Journal

  • MARCH 2017

    YEE-HAW!

    That was the oft-quoted word that characterized my very first trip to the U.S. with an orchestra from another land. February was devoted to the ONL, with a week in Lyon and then a two-week, eight-concert trip to the States.

    Taking a full symphony orchestra on a lengthy trip is, literally, always risky business. The promoters in most cities do not want to pay the full fee, and much of the burden falls on the orchestra itself in terms of dealing with the fiscal consequences. But the final result, if most everything goes as planned, can turn out to be a boon for not only the organization, but also the city it represents.

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  • FEBRUARY 2017

    Is there a point in music when the phrase “too much of a good thing” applies? Certainly not when it comes to Mozart. The great Austrian was the focus of our Winter Music Festival, previously inhabited by Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Brahms. But there was also a week when the DSO played out in the neighborhoods, and that is where we start this month’s entry.

    For the past six seasons, a great deal of time has been spent performing in outlying communities, away from the grandeur of Orchestra Hall. There remain members of the public who either are unable to travel from the suburbs or still harbor apprehension about coming downtown. Over the course of our series, many of these people have been so taken by the orchestra that they have indeed started to visit The Max again.

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  • The Right to Be Yourself

    Normally at this time, I post a monthly recap of musical events that have taken place, and that entry will appear during the second week of February. But something occurred over this past weekend that compels me to write something off-topic.

    It was Saturday in the late morning, as I was driving to Orchestra Hall and listening to the radio, that I first learned of the newly instituted immigration rules that have been put into place. All I could think about was that a little over a hundred years ago, both sides of my family came to Ellis Island seeking refuge from the horrors that were sweeping Russia. Their dream was to come to the States for political, social and religious freedom. Lady Liberty welcomed them with no tears.

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  • JANUARY 2017

    It could not have come a moment too soon. One had to wonder how history would paint its picture of this past year. There remains much to be settled, and none of us knows how events in the States or the world will affect the arts. Still, there were two fine weeks of performances left in Detroit before Cindy and I started on a nice, long vacation.

    A few years ago, when the DSO went to Carnegie Hall, we inherited a program originally scheduled for the Oregon Symphony featuring Kurt Weill/Bertolt Brecht’s Seven Deadly Sins with vocalist Storm Large. Fiscal demands prohibited our colleagues in Portland from getting to New York, and since we were already headed there for our own program, we also filled in the previous evening.

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  • DECEMBER 2016

    The Cubs won the World Series for the first time since 1908! Donald Trump was elected President! Cindy and I moved out of our Lyon apartment!

    November was a very strange, and extremely busy, month.

    It started off with—well—nothing. I was supposed to lead the Pittsburgh Symphony in a set of subscriptions concerts, but the orchestra remained on strike, and I simply stayed at home. After two months a settlement was reached, but it was a couple weeks too late for me to lead the orchestra. Hopefully the resolution will keep the peace for the time being.

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  • NOVEMBER 2016

    After the successful opening of the season in Lyon, it was time to try to achieve the same in Detroit. We certainly had the star power to do it, and there were also a couple of agenda items that I hoped would make this year particularly interesting.

    Coming from a background which housed about as much musical diversity as possible, I wanted to try and see if the merging of the popular culture with the classical traditions could sustain itself over the course of the majority of our subscription concerts. “Gershwin and His Children” was the name I chose for this project, basically looking at his influence on composers from all over the world.

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  • OCTOBER 2016

    With just a little over one month to go before we elect a new President of the United States, there is much to think about. With confrontations between citizens and the police, continued terrorist activity throughout the world, and an insecure economy, one could at least find comfort in the arts, and for a few hours each day, I was able to do just that.

    The early part of September was mostly spent getting reacquainted with our house in suburban Detroit. It had been twelve weeks since Cindy and I had seen it, but everything seemed fine, and a sense of security fell upon our souls. All my kitchen utensils were where they were supposed to be, the home theater system was slightly misbehaving, and the everyday rituals came back easily.

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  • SEPTEMBER 2016

    The next sentence is one I have very rarely written: I conducted one piece for the entire month of August.

    After chronicling the process of putting together Samuel Barber’s opera, Vanessa, there were just four more performances to present. During the winter season, when I have done an opera, usually I found time to fit in a guest conducting engagement during the extended breaks between performances. Even my earlier appearance in Santa Fe saw me dart up to Aspen and over to the Hollywood Bowl.

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  • AUGUST 2016

    After a terribly long trip from Nagoya, we arrived in Santa Fe, a place so opposite the Japanese cities we visited on the ONL tour that not only jet lag, but also cultural shock, set in. I am here for the duration of the summer, conducting five performances of Samuel Barber’s masterpiece, Vanessa. When I was here several years ago, I had suggested that this work would be a good one for me to do, and everyone seemed to agree. The fact that it has never been presented at the Santa Fe Opera, which is celebrating its 60th year, took everyone by surprise.

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  • JULY 2016

    Most of the time, I devote this space to simply recounting what has taken place over the previous month, at least as far as my musical life is concerned. Every so often I deviate from this if there are abrupt changes in the world that seem to shake all of us to the core, for better or worse. June was one of those months.

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