While I was off doing different things the past few days, the classical blogodinghy was percolating madly about Gilbert Kaplan’s appearance with the New York Philharmonic. Charles Noble had a long post worth reading that captured pretty much every interesting angle on the subject. He was especially critical of what Norman Lebrecht had written on the subject, and I think he was right to be hard on a statement like this:

[The New York Philharmonic] are a bunch of very fine players. They also have a reputation for very bad attitude. There is a reason why many of the world’s best will not conduct the NY Phil. And that may be the same reason why the next music director barely ranks in the top league. If there was a story to cover here, it was about the New York Philharmonic behaving badly. But are we going to read that in the New York Times? When pigs can fly, perhaps.

But I found an even better quote from Norman at La Scena Musicale, where he wrote:

In September 1982 [Kaplan] put his life on the line by conducting the symphony for the monetary elite and brought off an astonishing feat. Among many firsts that night, he had cracked one problem that eluded the professionals – how to communicate with the offstage brass band which, unseen and ‘in the far distance’, heralds the Resurrection. Most conductors give cues to an assistant at a half-open door. Kaplan, reviewing Mahler’s original notes, decided to run television cables up to the band in an upper corridor. Audience members craned their necks to see where the ethereal sound was coming from. No performance of the Resurrection would ever sound the same again.

Norman is right: anyone who has discovered that Mahler used closed-circuit TV when he conducted the Resurrection symphony deserves our whole-hearted admiration.


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