After a series of high-profile cancellations in recent weeks, Lorin Maazel has withdrawn from a series of four concerts with the Berlin Phil in the first week of June. The old warrior, 83, will have been out of action for more than two months, probably his longest rest in 70 years. There has been no disclosure of the cause of his withdrawal. We wish him a fast and full recovery.

Semyon Bychkov, a music director candidate, takes over his Berlin dates.

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Claus Helmut Drese who led the Vienna opera through the second half of the 1980s and signed up Claudio Abbado as music director, has died at the age of 88. Cue for a flood of crocodile tears.

The Viennese media, forgetting that it was they who drove him out of town, are trotting out all the usual platitudes of gratitude and lament, none more so than Die Presse, his chief tormentor. The State Opera, from which he was effectively fired, has added its own polite tributes.

Drese inherited the mess of Lorin Maazel’s departure in 1984 (after a brief morbid, interregnum by Egon Seefehlner) and turned the house round quite effectively over four years before an interfering culture minister introduced him one bright day to his designated successors. He worked out his contract until 1991, the Mozart Year, at which point Abbado also walked out and Vienna entered an epoch of mediocrity.
Not that you will read that in the Viennese papers.

Claus Helmut Drese who led the Vienna opera through the second half of the 1980s and signed up Claudio Abbado as music director, has died at the age of 88. Cue for a flood of crocodile tears.

The Viennese media, forgetting that it was they who drove him out of town, are trotting out all the usual platitudes of gratitude and lament, none more so than Die Presse, his chief tormentor. The State Opera, from which he was effectively fired, has added its own polite tributes.

Drese inherited the mess of Lorin Maazel’s departure in 1984 (after a brief morbid, interregnum by Egon Seefehlner) and turned the house round quite effectively over four years before an interfering culture minister introduced him one bright day to his designated successors. He worked out his contract until 1991, the Mozart Year, at which point Abbado also walked out and Vienna entered an epoch of mediocrity.
Not that you will read that in the Viennese papers.

Michael Tilson Thomas gets a rare draught of oxygen in the New York Times today, in a blog by its chief critic, Anthony Tommasini, which celebrates his ‘bi-coastality’. 

MTT has two orchestras, one in San Francisco, the other in Miami. Nothing new there, but the Times has not thought to feature it before. 

Despite many virtues and a strong international career, MTT was mysteriously not supported either by the Times or by many players to head the New York Philharmonic during its various regime changes. The Times, led by Tommasini, has led vociferous recent campaigns against Lorin Maazel and, more dubiously, on behalf of Alan Gilbert.
So what’s wrong with MTT? Nothing, says Tommo. We love him.
He’s just not for New York 

See also: Philharmonic proposes civil partnership to NY Times: http://bit.ly/ePV7hO

Michael Tilson Thomas gets a rare draught of oxygen in the New York Times today, in a blog by its chief critic, Anthony Tommasini, which celebrates his ‘bi-coastality’. 

MTT has two orchestras, one in San Francisco, the other in Miami. Nothing new there, but the Times has not thought to feature it before. 

Despite many virtues and a strong international career, MTT was mysteriously not supported either by the Times or by many players to head the New York Philharmonic during its various regime changes. The Times, led by Tommasini, has led vociferous recent campaigns against Lorin Maazel and, more dubiously, on behalf of Alan Gilbert.
So what’s wrong with MTT? Nothing, says Tommo. We love him.
He’s just not for New York 

See also: Philharmonic proposes civil partnership to NY Times: http://bit.ly/ePV7hO

I have just been told that the composer Benjamin Lees has died, aged 86. A delightful man, I last heard from him a few weeks back to say he was writing a second violin concerto, his vigour undimmed by the recent unfashionability of his hard-worked, ever-expressive music.

Ben belonged to no cult, style or school of composers. A student of the iconoclastic George Antheil, he wrote what was on his heart and his mind, and he wrote well. There is a not a misplaced note or stress in the two-dozen works I have heard – invariably on record, since performances were scarce.

Although championed by important conductors from Leopold Stokowski to Lorin Maazel and acknowledged as an American eminence, he fell out of the Manhattan loop and did not merit so much as an index mention in Alex Ross’s panoptic survey of musical modernism. His entry is my own Complete Companion to 20th Century Music is, sadly, short. The fact that most people remembered is that he was born in Harbin, China.

Ben bore rejection with mildness and courtesy, sustained by a strong marriage and a loving family. We dined together once with great gusto and corresponded often. I heard his recent premieres by direct mail and was greatly taken by the third piano concerto and the fifth and sixth string quartets. This is music built to last: it will not fade to dust.

You can hear snippets on his website, or rush out to buy the first violin concerto, recently recorded by Elmar Oliveiro, with John McLaughlin Williams and the Ukraine orchestra. Behind the melodic ease and infallible musical logic lay a passion that burned fierce and had something vital to say. 

A full worklist can be found on www.benjaminlees.com. His publisher was Boosey&Hawkes.  

