on the record: September 2009 Archives
I've written about the subject of music director searches before, but I continue to encounter the same questions when I work with orchestras that are engaged in such searches. So perhaps there is some value in repeating points that were made in earlier blogs. The points covered here apply mainly to American orchestras--the community, education, and fund-raising work required of music directors in the U.S. differs significantly from Europe and other countries--and also for the most part to smaller and mid-sized orchestras. Those orchestras attempting to hire conductors with international careers have to operate in a different market, and while much of what I say here will be relevant, some things will not apply.
Recently I went on a spate of listening to recordings of Mozart piano concertos. For about 50 years I have not been able to get enough of them--they seem to me to be Mozart's "operas without words," the highest form of his non-vocal art. The recordings I chose to hear were mainly those I grew up with, and a few others accrued along the way--recordings by Rudolf Serkin, Edwin Fischer, Daniel Barenboim, Alfred Brendel, and Clifford Curzon, among others.
I rarely blog about a single recording, or set of recordings, but in recent months I have been immersing myself in an utterly remarkable demonstration of great chamber music playing, and I can't resist sharing it with you. It is a five-CD set (DHR-7921-5) from Doremi, a label that specializes in reissuing recordings of special interest. This set is built around the trio formed by pianist Emil Gilels, violinist Leonid Kogan, and cellist Mstislav Rostropovich. This group stayed together for most of the 1950s, and broke up largely because Kogan and Rostropovich had very strong political differences and could not continue to get along. What a pity--I'm not sure there has ever been a more spectacular chamber ensemble. What you have here are three virtuosos, each with independent careers on a superstar level, but matching their musical personalities to perform as if they were one person.
One of the problems that the classical music world faces is the different ways that people experience music. The truth is that classical music is not meant to be background music. It is often not meant to "soothe," should in fact shake you to your roots frequently. But if you look at some of the marketing that is done by the recording industry, even by some orchestras or presenters, you'd think that we were closer to Montovani than Monteverdi.