Levine back at the BSO

October 10, 2010 § Leave a comment

Last night’s performance of Mahler 2 was fantastic. Levine looked shaky on his feet, using a cane to move slowly from the wings to the front of the orchestra, but the music was everything I’d hoped for. I’m not sure how to put it into words, but by the end my heart was racing – I can’t remember ever having been so moved by a performance.

At the end, Levine made two curtain calls, and as he left the second time, he tossed his cane over his shoulder, eliciting laughter from some of the audience. He walked a little more gingerly, too, perhaps with the relief of having completed the performance.

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Alex Ross on Ludovic Morlot

July 4, 2010 § Leave a comment

Alex Ross’s take is here. Like Ross, I have a lot of optimism for what Morlot can achieve in Seattle.

Ross describes Schwartz’s tenure in Seattle as ‘uneven’, which I think is a fitting description. It was a recording Schwartz made with the Seattle Symphony that brought me back to classical music, and started me dreaming about life in the Pacific Northwest. I also have recordings of Schwartz leading the orchestra through a blistering rendition of Shostakovich’s tone poem October, and a pretty fair interpretation of Mahler’s Symphony no. 8.

Gerard Schwartz brought a lot to the Seattle Symphony, but his programming during my time in Seattle lacked daring, and his interpretations lacked panache. I still hold Schwartz in high regard as an artist, but bear in mind that his tenure in Seattle seems to have lasted a bit too long.

Ludovic Morlot to succeed Gerard Schwartz

June 30, 2010 § 1 Comment

The New York Times reports that Ludovic Morlot has been appointed music director of the Seattle Symphony. Morlot has visited the Seattle Symphony in the past to fine reviews. I saw him direct the SSO in Prokofiev’s Symphony no. 1 and the unusual Martinů oboe concerto and thought he was a fine conductor and he easily surpassed Maestro Schwartz in his command of the orchestra.

Morlot, at 36, will no doubt draw comparisons to Alan Gilbert and Gustavo Dudamel as one of the younger conductors appointed to direct a major symphony orchestra (if you’ll pardon my inclusion of Seattle among Los Angeles and New York). The appointment closely follows the announcement of the young Canadian Yannick Nézet-Séguin as “Music Director Designate” with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Can youth help revitalize orchestras across the United States? I hope so, as more and more orchestras pin their hopes on new, relatively unknown talents.

The Seattle Times has its take here.

Sans sourdine

June 20, 2010 § Leave a comment

Today is the first rehearsal for the 2010 Mercury Orchestra. On Friday, the Mercury Orchestra was awarded the 2009 American Prize for its performances of Mahler’s 5th Symphony and Strauss’s Don Juan. Our program for 2010 consists of Stravinsky’s Petrushka and Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. I’ve been hoping to have an opportunity to play with the Mercury Orchestra since I made the decision to move to Boston so I’m very excited to join them this season.

Levine’s Health

June 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

James Levine has withdrawn from the BSO’s summer series at Tanglewood, according to the Boston Musical Intelligencer. The performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 will be in the able hands of San Francisco Symphony maestro Michael Tilson-Thomas. I am holding out hope that Levine will return healthy in time for the BSO’s planned October performance of the same work.

Tea Party Metaphysics

June 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

J.M. Bernstein, a professor of philosophy at the New School, has written a thought-provoking op-ed piece in the New York Times. His thesis, simply stated, is that recent events have demonstrated to many Americans the extent to which they depend upon the government to maintain their lifestyles, thus tearing down their illusions of self-sufficiency. The Tea Party movement, in Bernstein’s opinion, is the outrage of a population seeing its own vulnerability exposed. Bernstein writes:

The implicit bargain that many Americans struck with the state institutions supporting modern life is that they would be politically acceptable only to the degree to which they remained invisible, and that for all intents and purposes each citizen could continue to believe that she was sovereign over her life; she would, of course, pay taxes, use the roads and schools, receive Medicare and Social Security, but only so long as these could be perceived not as radical dependencies, but simply as the conditions for leading an autonomous and self-sufficient life. Recent events have left that bargain in tatters.

I have not decided yet whether I agree with his analysis, but it does neatly tie up some of the contradictory demands made by Tea Partiers (the best examples I can think of are those cited in the article, such as the demand to keep the government’s hands out of health care but also to maintain Medicare benifits).

Balls and Strikes

June 5, 2010 § Leave a comment

The New York Times has recently carried a number of articles discussing former Supreme Court Justice David Souter’s commencement address at Harvard. Linda Greenhouse puts Justice Souter’s comments in the context of Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education. An editorial discusses Souter’s implied critique of Chief Justice John Roberts’s assertion (during his confirmation hearings at the U.S. Senate) that a Supreme Court justice’s job is like that of a baseball umpire calling balls and strikes. The Harvard Gazette has the full text of David Souter’s speech.