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Kurt Masur, with Parkinson’s, conducts complete Beethoven cycle. Twice.

There was worldwide sympathy and admiration for Kurt Masur when he came out last month with the brave admission that he is suffering from Parkinson’s disease. The conductor, 85, said he would continue to make music, albeit on a somewhat reduced scale.

Reduced? This week he will be conducting the nine Beethoven symphonies in Dresden and Munich. No sign of slowing down. Go, Kurt!

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Comments

  1. Rosana Martins says:

    Kurt Masur is one of the great conductors of the century and also very much loved in Brazil. All his concerts are remarkable musical experiences. Bravo, Maestro!

  2. Daniel Farber says:

    Maestro Masur has never been given the credit due him for re-establishing the playing standards of the New York Philharmonic. After him Maazel and Gilbert have reaped the artistic benefits and to some extent the critical acclaim. Back in the 1970′s, Masur also gave some wonderful concerts with the Boston Symphony. Long may he thrive!

  3. Well stated, Ms. Martins and Mr. Farber. Masur was at times wrongfully maligned by (and seemingly obstructed by) players of the NY Philharmonic, even as the orchestra improved. New York can be a tough and self indulgent place. Regardless, his recordings with the Leipzig Gewandhaus are some of the finest. Wishing this wonderful artist the best in this latest Beethoven project.

  4. eitan bezalel says:

    What a great musician dear Kurt!!!!

  5. Nandor Szederkenyi says:

    As a former Eastern country citizen, I heard Gewandhaus with Mazur in many wonderful concerts and recordings.
    Now after a few decades, I was curious and listened to one of his rehearsals and then the concert, unfortunately with very mixed feelings.
    Well, that he was never beloved among orchestra members is no secret, and when at the rehearsals he picked usually couple of young players to make their life miserable wasn’t the nicest, (not to mention that one player actually quit playing because he was abusing him all the time) but now, he seemed to make often wrong judgements regarding even simple ensemble problems, targeting again some young members, not realizing that his extremely unstable hands are completely unclear.
    This reminded me when Menuhin could hardly make a down bow any more and so his Beethoven sonatas were anything but enjoyable.

    Aside of all aspects of being a conductor, (The Maestro Myth) having a clear beat is essential to keep the orchestra together. With Parkinson’s it is impossible.

    There are always some great artist who just don’t have any self-judgement and so can’t find the right time for quitting.

    • Daniel Farber says:

      Klemperer had the least clear beat of any conductor, great or not, I ever saw, but until his last two or three years when things got very bad for him, he seemed always able to maintain a tight ensemble. Furtwangler as well. How to explain it?

  6. He is certainly a great conductor, but he is sometimes very stubborn with soloists (perhaps mostly the young and ambitious ones?) Here is a good example with Yuja Wang / Kurt Masur playing Mendelssohn: Piano Concerto No. 1 in g minor at the Verbier Festival in 2010:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EyBAOsu34O8

    If you listen to the orchestra/piano dialog in the 1st movement starting at around 01:25, it is quickly apparent that although Ms. Wang is perfectly clear in her playinig about what tempo SHE wants to take (no, she is NOT merely rushing; she is trying to take a faster tempo), the Maestro isn’t about to go along with it! And at 01:47, he actually yells out at her (during the concert): “SLOWER!”, only to finally give in to her!

    Hmmm … I was always under the impression that the orchestra was supposed to follow the soloist in this kind of music?

    • Daniel Farber says:

      I am afraid I must disagree with Robert Hairgrove in his analysis. There are many other places where the soloist pushes the pulse uncomfortably but not, I think, “intentionally”. As circumstantial evidence, I point out that in her opening statement, the second phrase, which duplicates the opening up-beat phrase, begins early. The soloist does not give full measure to the rests in between the phrases, and here she is unaccompanied. In other words, she “rushes” HERSELF! In all, her pulse is less stable than is Masur’s. At the same time I must accord him low marks for showing her up by calling out to her, and I doubt very much that he’d have done that with, say, Menuhin, who also rushed uncontrollably at times in his late years, or with ANY soloist of more experience than Ms Wang. His gesture is, at best, unseemly. Thanks to Robert Hairgrove for showing us this very interesting clip.

      • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

        Kurt Masur has remarkable musical instincts and, despite an unusual technique now compounded by his physical condition, has almost always been able to lead satisfying performances.

        But, his abuse of performers during rehearsals, and worse, at concerts is legendary and neither a result of his age or his illness. 14 years ago, I heard him lead a revelatory first rehearsal of Mahler 1 with a young orchestra; but, as time went on, he started to single out players and became abusive. The concert was another story with him yelling at the orchestra during the performance and pointing to individual players and yelling at them. The musicians (between 16 and 23 yrs old) were traumatized. The audience seemed oblivious but I was literally becoming sick as the performance progressed.

        I personally drove him to and from rehearsals and found him charming, witty, insightful, intelligent…the list could go on. But then at another rehearsal he lashed out at a soloist singer (a well-know professional) in a way that can only be described as ugly and gratuitous.

        I personally admire Kurt Masur’s artistic standards, his courage in the face of physical adversity, his efforts on behalf of the unification of his country, the orchestra building he did in Leipzig, and the stability he brought to NYPhil (but Deborah Borda did leave because of their poor relationship). Hopefully, history will filter out the bumps and bruises and remember his musical contributions.

  7. I always found Masur to be a solid, scrupulous conductor, excellent in certain reperatoire – Mendelssohn, Schumann and Strauss, in particular – but fairly routine in most everything else. I’ve heard him with the Leipzig
    Gewandhaus Orchestra, the NY Phil and the Boston Symphony and never found anything particularly compelling in any of his performances with the exceptions of the composers noted above. Everything else was always solid, well-prepared, but generally unexciting. I applaud him for his political stands, and wish him well, but I cannot include him in the pantheon of great conductors.

    I had no knowledge of his relationships with players or soloists, and find some of the incidents noted above to be disheartening.

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