MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

R.I.P., Lorin Maazel (1930-2014)

Early into this year we lost one of the greatest musicians of our era with the death of Claudio Abbado. Today brings the sad news of Lorin Maazel’s sudden passing. These were the great conductors I grew up with, so another stark reminder of how quickly that world is fading away.

I recall a very engaging conversation with Maestro Maazel some years ago about his thoughts on Richard Strauss. (Unfortunately the interview is no longer online and I don’t have the file handy so can’t post it for the time being at least.)

Here are a few of the immediate critical reactions:

Maazel was a musical titan who ruled at the podium with a cool, penetrating technical brilliance. This made him a divisive figure through his career, particularly since he didn’t suffer fools lightly…

Anne Midgette

Mr. Maazel was a study in contradictions, and he evoked strong feelings — favorable and otherwise — from musicians, administrators, critics and audiences.
He was revered for the precision of his baton technique, and for his prodigious memory — he rarely used a score in performances — but when he was at his most interpretively idiosyncratic, he used his powers to distend phrases and reconfigure familiar balances in the service of an unusual inner vision.

Allan Kozinn

Some reactions from the Twittersphere:
Esa-Pekka Salonen: “Thank you for many unforgettable experiences, Maestro. You had many huge fans among colleagues. I for one certainly.”

Robert Lind: “Rest in peace Lorin Maazel! I remember well when I sang Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with you a few years ago!”

Matthew Worth: “RIP, Maestro. You gave me one of my first professional jobs after conservatory. Thank you for your faith and nurture.”

And from a 2011 profile in The Guardian by Nicholas Wroe, when Maazel was in London to conduct the Philharmonia in Mahler:

“To be honest I don’t look back with great satisfaction at all the various people I’ve been over the decades,” [Maazel] says. “In fact I often shake my head in dismay at the immaturity and puerile view of life and have the greatest compassion for young people who are going through these same stages. But hopefully you mature and you get smarter, in life and in music. If you sharpen your mind and become open to new ideas you become less enclosed in the ghetto of your fanaticisms.”

He says his relationship with the Mahler symphonies has been lifelong education, “and the place where you learn is on the job. I’m not sure I could listen to my early recordings with the Vienna Philharmonic today. Not because they would be wrong or bad, but the maturing and learning process only progresses inch by inch over the years so this lifetime of interaction with the music now feels part of a much larger experience.

In fact it feels more akin to jumping out of a window and seeing your life pass before your eyes, and I now find myself delivering a performance, simultaneously, both in retrospect and in the present moment. Of course I’m very familiar with interacting with masterpieces, but the emotions engendered by the music are leaving me overwhelmed at the end of the performance. And I’m not the sort of person who is accustomed to being overwhelmed.”

Filed under: conductors, music news


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