New York Philharmonic: A Truly Grand Finale

Classic Arts Features   New York Philharmonic: A Truly Grand Finale
The New York Philharmonic's 2008-09 season, titled Lorin Maazel : A Grand Finale, is a yearlong celebration of the Music Director's tenure at the Orchestra.

Mr. Maazel recently took a moment to share some thoughts on the programs he will conduct, as well as his feelings for the musicians with whom he will have spent seven years.

Monica Parks: This June you are conducting Mahler's Symphony No. 9; next season you will complete your cycle of Mahler's symphonies at the New York Philharmonic, with the Adagio from the Tenth, as well as his Eighth.

Lorin Maazel: I will perform the Adagio from Mahler Ten on a program which was conceived by the administration of the Orchestra‹I would never have dared to do so!‹to present the works of the current and former music directors [September 25-27, 2008]. It also includes my Music for Flute and Orchestra, performed by our Principal Flute Robert Langevin, and pieces by Boulez and Bernstein. I knew Lenny very well and, in fact, conducted the Symphony No. 2, The Age of Anxiety [Bernstein's work on this program], in his presence. He didn't seem disgruntled, so perhaps I can perform it again in the knowledge that the composer was not too offended by what I did with his music.

Over the season you will lead another cycle: all six of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos.

Bach is basic nutrition for classically trained musicians. I had the good fortune of having a Bach fanatic as a teacher, who had me playing Bach partitas and sonatas before I was ten. Then I had another Bach maniac for a harmony-counterpoint teacher: he had me study The Art of Fugue and write a fugue every day for a year. I feel I'm well grounded in classical music because of that interaction, and in my last season I thought it would be appropriate if I shared that experience with my Philharmonic colleagues. It also will give me an opportunity to work with many of the fine soloists in the Orchestra.

Speaking of soloists in the Orchestra, next season we will celebrate Principal Clarinet Stanley Drucker's 60th anniversary at the New York Philharmonic.

Stanley has set a standard that many have tried to emulate‹not many with much success, either technically or musically. He is a fantastic player, and we are looking forward to his appearances with the Orchestra [in June 2009] to celebrate his 60th and last season with the New York Philharmonic. He'll be playing the Copland Clarinet Concerto, which he has made his own and continues to master. It should be a fun evening.

Copland was a leading figure of the 20th century. Moving to the 21st, next season you are conducting three premieres‹by Steven Stucky and Bernard Rands, in the fall, and Aaron Jay Kernis, in June.

I have looked through Stucky's music, found it very challenging and interesting, and suggested the commission. Rands, of course, is a major composer, a touchstone, and a fine teacher; I'm certainly looking forward to performing his music. And I'm a great fan of Kernis's music. Premiering his works at the Philharmonic has been a fine experience for us all.

You will lead the Kernis, with Principal Trumpet Philip Smith as soloist, at the end of the season. Can you tell us about the other works you will conduct in your final month as Music Director?

We will get to the peroration with Britten's War Requiem. Its message is the futility of war, that all problems can be solved through diplomacy. That's what art is all about: spreading alternative views that are humane and could be applied.

I was appointed Music Director, not Composer-in-Residence, and so I have been very sparing in programming my own music, but my last season will actually see me conducting some of my own works. Farewells was commissioned by the Vienna Philharmonic. On the same program is Monaco Fanfares, a sort of interjectory work for winds and percussion, which I already performed with the Philharmonic in my 75th Birthday Concert.

Then we have the Symphony of a Thousand, Mahler Eight, with a cast of singers who will meet the challenge of this very difficult work, closing my seventh and final season here as Music Director.

As you look ahead toward the end of your tenure, can you share your feelings about your work with the Orchestra?

I have unbounded admiration for the quality of this Orchestra, the technical capacity of each individual in it, and their‹for want of a better word‹esprit de corps. They're very proud to belong to this Orchestra. They have a great sense of mission, and this pride exhibits itself at every moment. And their focus is absolutely extraordinary. I know I shall be leaving the Orchestra with the feeling that I have been privileged to work with such an august group for seven years. I'm very fond of them personally: they're a fine group of people, very intelligent, very savvy.

The new appointees [i.e. the 20 musicians who have joined the Orchestra during Mr. Maazel's tenure] have fitted admirably into the tradition of the New York Philharmonic. They have brought their youth, strength, virtuosity. The cohesiveness and the confidence that the new players and older players have in one another lends itself to these very confident performances that you hear, often after very little rehearsal.

This is undoubtedly one of the most efficient machines‹as well as being a magnificent group of sensitive musicians‹in the world today. If their efficiency could only be imitated in other sectors of our society, the world would be a much better place in which to live.

Monica Parks is the Director of Publications at the New York Philharmonic.

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