interest description: “….. the muscular act of music-making and the chaotic behaviors of raw acoustic matter.” Someone who thinks that music is the sound it makes. But music is produced by tones in meaningful relationships, and the sound is the vehicle of that meaning. And that meaning is a musical one.

          • buxtehude says:

            You surprise me John! I thought you had the endurance to follow any and all of this to its conclusion, if only to truly nail it down. Don’t miss the panel discussion though…

        • buxtehude says:

          Before any of this descends into anger and vituperation, let me link to a really long German-hosted panel discussion of “the new conceptualism,” which is apparently a movement la Fure (pronounced Fur) is part of. As luck would have she is included in this, and speaks starting at 40:30, apx.

          It’s quite an experience, at least for non-initiates. The “anti’s,” from bits I listened to, were amazingly cautious and polite. For at least some of the rest: supra- or trans-cochlear meta-speak might start to describe it and if that doesn’t make sense, no matter!

          In fact she seems to have gone insane, though ever more intensely certain that she is fine! That she’s On to something! Nothing can stop her.

          Listening is a soothing hilarious pleasure.

          • John Borstlap says:

            As far as I could filter-out from Fure’s deliberations, she wants to do away with all the theory surrounding concept Klangkunst and go back to the raw sonic experience as such, because the conceptual theories of sonic art are too difficult to grasp for the audience, thus isolating sonic art. So far so good. But her alternative is merely sonic art without theory, i.e. exactly how it is experienced by audiences, with or without theory, because at the moment sound art is let loose on the listeners, there is nobody explaining what they should hear while the ‘music’ plays. Her point of view can be considered the realistic approach of the female, while in the same time being stuck in the male competition field.

            Mr Lehmann, leading this crazy discussion in Darmstadt (the Vatican of Klangkunst) is one of those German philosophical types who want to go deep into the subject to reveal complex layers of meaning seemingly hidden within remarkably simple phenomenae, which is the predicament of people locked-up in their intellect and being out of touch with reality.

            There is a link between sonic art and ‘conceptualism’ in the ‘visual arts’:


          • buxtehude says:

            Thank you John.

    • John Borstlap says:

      One does not have to be an able film music composer to see that the man is right.

      His own offerings are something like the Chinese Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto:

      Sympathetic, naive stuff, nothing wrong with it. In terms of naivity, not much different from Miss Fure’s sound art.

      There is quite some different new music around which is both technically and tonally virtuosic and expressive:

      I would think this Beffa mini concerto is, in all aspects, far superior to both Fure’s sound art and Taieb’s naivity.

      It seems to me that the commission for Ms Fure had been given before JvZweden’s appointment, so of course it had to be performed.

    • John Kelly says:

      Well I think it’s safe to say Jaap won’t be conducting any of this guy’s stuff. Peculiarly vitriolic, petty and jealous. Absolutely classless.

      Reminiscent of Tchaikovsky terming Brahms a “talentless bastard.” – only more so…………

  • Robert Holmén says:

    Note that the new piece has to be first on the program to keep the audience from fleeing. Even in New York.

  • Robert Groen says:

    By the way: the Dutch verb ‘glunderen’ translates, not as ‘gloating’ but as ‘looking happy, pleased with oneself’. It doesn’t have the negative connotation of ‘gloating’.

  • Carla says:

    I wish I could have been there. But I can tell you this: I have worked Jaap in the Netherlands and he was one of those conductors where I could say I was a better violinist at the end of a week with him.
    He takes his job extremely serious and is dedicated and expects the musician to be as well. I imagine that with the NY Phil, it could be a golden combination!

    • John Borstlap says:

      Of course…. he is well-known for his thorough rehearsing and intense musicality, bringing orchestral players beyond what they thought of their capacities.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        Some have criticised him for being, loud, vulgar and lacking nuance or subtlety. I guess that shows there are a range of opinions from John Bostlap’s on one hand and mainstream music critics on the other hand.