Claudio Abbado has been admitted to a clinic in Berlin for treatment that is likely to last several weeks, according to his doctor’s statement. The conductor, 76, had a large part of his stomach removed a decade ago in the course of cancer treatment, shortly after stepping down as chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic.

His musical recovery has been miraculous and his Mahler performances with his own hand-picked orchestra at the Lucerne summer festival have been a cultural highlight of the European calendar.

The undisclosed illness has obliged Abbado to cancel a sentimental return next month to La Scala, where he was music director from 1968 to 1986, and there is no suggestion at this point that he may also pull out of Lucerne. Three years ago, he cancelled all engagements ‘in the near future’, but bounced back within two months. Everyone who cares about music will be praying that his present recovery is just as swift and complete.

But who fills in while Abbado is out? There is an opportunity here for a 30-something to step up. In the absence of Mariss Jansons, who is undergoing cardiac care, his fellow-Latvian and only pupil Andris Nelsons has leaped in at the Vienna Opera and various German venues. Being a good pupil and a decent man, Nelsons insists that he is only keeping the seat warm for Mariss’s return, but the appearances have greatly boosted his continental career, beyond the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, where he is music director.

Abbado, however, has no obvious substitute. If the music business runs to form, it will plunk in some Zubin Mehta or Lorin Maazel to please the front-row fat-cat donors. But if the future of music matters to summer festival organisers, they should be rummaging among a talented crop of up-and-comings, all in their 20s and 30s, certainly the most gifted pack since Abbado, Muti, Levine and Barenboim were strutting their youthful stuff.

I could name names, but I’ll save them for another post.

 

Since last week’s sordid events, there have been three developments:

– The Philharmonic’s chief executive is apparently unwell.

– The critic who praised Gilbert Kaplan’s performance of Mahler’s second symphony has admitted he did not acknowledge the conductor’s full authority in his review.

– And two more players have reiterated the trombonist’s attack on the guest conductor in language so similar to one another as to suggest a football huddle.

On the first matter, there is nothing to add except to wish Zarin Mehta a speedy recovery.

Steve Smith, the critic (who is also music editor for Time Out New York), deserves much credit for disclosing on his blog that he regrets having omitted a phrase in which he described Kaplan as co-editor of the critical edition of the score – in other words, as the man who helped produce the text that is truest to the composer’s final intentions.

The two new grumblers deserve no credit at all, not even name credit.

They were playing for the first time an authentic version of the symphony and all they could do was whinge about aspects of the conductor’s technique. Have these people lost all interest in music? Don’t they want to know more about the stuff they play? Can’t they see beyond a physical rehearsal-room limitation to the possibility of actual enlightenment?

The New York Philharmonic has come out of this seedy episode looking like a rabble without a cause. When its music director invites a man to conduct a concert for the benefit of the orchestra’s pension fund, it is worse than just bad manners for the players to insult him to their heart’s content. It is a symptom of exceedingly bad management, of an organisation that has run out of control. Somebody needs to get a grip, to state a position, to invoke a principle of collective responsibility. 

It is no surprise that Riccardo Muti turned down the offer to become music director in favour of Chicago, that Simon Rattle won’t go near the band with a bargepole and that the only person with enough insurance to succeed Lorin Maazel is the son of two members of the orchestra who think they can keep the hyenas from his door. What a shambles.

 

Since last week’s sordid events, there have been three developments:

– The Philharmonic’s chief executive is apparently unwell.

– The critic who praised Gilbert Kaplan’s performance of Mahler’s second symphony has admitted he did not acknowledge the conductor’s full authority in his review.

– And two more players have reiterated the trombonist’s attack on the guest conductor in language so similar to one another as to suggest a football huddle.

On the first matter, there is nothing to add except to wish Zarin Mehta a speedy recovery.

Steve Smith, the critic (who is also music editor for Time Out New York), deserves much credit for disclosing on his blog that he regrets having omitted a phrase in which he described Kaplan as co-editor of the critical edition of the score – in other words, as the man who helped produce the text that is truest to the composer’s final intentions.

The two new grumblers deserve no credit at all, not even name credit.

They were playing for the first time an authentic version of the symphony and all they could do was whinge about aspects of the conductor’s technique. Have these people lost all interest in music? Don’t they want to know more about the stuff they play? Can’t they see beyond a physical rehearsal-room limitation to the possibility of actual enlightenment?

The New York Philharmonic has come out of this seedy episode looking like a rabble without a cause. When its music director invites a man to conduct a concert for the benefit of the orchestra’s pension fund, it is worse than just bad manners for the players to insult him to their heart’s content. It is a symptom of exceedingly bad management, of an organisation that has run out of control. Somebody needs to get a grip, to state a position, to invoke a principle of collective responsibility. 

It is no surprise that Riccardo Muti turned down the offer to become music director in favour of Chicago, that Simon Rattle won’t go near the band with a bargepole and that the only person with enough insurance to succeed Lorin Maazel is the son of two members of the orchestra who think they can keep the hyenas from his door. What a shambles.