A Monteux conductor has died at 90

A Monteux conductor has died at 90


norman lebrecht

August 17, 2020

The death is reported of Maurice Kaplow, long-standing conductor of New York City Ballet.

As a viola player in the Philadelphia Orchestra in the mid-1950s, he was encouraged by Pierre Monteux to take up the baton. Where other maestros of that era put on airs. Monteux forever searched for potential heris to continue the tradition. Neville Marriner, the most prominent of his discoveries, told me several times of Monteux’s personal humility and his devotion to continuity.

Kaplow was another who found fulfilment through the little Frenchman who, in 1913, gave the world premiere of The Rite of Spring.

More here.




  • Greg Bottini says:

    I am, unfortunately, not familiar with Maestro Kaplow’s work, having never seen the NYC Ballet or the Pennsylvania Ballet.
    But how great is it that he started his own orchestra? Bravo!
    R.I.P., Maestro.
    (BTW, Monteux is still the finest conductor the SF Symphony has ever had at its helm.)

  • Griffom du Blinch IV says:

    RIP in peace, maestro.

    Thanks for this information, Norman.

    Please everyone stay safe during these apocalyptic and infectious times.

  • Edgar Self says:

    A survivor of Enrique Jorda, Josef Krips, Edo DeWaart, Seiji Ozawa, Herbert Blomstedt, and MTT, and almost Alfred Hertz, I take an oath that Greg Bottini rightly calls Monteux the best conductor of San Francisco Symphony, on a par even with its best guests Bruno Walter, Thomas Beecham, and fire-eating Georg Szell.

    • Greg Bottini says:

      Hello, and thank you, Edgar-
      I hope you’re well. Your Alfred Hertz reference made me smile!
      Like you, I heard Krips, Ozawa, DeWaart, Blomstedt, and MTT, and also Salonen (as guest). I just missed Jorda. I would love to have heard what Dobrowen might have done with the orchestra – he is marvelous on the recordings I have of him with other ensembles.
      I’m too young to have caught Monteux in person, but I own all of his commercial SFS recordings on RCA Victor on CD, LP, and 78 RPM (thanks to Monteux’ principal trumpeter Charles Bubb giving me his record collection) and the indispensable 13-CD box of live performances with “The Standard Symphony Orchestra” (the SFS in mufti) on Music & Arts CD-1192.
      The guest conductors you mention are all great, but let’s not forget Ormandy guested with the orchestra too, shortly after his retirement from Philadelphia (a stunningly beautiful Mussorgsky-Ravel Pictures), and also Skrowaczewski (a Shostakovich Fifth that brought me to tears, then wild applause).
      Ah, the good old days….

      • Edgar Self says:

        Hola, Greg! thanks, I’m ambulatory after seven weeks in hospital and re-hab. My wife and I ceelebrated birthdays in hospital, as good a reason as any.

        Pre-Monteux SFSO conductors came up short. Van Hoogstraten and Klemperer were on the West Coast but escaped me, also Beecham.

        If Issay Dobrowen, Fistoulari, Skrowaczewski, Golschmann, Defauw, or Ormandy made a bad record, I haven’t heard it I missed Ormandy in San Francisco, and have only hazy memories of him, Harl McDonald, and Paul Whiteman in Philadelphia, where uniforms got you i to Academy of Music; Harl stood outside with passes, but we weren’t always strictly sober.

        Even Jorda made a good end, with a tenor from Mexico City and every male singer west of the Rockies in Civic Auditorium for Berlioz Requiem, I’m still hoarse from that Tuba Mirum, shouting over the four brass bands at the compass points.

        Later my sons and I sang there for Fiedler: Alexander Nevsky and Carmina Burana. I liked better Bach’s Magnificat and premiering Schoenberg’s “Psalm” with Ozawa, and a Berlioz Te Deum that I have bare memories of except it was short and not difficult. There were also Messiah, Bruckner’s third mass, Missa Solemnis, Bach Mass. Israel in Egypt, Elijah, Mozart Requiem, Britten’s “Ceremony of Carols”, and Brahms/Schiller’s “Naenie” with Bay orchestras and conductors. Yes, those were the days.