        • John Borstlap says:

          Among the mainstream critics there is quite some diversity and many of them are very positive about JvZw. It depends upon how experiences are understood in which context. Musical intensity can give the impression of mere loudness for someone who does not get the music but only hears the sound it makes, subtlety of expression can go for directionless for another who expects something very different from this or that passage, and so on. This conductor will have, like every player, his fluctuations in live performances, but I can only say that the musical intensity and architectural grip of this conductor is altogether great. He has a special talent for composers like Bruckner, Brahms, Wagner and Mahler – a particular intensity which I miss often with other, more ‘smooth’ conductors. I discovered the great talent of this unusual man when by coincidence I got his early Brahms box with all the symphonies in my hands, which can easily stand next to the very best available recordings. In contrast with what many music lovers seem to think, it is very difficult to get Brahms ‘right’….. JvZw understands that music on a deep level.

  • almaviva says:

    Reading Nico Muhly’s brief depiction of tonight’s concert left me terribly disconcerted. His writing is at the level of the a middle-schooler, at best: the odd capitalizations, the lack of a discernible grammatical structure, and so on. If that’s the best a leading composer of today’s American musical scene could do, then eloquence is dead; the comprehensive dumbing down of the American artistic landscape is complete. No one was expecting a highfaluting peroration here, but at least something that showed a minimal knowledge of grammar and orthography.

  • Robert Groen says:

    Hi Slipped Discers! For a little light relief in this agonizing discussion, may I introduce my German friend Helmut Lachenmann? He will amaze and delight you in equal measure. Can’t send you a link, I’m rubbish at copying and pasting. He’s on YouTube doing odd things with a piano.

    • buxtehude says:

      “… Ms. Fure sought, as she writes in the score, to ‘create a dynamic spatialization of sound whose angles and arrays shift around the audience in real time.’ ….

      “The sounds were often ravishing and eerie, even when I grew impatient to know where the piece was heading. I can hardly remember anything specific about it. But I loved being part of this enveloping sonic and communal experience.”

      Can’t be trusted. Maybe he ought to get out more.

      • John Borstlap says:

        It’s the ‘Slonimsky Fear’ also called ‘slonimskyphobia’ – critics being afraid to appear in the next edition of the ‘Lexicon of Musical Invective’ and being the laughing stock for future generations venerating master pieces like those of Ms Fure.

        • Saxon Broken says:

          After all, as a music critic, the only thing worse than being talked about by posterity, is not being talked about.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    The three minute excerpt embedded in the NY Times article was not promising. Odd shrieks and groans come and go.

    It is much as I anticipated. “New” music that isn’t new.

    This paragraph is telling…

    “One can’t help trying to discern recurring themes, development or narrative sweep. But Ms. Fure has something else in mind: making acoustic and amplified sounds push against one another within the concert hall’s space, and affecting listeners on a physical level.”

    Sound within a concert hall space. That’s not novel.

    And there is no development to tie it together.

  • Drew says:

    It sounds like some of you commenters would have been happier had Jaap opened the season with a rousing suite from “Harry Potter”! Oops, sorry, is that too new for some of you old timers? Then I suppose “Raiders of the Lost Ark” would do. Never change, Disc-Slippers.

    • buxtehude says:

      “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” for me.

      Also — don’t want no sounds “pushing against one another,” enough of that on the street.

    • John Borstlap says:

      A often-heard misunderstanding is that there be only two options: either indigestible sound patterns dressed-up as ‘forward-looking music’ (music that always will remain in the future), or lukewarm limonade music usually served under the film screen. Nothing is less true.

  • buxtehude says:

    Anybody know whether David Geffen was in attendance?

  • John Borstlap says:

    Interestingly, almost all the reviews of the opening gala night describe Fure’s premiere piece as something truly new, testing the boundaries of music. But – as everybody within the music world knows – her expeditions have already been carried-out thoroughly in the sixties of the last century, so they can’t hardly be called ‘new’. But the critics apparently had no idea about that. How come? Because those ‘testing works’ were nice for one time but no longer interesting the second time, so it got out of favor even by the sound artists themselves. This way of ‘testing the boundaries of music’ never caught-on, and thus it disappeared out of sight. And when it is dug-out again, critics think it is new. In this way, such aesthetic will be a new discovery all the time.