Herbert Blomstedt NY Times Interview

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lennygoran
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Herbert Blomstedt NY Times Interview

Post by lennygoran » Mon Feb 20, 2017 8:20 pm

This Maestro Is Turning 90. He’s Also Conducting Over 90 Concerts This Year.

By MICHAEL COOPER FEB. 20, 2017

PHILADELPHIA — Plenty of people these days are retiring later in life, and reasonably healthy conductors can have particularly long careers. But there is still something astonishing about the pace being kept by the Swedish maestro Herbert Blomstedt, who will turn 90 in July and is conducting more than 90 concerts this year with the world’s leading orchestras.

His schedule would tax someone half his age: He will conduct the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam and the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonics in their storied halls, and will perform Bach in St. Thomas’s Church in Leipzig, where that great composer served as cantor. He just wrapped up two weeks with the San Francisco Symphony, where he was music director from 1985 to 1995, and will visit other orchestras he once led. He will return to the Dresden Staatskapelle, which he conducted before the fall of the Berlin Wall, and will tour Europe and Asia with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, which he led after the fall.

He shows little sign of slowing down, despite a recent fall that forced him to conduct the Philadelphia Orchestra from a chair during a rehearsal of Brahms’s Third Symphony last Wednesday at the Kimmel Center here. Mr. Blomstedt, a trim man with a full head of white hair, was still a dynamo, repeatedly stopping to polish the tiniest details, singing phrases as he wanted to hear them, and describing one melody as “a recollection, a memory of something beautiful.”

Afterward, Mr. Blomstedt, who will conduct the New York Philharmonic in Beethoven’s seventh and eighth symphonies on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, chatted about a life in music, his Seventh-day Adventist faith, and his busy 90th year. He does not eat meat or drink alcohol or coffee; a bottle of buttermilk had been placed in his dressing room at the Kimmel Center. Here are edited excerpts from the conversation.

What’s the secret to pulling off such a demanding schedule?

I love music. How could you deny being together with your loved one? Some journalists want me, of course, to say it’s because I never smoked, or because I’m a vegetarian, or because I keep the Sabbath. But that’s not the reason. It’s a gift. I cannot say, “Look at me, be like me, you will be in good health.” It’s not like that. Some people who lived long and active lives lived a not-very-clever life. Churchill drank lots of whiskey and smoked enormous big cigars, and he lived to be 90 or so.

You were born in Massachusetts, your father a minister and your mother a music teacher, but you moved to Sweden as a child. What was it like to return to study with Leonard Bernstein at Tanglewood?

It was 1953. I had heard about Tanglewood. I knew that Bernstein was involved in teaching there, and I knew he lived by Carnegie Hall at the time, so I took courage and went up and knocked at the door. He liked young people, as you know, and was most gracious — he accepted me as a student even though applications were done already. And he got me a scholarship, because I had no money.

You also studied contemporary music at the summer course in Darmstadt, Germany. What was that like?

I was there in ’49, right after the war. Hindemith was the great prophet that we had to learn about. I went there also in ’56, seven years later — completely different atmosphere. John Cage was the big name. I met him once, on a free day. He was hunting mushrooms. He said to me, “That’s a good example of what I’m trying to tell you: Look at these mushrooms. They don’t grow in straight lines, or in triangles, or in circles. One here, one here, one there. When the temperature and moisture are right, they pop up. This is what I want: The end goal is to free up your mind and get rid of all those rules.”

Was it difficult for you, as a Seventh-day Adventist, to tell orchestras you would not rehearse on Saturdays, the Sabbath?

I got an offer from the Berlin Philharmonic in the ’70s for a concert that involved a Saturday rehearsal. I said: “Unfortunately I cannot do that. Can we change the schedule?” And I got the letter, very negative: “You must understand that we have our special schedules, and if you cannot adjust to that we have no interest in you.” That was an important experience. Now it’s never a problem — I play every year with the Berlin Philharmonic.

But you decided it was all right to perform on Saturdays?

I thought of my father: He prepared his sermon very contentedly during the week; Friday at sundown he closed his books and joined the family; but on the Sabbath he held the sermon. I love to rehearse, to work with the orchestra. But on the Sabbath, we don’t study anymore — we just play what we have learned together. And that is a blessing for us all.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/20/arts ... front&_r=0

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