        • Greg Bottini says:

          Glad you’re back on your feet, friend Edgar.
          Belated birthday congratulations to you and your wife!
          Your right about the records of Dobrowen, Fistoulari, Skrowaczewski, Golschmann, Defauw, and Ormandy. Even Jorda made some good discs – Falla on 78s for Decca and also with Rubinstein and the SFS for RCA Victor.
          Ormandy was superb with the SFS, as he was for the three times I heard him with Philly.
          Tell me, were the Fiedler Nevsky and Carmina Burana regular SFS season concerts? They don’t seem like the kind of repertoire he would do at the Summer Pops, which I often attended. But I guess they must have been if they took place at the Civic Aud.

          • Edgar Self says:

            The Fiedler concerts were Summer “Pops” in Civic Auditorium. He came each summer, spending much time on SFFD fire-trucks chasing fires, his photo in papers wearing his helmet. The orchestra was SFSO.

            Gerhard Samuel was in Oakland, Kent Nagano at Berkeley, George Cleve in San Jose, Sandor Salgo in Carmel for the Bach festivals with Johanna Harris and Fernando Valenti. John Fenstermaher and Ted Worth at the Big Top, Grace Cathedral, and Alexander Post at First Unitarian on a new Noehrens baroque organ. The cathedral out on Geary had a Ruffatti with pontifical trumpets. Robert Shaw came for Bach seminars.

            The Griller Quartet were in residence at U.C. Milhaud, Egon Petri and Abramowitsch were at Mills College; Bill Jones and Paul Hirsch at SF. Conservatory, which Bloch had just left. Gregory Millar’s Little Symphony was disbanding. Kurtt Adler reigned at SF Opera.

            Erich Hoffer, Gary Snyder, Lew Welch, Ferlinghetti, Henry Miller, Alan Watts, Paul Tillich, Erik Eriksen, Robinson Jeffers made the book scene. Stephen Spenderand Dylan Thomas read their poems; Jean Varda and sculptor Bemiamino Buffano carried the arts. Sterling Hayden was on his yacht in Sausalito. I tried to keep up.

            I’d forgotten Enrique Jorda’s records with Rubinstein and SFSO, Falla’s “Noches en los jardines d’Espana”, Walking home after an Arrau/Jorda concert I came upon them saying effusive Spaanish goodbyes on Fisherman’s Wharf.

        • Greg Bottini says:

          *you’re right, not “your right”. Heck, it’s 4:45 AM – I’m surprised I can type at all.

  • Edgard Self says:

    “SFS in mufti”, radios’ Standard Symphony Orchestra”, includes the two movements of a Mozart concerto with Monteux and William Kapell. In 1953, the last year of his short life, Kapell played Mozart’s 17th concerto in G, K. 453, with Casals at the Prades Festival, of which there’s no record, but ten Schubert Lieder with Maria Staer and Mozart’s piano quartet in E-flat were captured.

    The next season, Kapell was to give a joint recital in San Francisco on the Spencer Barefoot Celebrity series with an merican cellist, to include Rachmaniinoff’s sonata, that he had recorded with Edmund Kurtz. It was not to be. Spencer was Barefoot, not his cebrities, he being of Seminole stoc, though some said Apache.

    • Greg Bottini says:

      Hello, Edgar….
      As a matter of fact, the ill-fated Kapell’s airplane crashed in the fog on Kings Mountain in San Mateo County near Woodside – VERY close to where I grew up – while attempting to return to SFO from Australia.
      It was an unimaginable tragedy for EVERYONE: his family, of course, and the families of all those on board who perished (all did), but also for every classical music lover on the planet.
      The Rach ‘cello sonata with Kurtz is in the big Kapell box set on RCA Victor. D’you know who was the ‘cellist he was slated to play with in SF?
      And please, if you can, provide me with more info regarding the “Spencer Barefoot Celebrity series”.
      Getting back to a previous comment, Enrique Jorda recorded one more work with the SFS apart from the Falla “Nights” with Rubinstein mentioned earlier: the Rach 2nd Concerto with Alexander Brailowsky. I listened to it today after spending an ungodly amount of time finding it and digging it out of its dusty resting place. I hadn’t heard it in years….
      The recording is just as I remembered it: it’s a bit better than OK; it’s not quite “good”. Brailowsky, although he had his followers, has never been a pianist I’ve warmed up to, and Jorda and the SFS were, shall we say, sincere in their efforts.
      My copy is on an RCA Silver Seal CD 60540-2, coupled with a really satisfying Rach 3 with Byron Janis, Munch, and the BSO. Now THAT combo – Janis with Chuck Munch And His Bunch – could really do Rachmaninoff up right!

