One music director or another makes little differencemain
From my monthly essay in The Critic:
Take, as a case history, the New York Philharmonic. America’s premier gateway for musical talent, founded in 1842, the Philharmonic has not picked the right conductor since Leonard Bernstein threw himself under its wheels in 1957 and came up with enough razzle-dazzle to magnetise a new generation. People are going into care homes these days still singing the themes from his Young People’s Concerts. Lenny welded an orchestra to a city and its rising teens.
The Philharmonic plays on. It sounds more or less the same and its patrons continue to cough up the dough.
After he left in 1973, the bond frayed. Pierre Boulez brought six years of modernist chic, followed by decades of torpor with Zubin Mehta, Kurt Masur, Lorin Maazel, Alan Gilbert and the incumbent Dutchman Jaap van Zweden (yes, who?). None of these baton wagglers grabbed the city by the love-handles the way Bernstein did, or tuned into its rhythms.
Yet the Philharmonic plays on. It sounds more or less the same and its patrons continue to cough up the dough. The orchestra’s endowment currently stands at $225 million, enough for it to give away all its tickets to the poor for years to come (not that it ever will). So who’s the conductor? No-one on the Staten Island Ferry can tell ya….
Read on here.