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Monday, April 14, 2014

European Tour at SPAC

From the Vault Dept.: I wrote in an earlier post about the experience of meeting conductor Erich Leinsdorf, who had invited me to get together with him at Saratoga’s Gideon Putnam hotel, where he stayed while conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra at the nearby performing arts center. This invitation was the result of a lengthy phone conversation that strayed into the realm of music education and of what use are critics. Here, somewhat anti-climactically, is the four-square piece I wrote after that phoner.


“THIS ‘EUROPEAN TOUR,’” says conductor Erich Leinsdorf, “was meant to give these concerts attractive points of reference, and, of course, it was done a little tongue-in-cheek. So, on the ‘Music from Paris’ evening you find Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring,’ which, of course, had its controversial premiere in Paris.”

Erich Leinsdorf
The European tour in question is a four-concert series Leinsdorf will conduct with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, beginning tonight with “Music from Vienna.”

Pianist Yefim Bronfman will play Mozart’s Concerto No. 24 and the program also includes Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, the ‘Titan,” as it was termed back when every lengthy piece had a nickname.

Saturday night the stop in Vienna continues with another Mozart piano concerto, No. 20, played by Malcolm Frager, and the Schubert Symphony No. 9 in C, the “Great” – so called to distinguish it from another symphony in C by the same composer, rather than to represent its dimensions.

Wednesday and Thursday will be evenings in Prague and Paris the former features Mozart’s “Prague” Symphony (No. 38) and two works by Dvořák: the Violin Concerto, played by Yuzuko Horigome, and the Symphony No. 8 in G. Pianist Michel Beroff plays Ravel’s Concerto in G the following night; that concert also promises Ravel’s “Rhapsodie Espagnol” and the “Rite of Spring.”

“It was difficult to follow the Beethoven and Brahms cycles, which I have already done in Saratoga,” Leinsdorf said. “I asked myself ‘How do you follow it?’ ‘You don’t’ was the answer. ‘You move on to something else.’ These are the vintage scores I am featuring, from the backbone of the classical music repertory.”

Leinsdorf was music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra for seven years; since 1969 he has been freelancing. “I have no affiliations,” he said, “which is perfect for me. I am not an organization person. I find the situation with permanent conductors to be such that the title becomes a bit of a euphemism. Today it is easy to find music directors who may spend only eight weeks a year with their orchestras. If you consider that the orchestra works close to 50 weeks a year, you realize the post is only symbolic.”

Active today as both a writer and a conductor, Leinsdorf began his conducing career in Vienna and Salzburg, where he worked with Bruno Walter and Arturo Toscanini. He made his American debut conducting “Die Walkure” at the Metropolitan Opera in 1938; before his stint with the BSO he was music director of the Rochester Philharmonic.

The concerts at SPAC begin at 8:I5 p.m.; Friday and Saturday there will be chamber music performances by Philadelphia Orchestra members at the Gazebo at 6:45 p.m., free to ticket-holders.

– Albany Knickerbocker News, 17 August 1984

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