      • Edgar Self says:

        Greg, Cellist Joseph Schuster and Kapell were advertised to give a joint recital on Spencer Barefoot’s celebrity series in Veterans Auditorium, Civic Center, San Francisco (Tim Pages’s book istakenly says Los Angeles) on April 1, 1954.

        Chuck Munch and his Bunch accompany Cortot in a better Saint-Saens’s fourth concerto than Brailowsky’s, who isn’t one of my favorites either but played Chopin’s waltzes well. Casadesus’s Saint-Saens fourth I also like, even his clunker in managingm to pul own two notes in the one-finger, one-note theme that introduces the finale.

        I saw Brailowsky at Curran Theater, when he played Hummel’s corny Rondo in E-flat as an encore. Sergei Mahailoff of the Russian music colony held court in thefoyerand tod us what it was.

  • Edgar Self says:

    In 1953 when Kapell died at 31, I was still in Heidelberg, sickened by the news that his plane had crashed. He was the great hope of American pianism, born the same year as Abbey Simon who died late last year,

    Int he generations of Simon, Gould, Cliburn, Dalies Frantz, Edward Kilenyi, Janis, Eugene List, Graffman, John Browning, and Fleisher, he was already outstanding. The death of Lipatti, air disasters in which Cantelli, Neveu, and Thibaud died, the accidental deaths of Dino Ciani, Dennis Brain, and Richard Farrell, the suicides of Alexander Kelberine, Noel Mewton-Wood, and Denis Matthews cast a pall.

    Kapell recordings continue to appear: Schumann piano quintet last year on Marston; Brahms first concerto with Mitroopoulos, Rachmaninoff’s third, Prades Festival 1953 ten Liederwith Maria Stader,, Beethoven sonata with Grumiaux, Mozart E-flat quartet (Mozart’s K. 453 concerto still missing; Falla’s “Noches”, juvenile records and a short film, the Australian recordings, RCA’s box with a long radio interview to hear his voice, slow, thoughtful, earnest, unfaltering. I never saw him but know him well. Tim Page’s documentary book has letters to teachers, friends, colleagues his,srudents, and many photos from his entire, short life.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Greg, how close are yu to the wildfires? Also did you ever run into poet William Everson (formerly Brother Antoninus of the Christian Brothers) around Santa Cruz? I did twice, first on Mt. Tamalpais above Stinson Beach, and again at a Robinson Jeffers seminar at Tor House, Carmel, where he and Judith Andeerson spoke and recited. Jeffers’s grand-daughter Una, and son Donnan took us through the house and around sights associated with Jeffers and his writings. This was some time after Henry Miller, Nicholas Roosevelt, and Helmut Deetjens were in Big Sur, although I had earlier met Deetjens several times.

    I climbed Hawk Tower, sat at Jeffers’s desk, and stood on the parapetet overlooking the Pacific, watching the Wagnerian sunfall and talking to Everson, who had just published “Far Fragments of an Older Fury” about his fateful encouner with Jeffers’s dramas and poetry, “Medea”, etc.

    • Greg Bottini says:

      Hi Edgar,
      Fortunately, we’re not close to the wildfires at all now; we’re living in The City. And my sister is in San Mateo down by El Camino, blessedly out of harm’s way.
      I must admit to not hanging out at all with the literary crowd of the day. I would of course have loved to hear Judith Anderson speak, but the poets of the era simply did not interest me.
      Of course I’ve been up to Mt. Tam a number of times, and I’ve spent much time in Stinson, and also nearby Bolinas. The folks living around there are pleasant but VERY insular and backwoodsy. They don’t care for us “city folks”.
      There’s only one gas station in Bolinas (named “Bo-Gas”, almost like the pianist’s name), and if the proprietor doesn’t like the look of you he won’t sell you gas! Honest! (Full disclosure: this was 15 years ago; times may or may not have changed in the meanwhile.)
      > For our British readers: gas = petrol.