Spotlight: Slatkin Encourages Booing, Hampson Sells His Soul, Pogorelich Confounds Critics

Classic Arts News   Spotlight: Slatkin Encourages Booing, Hampson Sells His Soul, Pogorelich Confounds Critics
What the stars are up to, on stage and off.

It's one of the great questions of our age: to applaud or not to applaud between movements. Conductor Leonard Slatkin, for one, says go ahead and clap. Slatkin, who knows a thing or two about concerts (he is music director of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, principal guest conductor of London's Royal Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and artistic advisor to the Nashville Symphony), believes the modern-day custom of remaining silent robs both audiences and musicians. He even thinks it's OK to jeer if you want to.

"It is just fine to express yourself at a concert," Slatkin writes in a recent guest essay for a blog devoted to concert management issues. "If you are moved by the performance or work, feel free to show the performers. That goes not only for cheering and applause, but the opposite as well. With the complaints we sometimes get about new music, it is now very rare for the audience to lustily boo. I miss that. How are we to know which music to bring back if we do not hear from the listeners?"

Too often, the maestro notes, concertgoers end up making both musicians and audience members feel uncomfortable by trying to enforce between-movement silences; he recalls one concert he led, with Byron Janis at the keyboard, where a few unexpected claps were followed by shushes, then arguments, then coughs that delayed the next movement a full five minutes. "So clap away ... Just don't overdo it with lengthy outbursts that last well into the night. We all need to get to the restaurants before they close."


Thomas Hampson is turning an obscure part into a signature role. The American baritone opened the fall season at the Zurich Opera House, portraying the title character in Busoni's Doktor Faust in a production designed expressly for him. The opera, left incomplete at the time of the composer's death in 1924, remains a rarity, but Hampson's advocacy has given it new life in recent years at several major houses: he has sung it to critical acclaim at both the Metropolitan Opera and the Salzburg Festival. The Zurich staging, directed by Klaus Michael Gr‹ber and conducted by Philippe Jordan, runs through this month.

In February, Hampson returns to United States to sing the title role in Verdi's Simon Boccanegra for the first time at the Metropolitan Opera. The production also features Angela Gheorghiu and Ferruccio Furlanetto. Before that, he stops off at the Vienna State Opera to sing one of his favorite roles, Mandryka in Richard Strauss's Arabella.


The career of once-heralded pianist Ivo Pogorelich continues to veer in bizarre directions. This past summer, he announced that he was canceling his appearances for the rest of the year, but this fall he has been touring the US, performing in smaller halls and second-tier venues such as college arts centers. Fans and critics have continued to turn out to see the Croatian-born pianist, who first gained fame in 1980 when he was passed over during the Chopin Competition. (One of the judges, Martha Argerich, walked out in protest.)

The audiences this year have been baffled. In late October, at his first New York appearance in a decade, the 48-year-old Pogorelich performed a recital that The New York Times described as "incoherent and interpretively perverse." The critic for The New York Sun refused to stay for the second half.

Yet Pogorelich's unpredictability may now be a draw in itself. A recital in Denver this month was well attended and the audience reportedly appreciated Pogorelich's efforts, even though he coughed his way through the program of Beethoven and Chopin because of what he later described as a bad cold. The critic for The Denver Post thought that despite his numerous oddities, Pogorelich remains worth hearing.


Many concertgoers know Jeremy Denk for his fine work as the accompanist to violin superstar Joshua Bell. But Denk is also an accomplished soloist and chamber musician in his own right. This season brings two important firsts for the pianist: earlier this month he made his San Francisco Symphony debut, performing Mozart with Michael Tilson Thomas, and on December 2 he makes his Carnegie Hall concerto debut, playing the Bach D minor Concerto with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra ... Opera glamour girl Anna Netrebko has crossed onto the pop charts in Germany with her latest CD, a collection of Russian arias and songs. The disc debuted on Germany's pop charts in eighth place shortly after its release in late October. Netrebko's label, Deutsche Grammophon, brags that it is highest pop-chart debut for a classical album since the Three Tenors crashed the charts in 1990 ... Singers Elina Garanca and Thomas Quasthoff were in Dresden recently to accept the 2006 European Culture Prize for music. The prestigious annual award is presented by the European Cultural Foundation Pro Europe to those who help promote peaceful dialogue and cultural exchanges between European states.

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