Bernard Haitink Retires, Leaving a Massive Mahler Legacy

Bernard Haitink leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (Photo: Todd Rosenberg)

AMSTERDAM – During a fascinating backstage tour of the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam last month, a knowledgeable and droll tour guide paused before a wall of photos of past music directors. He proceeded to weave a series of colorful stories about several heroic and hapless maestros who have led the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and the drama that sometimes followed in their wake, except for one: Bernard Haitink.

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Florence Price: A New Chapter For An Undervalued Composer

Florence Price

Advocates of American classical music have often complained that there is a whole generation of mid-20th century symphonic composers whose work has been unjustly neglected. It includes figures like Roy Harris, Charles Ives, Walter Piston, Roger Sessions, and William Schuman, to name a few who were active from roughly 1930 to 1960 and who now rarely turn up on orchestra subscription programs.

Such a list could also include the name Florence Price. Continue reading “Florence Price: A New Chapter For An Undervalued Composer”

Leonard Slatkin on His Final Bow at the Detroit Symphony

On May 25, I attended the first of three final programs that Leonard Slatkin had programmed for his 10th and final season as music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. But Slatkin wasn’t there. The 73-year-old conductor was forced to withdraw from the concerts in order to undergo a heart-bypass operation (he’s reportedly recovering well). Continue reading “Leonard Slatkin on His Final Bow at the Detroit Symphony”

New York Philharmonic Can’t Get Enough of Mahler

Jaap van Zweden conducts the New York Philharmonic (Photo: Chris Lee)

The New York Philharmonic is entering a bold new era for fans of Gustav Mahler and other late-Romantic symphonists, if the opening-night gala concert, led by Jaap van Zweden, was any indication. The Sept. 19 program featured Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, performed days after van Zweden led the same work at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, where he is in his final season as music director.
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Orchestras Hire Youthful Conductors to Stay Relevant. Is that Enough?

Gael García Bernal as Rodrigo in 'Mozart in the Jungle' (Amazon)

What can symphony orchestras learn from “Mozart in the Jungle,” the Amazon series featuring a dashing young conductor from Mexico who replaces the aging music director of an orchestra, in a bid to invigorate the stodgy institution? In this Slate article from Feb. 4, 2016, I look at various factors that contribute to an orchestra’s perceived relevance and value in its community – starting with the conductors who stand on the podium.

“Orchestras across the country have been buffeted by deficits, declining attendance, and labor unrest; and the Philharmonic, while in better health than many, remains a medium-sized fish in a New York cultural pond dominated by Broadway, fashion, and the latest restaurant openings. While a conductor’s first responsibility is to the music, is it possible in 2016 for the face of an arts institution—or one that wants to remain relevant, anyway—to avoid engaging with the social and cultural context in which he makes his art?” Read on.

Photo: Gael García Bernal as Rodrigo in ‘Mozart in the Jungle’ (Amazon)

5 Takeaways from Classical Music Virtual Reality Projects

At the Hubble Cantata performance at the Prospect Park Bandshell, Brooklyn (Photo: Brian Wise)

The classical music field has had an on-and-off relationship with online gaming and personal technology. Back in 2007, users of the Nintendo Wii could play a new virtual reality-type game called the Virtual Maestro, which turned the Wii controller (which resembled a TV remote) into a baton to manipulate a digital orchestra’s tempo. Before that, there was the Concert Companion, a pre-smartphone era device that was intended to provide realtime program notes at concerts. Continue reading “5 Takeaways from Classical Music Virtual Reality Projects”