This month, Lorin Maazel and the Orchestra embark on a musical journey through the symphonies and piano concertos of Beethoven with a few side trips to visit significant shorter orchestral works by the master.
This is a journey Maestro Maazel has taken many times before: "In Munich, where I was music director for a decade, we did the complete works of Strauss, the complete symphonic works of Mahler, Brahms, Schubert, Beethoven, Bruckner. I'm very much into cycles. I think it's extremely beneficial for the musicians because when they get to the last symphonies, they have been reminded where the composer has come from. For the music lover, of course, it's the ultimate experience because you're taking an incredible trip through a master composer's mind guided, hopefully, with success by a loving interpreter."
One of the Maestro's most ambitious Beethoven cycles was performed as a one-day marathon, which had the presenters both delighted and alarmed: "The Beethoven Fund, which raises money to teach music to deaf children, had asked me if I would raise funds for them. I said I would give my services, and conduct all the Beethoven symphonies on one day with three different London orchestras. The first concert started at ten in the morning; the last one finished at about eight in the evening.
"Much to my stupefaction, I walked into my dressing room in the morning to see a nurse with a respirator and I said, 'What's the problem? Is someone ill?'
" 'No,' she said, 'but we're not expecting you to survive the day and we've been asked to apply whatever measures might be necessary to resuscitate you.' Indeed, every time I finished two symphonies, I'd have my blood pressure taken. The folks at Royal Festival Hall weren't taking any chances!"
While this month's Philharmonic Festival promises to be less physically taxing, it will be no less powerful: "This is an orchestra with more than 160 years of history," says Mr. Maazel. "If there's any orchestra in the world that should be playing Beethoven it's the New York Philharmonic."
Madeline Rogers is the Philharmonic's Director of Publications.