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Who Should Succeed Maazel at the NY Philharmonic?

I’ve already picked Philippe de Montebello’s successor at the Metropolitan Museum. So why not Lorin Maazel‘s successor as music director of the New York Philharmonic?
I heard him conduct last night, and he is (drumroll)…Riccardo Muti.
Of course, we all know that Maazel has already named the conductor he wants to succeed him—Daniel Barenboim who, at 64, is a year younger than Muti. There’s no Beethoven Ninth recording I’d rather hear than Barenboim’s. I don’t know Muti’s Beethoven (and I’ve disliked Maazel’s quirkily mannered performance of his symphonies).
Interestingly Barenboim isn’t even conducting the Philharmonic this season. Muti, on the other hand, has been assigned four different programs, including an upcoming Beethoven “Emperor” Concerto. We’ll be able to assess his Beethoven chops, and also whether he works better with pianist Lang Lang than he did last night with the virtuosic but colorless Gerhard Oppitz in the Martucci Piano Concerto No. 2. There were moments when Oppitz was fiendishly pounding the keyboard but was entirely drowned out by the orchestra. (I was sitting in the orchestra, not the third tier.)
Last night’s all-Italian program played to Muti’s great strength. The Verdi ballet music from “Macbeth” was exhilarating; the Respighi “Feste Romane” was jaw-dropping. In Muti’s hands, the Maazel-honed Philharmonic made this pleasantly atmospheric composer, best known for his tone poems, seem almost Ives-ian in complexity and intensity. The Philharmonic’s program notes got it right:
No holds are barred in the concluding “Epiphany”….By the end, Respighi piles up sonority upon sonority to achieve one of the most tumultuous rainsings of the roof you will ever here.
This “Epiphany” inspired a corresponding epiphany in everyone who heard it (perhaps including Philharmonic president Zarin Mehta, whom I spotted in the same box where some trumpet players were installed for the Respighi). I’ve never seen a Philharmonic audience this energized. The orchestra showed its respect by initially declining Muti’s invitation to stand for one of the curtain calls, leaving all the glory to him.
While departing, strangers were exclaiming to one another about what they had just heard. Even the usher posted next to the escalator announced to everyone in earshot that she wanted the Philharmonic to choose Muti as director. And of course, while he’s here, we need him to take over the Italian repertoire at the Metropolitan Opera.
What clinches this appointment is the undeniable importance of the music director’s last name beginning with “M”: Mehta, Masur, Maazel…and let us not forget, Mahler!
CORRECTION: After writing the above, I thought of the time I heard Bernstein conduct Mahler. Maybe I should have said, I’ve RARELY (rather than “never”) seen a Philharmonic audience this energized!

an ArtsJournal blog