Halfway into the 2005-06 season, Music Director Lorin Maazel sat down to survey the state of the New York Philharmonic and some of the highlights in store for Philharmonic audiences in the coming months.
MR: This month, on February 8, the Philharmonic unveils its 2006-07 season. Can you talk a bit about how a season is planned?
LM: We give a lot of thought to each season having its own integrity. There are themes that run through all the weeks, but we are also keen that each program be able to stand on its own; that is, we hope that when people leave the hall they will be saying, "That was a great concert."
MR: Turning to the remaining months in this season, what are some of the highlights we can look forward to?
LM: This is the Mozart year, but apart from that, how can we have a season with the New York Philharmonic without celebrating the great master of his time, and probably still of our own time? There is no composer who has succeeded in surpassing Mozart in the quality of work and the depth of the musical expression that he achieved; for that reason I have chosen the last three symphonies‹Nos. 39, 40, and 41‹for one of this month's programs. This is music of great joy, of great drama, of great sentiment, great passion‹music, I think, that best exemplifies the symphonic Mozart.
MR: You will be shifting gears next month when you conduct the Verdi Requiem.
LM: I have been waiting quite some time to perform the Verdi Requiem with the New York Philharmonic. It's a work I love and have devoted much time and thought to. It is a work of great power, great breadth, and immediacy. I love it dearly. We have a fantastic cast and it should be one of those evenings that none of us will forget having attended.
MR: This is also a season in which the Philharmonic pays homage to one of this country's greatest living composers, Elliott Carter.
LM: It is our honor to be able to present a modest retrospective of the music that Elliott Carter has written over the last, well, seven decades. He's now in his 90s, God bless him. I've already conducted his Holiday Overture, this month I conduct his Variations for Orchestra, and later in the season we'll do his Dialogues, three works which I think characterize well three periods in his creative life. I first encountered the music of Elliott Carter over 50 years ago, so I've been a fan of his music for many years.
MR: Looking ahead to the end of the season, you're going to close with Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique. Why that particular piece?
LM: How can one go through a season without performing some of the music by the great French master. Years ago, the Fantastic Symphony used to be performed every day of the week, it seemed. It didn't fall out of grace, but there's been so much other music that sometimes one forgets to program a masterpiece of Berlioz, but I haven't. The Fantastic Symphony is truly fantastic; it is incredible to hear the sounds that Hector found in the heart of the symphonic ensemble. In fact, it was he who discovered the modern orchestra. And it was thanks very much to the music he wrote‹including Romeo and Juliet, which I performed in the 2003-04 season‹that Richard Wagner was able to write operas like Siegfried or Tannhäuser, which both owe a great deal to Berlioz's music, which Wagner knew very well. So it seems appropriate that we end our season with a major work of Berlioz and certainly there is no more major work than this Fantastic Symphony.
MR: This season the Philharmonic introduced two hosted concert series: Hear & Now, which gives the audience a sort of "guided tour" through contemporary works, and Inside the Music with Peter Schickele, which does the same for the great classics. What is the thinking behind these series?
LM: Thanks to the information superhighway, when people attend concerts‹or for that matter, plays or movies‹their expectations are greater. People want to know more about the music, so what we are doing is nothing more than enhancing an art form that we totally believe in.
MR: Would you like to leave the audience with a last thought?
LM: We all need quiet, we need peace, we need a space, and that's what music‹classical music, optimally performed‹can provide as no other art form can.
Madeline Rogers is the Director of Publications for the New York Philharmonic.