Monday, July 14, 2014

Found in a Maazel Obit

From Allan Kozinn's Times obit:
In 1989, he was on a short list of candidates to succeed Herbert von Karajan at the Berlin Philharmonic. When Claudio Abbado was chosen instead, Mr. Maazel insisted that he never had any intention of leaving his Pittsburgh orchestra, and canceled his Berlin dates — not, he said, in a fit of pique, but so that Mr. Abbado would have more time to whip the orchestra into shape.


Zwölftöner said...

Quite soft on Vienna too, the Kozinn obit. Karajan made far bigger changes here, so perhaps understandable, Maazel's misreading of provincial Viennese elements as amenable to a firm hand? David Nice writes in the Guardian that the musicians were Maazel's undoing, but where this comes from I don't know. The Philharmoniker is highly fond of Maazel for transforming the New Year's Concert into an international cash cow. The two big complaints were that Maazel only planned to conduct one new production and 30 performances altogether per season (introducing more guest conductors), and the block system. FWM conducted 26 performances this season and the block system has since become orthodoxy; go figure.

There is a critic still active today whose obits have been uncommonly reticent about his role in driving out Maazel & Abbado from Vienna. The general public in 82-84 was also aggressively anti-Maazel, though the local obits are now full of user comments decrying his appalling treatment. The recent bust unveiling was very apologetic too. This all rather points to some truth in Maazel's claims of anti-Semitism, as does one of the few balanced takes on the situation which appeared in Die Zeit after Maazel's departure (my translation): "Before he was even in post, certain observers were convinced that the unloved star conductor had to be driven out of Vienna as soon as possible. From the day Maazel entered the Staatsoper his detractors bombarded the public with stories about the supposedly poor quality of performances, put cocky words into Maazel's mouth which he'd never uttered publicly, and never missed an opportunity to undermine him. Now, it would be wrong to claim that Maazel was above reproach, and ruined by an oblique mafia. Of course there were some bad performances during his time, and some singers you wouldn't expect a critical public to put up with [!]. Maazel's repertory choices and planning were also a matter of taste. But if the mistakes of Maazel's predecessors had been totted up with the same vehemence, there would have been one scandal after another for the last fifteen years. Since the beginning of Maazel's directorship standards have been measured with new, more stringent criteria. When the supernumeraries once failed to show up on stage in Tosca, vicious headlines were written – even though singers in leading roles came on stage too late in the years before Maazel, and one singer, who had the idea in the middle of the 3rd Act of Walküre that he would prefer not to continue singing, once brought the Ring to a halt until a substitute Wotan could be brought out. 'Oh these things happen sometimes' was the most said back then. How times change."

Lisa Hirsch said...

Whoa. That is all fascinating, thank you.