Monthly Blog


  • JANUARY 2015

    The Old Year went quietly, including a couple weeks off before starting the new one with a lot of work. But there still is plenty to catch up on.

    December began in Lyon with the OLN. The first of two weeks of concerts featured French premieres of three pieces by Mason Bates, one of our two resident composers. Having gone through several American works over the past three years, the orchestra was comfortable with Mason’s stylistic musings.

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  • FEBRUARY 2015

    Nothing like jumping right into it for the New Year. A week of concerts in Detroit followed by three in Lyon. And a season announcement as well.

    It was time for the DSO to begin its neighborhood series, where we hit the suburbs and play for audiences that either can’t get downtown or might even be experiencing an orchestra for the first time. We now have eight partner venues, ranging from auditoriums to places of worship. Each presents its own problems regarding set up of the orchestra, and in a couple of them, the positioning of the ensemble is a bit of a challenge. Nevertheless, we are bringing the DSO to a wider audience and these programs have been wildly successful, with full houses across the board. They also give us the opportunity to explore a more intimate repertoire than is heard at Orchestra Hall.

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  • MARCH 2015

    It was Tchaikovsky month at the DSO. Considering that most of the time, temperatures outside were in the single digits, it seemed appropriate to bring warmth to those who attended the six programs and 12 performances that took place.

    February is a difficult month for the arts in Detroit. Many of our regular donors, subscribers and patrons are in warmer climes down south or on the slopes out west. This means that we need to come up with something just a bit different in order to fill the house downtown. So two years ago, we did an experiment and put Beethoven on the docket. It did even better than we all thought possible.

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  • APRIL 2015

    If the frying pan, fire analogy ever existed, it certainly applied to the first part of March. Having successfully navigated my way through the six Tchaikovsky symphonies in three weeks, it was back to Lyon for the four by Brahms over a two-week period. Even though these works are regular repertoire, two of them were first meetings between the ONL and me.

    The idea for this mini-festival was to focus on three elements for each concert. The symphonies were played in chronological order, something we could not do with Tchaikovsky in Detroit. But rather than an all-Brahms program, each concert also included a Russian concerto and opened with a short, relatively calm, American piece.

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  • MAY 2015

    Just when I think that there are no new worlds for me to work in, up pop a couple that are really off the beaten track.

    The violinist Vadim Repin had asked if I would participate in his Trans-Siberian Art Festival. The project began last year, and the idea was to make the Siberian part of Russia a true destination for artists and events. Concerts take place in several different cities, utilizing the orchestras from those areas, and chamber music programs are offered as well.

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  • JUNE 2015

    It is not out of the question to describe this past month as gigantic. Over the course of four weeks, all the major works were at least an hour long. With two Mahler symphonies, Asrael by Suk and a concert performance of Tosca, I was ready for a bit of a break.

    Things started off calmly enough. On what appeared to be his first visit with the ONL, Josh Bell performed and triumphed as usual. We have been working together since he was sixteen years old, so a lot of repertoire has passed between us. This time it was something new, Bruch’s Scottish Fantasie, a work which does not come up very often these days.

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  • JULY 2015

    A long season has come to a close. With three weeks of performances left, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. Not that I did not enjoy the overwhelming majority of work, but it became clear that a recharging of the batteries was needed.

    Earlier in the year I made a well-considered decision to give myself more time off. Although 70 years old is apparently young for a conductor, the rigors of travel, learning and relearning a great deal of music, and having other items on the agenda made it mandatory to give both mind and body some rest from the demanding schedule I have maintained. More about this a bit later.

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  • AUGUST 2015

    At the time, when I first announced that I would spend my summers away from the podium, no one believed me. How would it be possible for someone who has devoted his life to waving his arms to actually halt for nine weeks? Well, halfway into it, I can attest that it has not been difficult at all.

    However, the first part of the rest period involved a surgical procedure, which went well but confined me to the house for a week and a half. What to do? There were a couple projects that I could take care of, one related to business and the other purely for pleasure. Let’s start with the latter.

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  • SEPTEMBER 2015

    I could get used to this non-conducting thing. That might be good news for some out there. It was truly a break from an exhausting regimen from the past season. A couple people asked me if I was retiring. Not yet, all you hopeful baton twirlers.

    The second part of the respite was filled with travel and some adventure. Neither Cindy nor I had ever been on a cruise ship. To rectify this, we went to Alaska, the only state I had never been to in the U.S. Completing the cycle was not the intention, but seeing this part of the world was.

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  • OCTOBER 2015

    It did not start out well.

    Upon arrival in Lyon, we were preparing for a concert at Côte St. André, our annual pilgrimage to the birthplace of Hector Berlioz. The program was a bit unusual in that it contained two rarities by the festival’s namesake, plus the Beethoven Ninth.

    I had never heard of, much less conducted, either the Scène Héroïque or the Death of Sardanapalus. After studying them, it was pretty clear why. These works are both for chorus, soloists and orchestra. One of them contains music that would later be used in Roméo et Juliette. But neither is truly representative of the French master’s style.

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  • NOVEMBER 2015

    What a month!

    With both Detroit and Lyon up and running, October was the first month of high-intensity music making on a large scale. With the strains of the Rosenkavalier Suite still in my head, I shifted my focus to Strauss’s earlier opera, Salome, for what would be an amazing evening of drama.

    The month before, the ONL had made the decision to cancel the second of two Salome performances, as advanced ticket sales had not been particularly strong. Although our subscription base has increased substantially, anyone can trade out their ticket for a different concert. And the new model, allowing subscribers to decide later whether or not to go to a performance, has made attendance figures less predictable.

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  • DECEMBER 2015

    The slight delay in this posting is due to what many of you now will know. After what will be ten seasons with the DSO, I am moving into a different position with the orchestra. At this point, I have no idea what the various questions will be from journalists as well as my regular readers. So I thought it would be a good idea to let you know what is occurring.

    This past summer, I took nine weeks off from conducting. Some of that time was devoted to really thinking about what the remainder of my career would look like. I also reviewed what had been accomplished and what was left to do in Detroit. At the same time, contract negotiations for the future were commencing.

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