"Frankly Worse-than-Most?"

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Ralph
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"Frankly Worse-than-Most?"

Post by Ralph » Thu Aug 18, 2005 8:03 pm

From The Telegraph:

Why all those insults made me stronger
(Filed: 18/08/2005)

Ivan Hewett talks to controversial conductor Franz Welser-Möst

"Ah, Frankly Worse-than-Most" is the acid response I get whenever I tell anyone I'm going to interview Franz Welser-Möst.
Franz Welser-Möst
World class: Franz Welser-Möst is headed for the Proms

It was the nickname bestowed on him during his bruising time as music director of the London Philharmonic, a job he bagged when he just 28.

In London, the name still clings to him. But for the rest of the world Welser-Möst, now 45, is the highly successful music director of the Zurich Opera, a company he's led from middle-ranking status to being one of the great ensemble companies in Europe.

In 1999, he became music director of the Cleveland Orchestra, which has never been more in demand. The ecstatic reviews he's had with the orchestra at its biennial residency at the Vienna Musikverein must have been soothing balm after the six bruising years in London. Was it a terrible time?

"Well, yes, there were some really bad moments. But there's that saying, 'Whatever doesn't kill me, makes me stronger.' You know my favourite line from your colleagues? One of them said, 'Welser-Möst has come from nowhere, and he's going nowhere'," he says laughing.

There's an untouchability about Welser-Möst, which goes with the magical suddenness with which he appeared on the scene. How did it all start?

"My first ambition was to be an orchestral violinist, and I played in my local youth orchestra in Linz. The conductor thought I might have some talent for conducting, and he got me to conduct various things.

"Then I had a very bad car crash, and I had some nerve damage in my hands. So I had to abandon the violin and went more and more towards conducting." After this blow from fate, came a sudden magical levitation - clearly the pattern of Welser-Möst's life.

The chairman of the Vienna Philharmonic had noticed this gifted youngster conducting a youth orchestra in Linz, and when the London agent Martin Campbell-White rang up in search of an urgent stand-in, he put Welser-Möst's name forward.

Thus it was that the untried Austrian found himself in front of the London Philharmonic at the age of 25. "That was really scary, but afterwards I remember thinking on the plane coming home, 'Well that's it, I'm a real conductor now.' "

I ask him about Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, one of the two big pieces he's bringing to the Proms with the Cleveland Orchestra. "I've lived with this piece ever since I was a child. I'm ashamed to say I even conducted when I was 20, which is a real crime." It's only now he starts to get really animated. "There are layers of meaning in that piece. It's one of the greatest philosophical statements ever created."

I imagine he must feel equally close to the other piece he's bringing to the Proms, Mahler's 3rd Symphony.

"Well, from my house I can almost see the lakeside hut where Mahler composed it. And I know the landscape and the sounds he had in mind. When the cow-bells enter you need a sense of depth; the sounds coming across distant valleys. That's something I had to help the orchestra with."

While Welser-Möst's work with the Zurich Opera has garnered nothing but praise, there are some critics who feel he's yet to put his stamp on the Cleveland Orchestra. "Look, I have a different philosophy to the great disciplinarians of the orchestra's past. I want to enable the orchestra, I want to bring out the musicality in each player. It's a long-term goal to bring about a change of sound and style, and I can hear it's already having an effect."

# Franz Welser-Möst conducts the Cleveland Orchestra at the BBC Proms on Aug 30 and 31 at the Albert Hall (020 7589 8212) and on Radio 3.
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pizza
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Post by pizza » Fri Aug 19, 2005 3:35 am

In my opinion F W-M is a very talented and dedicated young conductor who has already proven himself.

Ralph
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Post by Ralph » Fri Aug 19, 2005 5:27 am

pizza wrote:In my opinion F W-M is a very talented and dedicated young conductor who has already proven himself.
*****

Concur - and I've heard him conduct as well as listened to his recordings. he's clearly a lightning rod for attack, much of it scurrilous. He'd feel right at home on this board. :)
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"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

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jserraglio
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Re: "Frankly Worse-than-Most?"

Post by jserraglio » Fri Aug 19, 2005 6:07 am

Ralph (quoting Franz Welser-Möst) wrote:"Look, I have a different philosophy to the great disciplinarians of the orchestra's past. I want to enable the orchestra, I want to bring out the musicality in each player. It's a long-term goal to bring about a change of sound and style, and I can hear it's already having an effect."
Part of the problem is that Szell still reigns supreme in the expectations of public and critics alike. Dohnanyi once said: "We give a great performance and Szell gets all the credit." But what certain critics call precision, phrasing and articulation, I often hear as coldness. I have never failed to be moved by Welser-Möst's live performances (Bruckner, Haydn, Britten, Strauss, Verdi)--he particularly shines in operatic and choral works, as did Maazel before him, which also is a key to the temperamental differences between him and his "olympian" predecessors. And as Ralph notes, his recordings are often very good, two favorites of mine being Mozart's Great Mass & Schmidt's Symphony No. 4.

Welser-Möst is young, he's coming up thru opera as well as symphonic conducting, and he's willing to take the orchestra on tour several times a year---England, Austria, California, Florida, Arizona, even Manhattan. I could care less whether he records at this point. Touring is where you can build an audience. Whoever signed FWM to a contract extension thru 2012 scored a major coup, in my opinion.

Barry
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Re: "Frankly Worse-than-Most?"

Post by Barry » Fri Aug 19, 2005 8:53 am

<<<Part of the problem is that Szell still reigns supreme in the expectations of public and critics alike....>>>

I hear ya. We're having the same problem in Philly, where one of our main critics routinely compares Eschenbach to Sawallisch, and Sawallisch always comes out on top.

I have to confess that when a bunch of the major U.S. orchestras were looking for MDs a few years ago, W-M was one of the guys I was hoping would NOT wind up in Philly (he was a frequent guest conductor here during the 90s). Admittedly, I have somewhat limited experience with him, but he really did leave me cold on those ocassions.

I actually think he's a much better match for Cleveland, with their approach to music-making than he would have been here, where the orchestra is more noted for warmth and lushness of sound than perfect precission and flexibility, traits that the Cleveland excels at.

In any case, kudos to the Cleveland for picking him since it seems to be working out fairly well.
"If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee." - Abraham Lincoln

"Although prepared for martyrdom, I preferred that it be postponed." - Winston Churchill

"Before I refuse to take your questions, I have an opening statement." - Ronald Reagan

http://www.davidstuff.com/political/wmdquotes.htm
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pbp0hur ... re=related

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