2 Mahler 2s

I was driving to work yesterday morning when I heard the amateur conductor Gilbert Kaplan interviewed on the BBC before his debut last night conducting Mahler’s Resurrection symphony with the New York Philharmonic. Some of the flavor of that interview comes through a New York Times article yesterday as well.

I’ve not heard his recording of the work, which is basically the only piece he ever conducts. But Kaplan may well be another proof of my theory that conducting talent can pop up in the strangest places.

One of my favorite orchestra bloggers, Michael Hovnanian, wrote a wonderful post recently about another performance of the Mahler, this one by Haitink conducting a very large orchestra within commuting distance of Milwaukee:

Haitink’s laissez-faire approach certainly has its merits, especially when applied to the large forms. When signing on for a long sea voyage you want a captain whose feet are firmly planted on deck, eyes forward, piercing the fog, steering a steady course towards the distant shore, not a man who frets and throws tantrums over every last rivet, or wastes time reshuffling the deck chairs while the ship drifts idly with the current. Then again, Mahler 2 has a lot of rivets holding it together. During the performances I found myself a little nervous about how many could pop before we all ended up in Davy Jones’ Locker. Fortunately, it seemed like we got home safe and dry every night.

I’ve never worked for Haitink, but some of his recordings are amongst my favorites (including a performance of the Vaughan Williams ninth symphony, which is not a work I’d expect someone like Haitink to champion). I wouldn’t have typed him as a laissez-fair guy; certainly his younger compatriot Edo de Waart is about as far from that as possible, as we found out a month or so ago during two weeks he conducted us as music director designate. I’m told that Edo likes Vaughan Williams as well. But then England and the Low Countries were not really separate places until fairly recently, so maybe an affinity between Dutch musicians and English music is not so surprising after all.

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