Barenboim for the Philharmonic?

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Ralph
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Barenboim for the Philharmonic?

Post by Ralph » Fri Mar 02, 2007 7:57 am

From The New York Times:

March 2, 2007
Music
Musing on the Barenboim X-Factor
By JAMES R. OESTREICH

When the Philadelphia Orchestra announced its new artistic leadership scheme last week, at least one New Yorker’s thoughts turned, paradoxically, to Daniel Barenboim and the New York Philharmonic. Charles Dutoit is to become the Philadelphia ensemble’s chief conductor, in typical European terminology, rather than music director, the typical American term, though it is not entirely clear how those distinctions will translate.

Mr. Barenboim, who conducts the Vienna Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall in three concerts this weekend, is happily establishing hegemony of sorts in Europe and the Middle East, as music director of the Berlin State Opera and its orchestra, the Berlin Staatskapelle; as Maestro Scaligero, a sort of principal guest conductor, at La Scala Opera in Milan; and as founding director of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, based in Seville, Spain, that mingles Israeli (Jewish and Palestinian) and Arab youths.

Mr. Barenboim, 64, stepped aside as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in June, at least in part because he disliked the glad-handing and fund-raising that went with the job. He didn’t want to make nice; he wanted to make music (not to mention a considerable fortune on the side). He wanted, he has said, to be music director, quite literally.

As speculation simmers about who might take over the New York Philharmonic on Lorin Maazel’s announced departure in 2009, Mr. Barenboim has seemed a distinct possibility, the more so since Mr. Maazel threw Mr. Barenboim’s hat in the ring at an unrelated press conference last November. Mr. Barenboim quickly retrieved his hat while tiptoeing around the issue, saying, “Nothing could be further from my thoughts at the moment than the possibility of returning to the United States for a permanent position.”

What follows here is not endorsement but analysis.

In many ways Mr. Barenboim seems a logical candidate for the Philharmonic job. He would bring to it considerable experience, a lively personality and a high public profile. He is a longtime friend of the Philharmonic’s president, Zarin Mehta, from Mr. Mehta’s days running the Ravinia Festival, the summer home of the Chicago Symphony. Mr. Barenboim is alternately praised or damned as a major player in Jewish affairs worldwide, matters of intense concern in New York. And he loves the sort of political rough and tumble that a humanistically engaged music director would undoubtedly encounter in New York.

His spontaneous style of conducting, ostensibly modeled on that of the profound German maestro Wilhelm Furtwängler, would present a fascinating challenge for an orchestra accustomed to the carefully, often painfully calculated manner of Mr. Maazel. An excellent example may occur in Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony, prime Furtwängler repertory, which Mr. Barenboim conducts at Carnegie tonight, though with the Vienna Philharmonic’s strong-minded players, it is always worth remembering that they will give their performance, more or less modulated by any conductor. The Bartok program tomorrow may reveal more of Mr. Barenboim’s mercurial proclivities.

The biggest obstacle for Mr. Barenboim with the New York Philharmonic or any other American orchestra would be the socializing required of music directors here. And Philadelphia has shown a way out.

Philadelphia’s solution — like the Chicago Symphony’s, with the international elder statesmen Pierre Boulez and Bernard Haitink splitting the duties of music director — appears to be intended not as a model but as a way of biding time until an attractive candidate for a full-fledged music director can be found. But what is to keep the New York Philharmonic from also biding time — as it seems to have been doing for years now — or inventing yet another model, with Mr. Barenboim taking a major hand?

If, that is, he wants one. While in town to play piano recitals of Bach at Carnegie Hall in January, he elaborated on his protestations in an interview, again choosing his words cautiously.

“Look, as one says, one should never say never,” he said. “I’m thinking today, nothing is further from my mind. I’ve been in front of the public now for 57 years. I think I have earned only one right through all of that, and that is to do things that are either interesting, important or entertaining for me. And a music directorship in America today is none of those three things. I don’t mean any lack of respect for the New York Philharmonic. I’m just saying that at the moment nothing is further from my mind.”

