December 19, 2015

Good riddance


The conductor Kurt Masur died today.  Some will remember him because they own his mediocre recordings.  I will remember him as the pompous asshole who, in 1996, embarrassed the New York Philharmonic by stipulating that a work commissioned by the orchestra from Elliott Carter would be performed only if he (Masur) personally approves it.

December 11, 2015

The Old Man and the Piano


Dialogues for Piano and Chamber Orchestra (2003) was one of two Elliot Carter's compositions conducted by Lorin Maazel during his tenure as music director of the New York Philharmonic.  (The other was Variations for Orchestra.)  Given Maazel's well deserved reputation as a superlative technician, it is not surprising that his June 2006 performance of Dialogues, with Pierre-Laurent Aimard as the soloist, is technically flawless.  Alas, technical polish alone does not guarantee  a musically satisfying performance; and in this case the orchestral playing struck me as being too chilly to do justice to the playfulness of Carter's music.  (Perhaps the very closely balanced and rather 'internetish' sound quality is partly responsible for this impression.  The recording came to me without any information about the broadcast's source and method of capture.)
     Still, Maazel offers a fascinating alternative to the more humane performances conducted by James Levine (with Aimard and Boston Symphony) and Daniel Barenboim (with Nicolas Hodges and Berlin Philharmonic).  I thought that adding this New York broadcast to my blog on December 11 would be a fitting way to celebrate Carter's 107th birthday.