His only plans for New York at the moment, he insists, are to conduct “Tristan und Isolde” at the Metropolitan Opera in the 2008-9 season. Otherwise, he said, “I don’t want to conduct anywhere except for what I’m doing now.”

Wagner has become Mr. Barenboim’s calling card. In the West he often performs it in the concert hall as well as in the opera house; the Vienna Philharmonic concert on Sunday, for example, will consist largely of excerpts from Wagner operas, alongside Schumann’s Fourth Symphony. In Israel Mr. Barenboim performs Wagner as provocation.

“The whole subject of Wagner in Israel has been politicized and is a symptom of a malaise that goes very deep in Israeli society,” he said, “a malaise that is also a result of being an occupying power for 40 years. I don’t believe that this is something that one can do and not feel an effect upon oneself. I think that the occupation is morally abhorrent. I don’t think any country has a right to occupy another, and certainly not we, the Jewish people, with our history.”

As always, it seems, the man is spoiling for a fight. And don’t even get him started on the American occupation of Iraq. Unless, that is, he settles into New York — not, of course, as music director, but as anything but.

Daniel Barenboim conducts the Vienna Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall tonight and tomorrow night at 8 and on Sunday afternoon at 2; (212) 247-7800.
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jbuck919
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Post by jbuck919 » Fri Mar 02, 2007 8:24 am

I am not equipped to say either yea or nay, but upon looking it up I noticed to my surprise that Barenboim is only 64. Having passed the half-century a couple of years ago, I tend to be suspicious of figures whom I cannot remember not having world reputations (of course, I'm old enough to remember that Barenboim is a "converted" pianist), but even if ageism were appropriate, which it is not, I guess it would not apply to Barenboim.

Personally, I think the Philharmonic should hire James Levine away from Boston and build a special Jimmymobile to transport his girth across the plaza. :)

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Ralph
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Post by Ralph » Fri Mar 02, 2007 8:37 am

jbuck919 wrote:I am not equipped to say either yea or nay, but upon looking it up I noticed to my surprise that Barenboim is only 64. Having passed the half-century a couple of years ago, I tend to be suspicious of figures whom I cannot remember not having world reputations (of course, I'm old enough to remember that Barenboim is a "converted" pianist), but even if ageism were appropriate, which it is not, I guess it would not apply to Barenboim.

Personally, I think the Philharmonic should hire James Levine away from Boston and build a special Jimmymobile to transport his girth across the plaza. :)
*****

Levine isn't that heavy but he is slowed down by multiple ailments. He only conducts while sitting these days.

Barenboim is STILL a top pianist.
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Barry
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Post by Barry » Fri Mar 02, 2007 9:56 am

I like Barenboim very much as a conductor, but have never been nuts about him as a pianist.

He's still young enough for the NY job I suppose if he takes over by the time he's around 67 or 68. It would be a good pick-up in that I personally think he's about as good as anyone out there now at conducting the standard Austro-German 19th century repertoire. As the article indicates, if he is hired as a principal conductor, rather than a music director, with all the accompanying fund raising that he apparently detested doing in Chicago, he may be willing to do it. The only question mark is that the NYP essentially has had an interim guy in Maazel for the past few years. If they hire Barenboim, they may get a few great years of concerts, but then they'll be right back in the position of looking for another conductor. So as much as I like Danny B, from the perspective of the NYP, after having two older MDs in a row, wouldn't it be nice to take a shot on someone younger who can stick around for a while? I know I'm hioping that's what will happen here in Philly at the end of Dutoit's interim stint. The speculation is on Vladimir Jurowski. If he would succeed Dutoit, he'd only be around 40 when he takes over. If the relationship works out, he could be here for many years.
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Post by rogch » Sun Mar 04, 2007 1:15 pm

Perhaps it is time for Claudio Abbado to get a real job again after several years with comfortable free-lancing? I know he is getting old, but he looks very fit to me. And conductors before him have done well into their 80s. But perhaps Chicago should get him instead?

It would be interesting to see what Antony Wit could do with a world class orchestra. Not only has he done very well with the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra. Recently he recorded what is said to be very good performance of Strauss' Alpine Symphony. That was with an orchestra i have never heard of, was it Staatskapelle Weimar?
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