The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: World-class conductors are making news with two retirements, a death and a contract renewal. Who will emerge as the new and younger star maestros? Plus, today is the last performance by the Madison Symphony Orchestra and pianist Ingrid Fliter of music by Benjamin Britten, Frederic Chopin and Robert Schumann. Read two reviews of the concert. | February 15, 2015

ALERT: Today at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall is the last performance by the Madison Symphony Orchestra under John DeMain and pianist Ingrid Fliter (below) of the “Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge” by Benjamin Brittten, the Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor by Frederic Chopin and the Symphony No. 4 in D Minor by Robert Schumann. Here are two reviews to tempt you.

Here is a review that John W. Barker wrote for Isthmus:

And here is a review that Jess Courtier wrote for The Capital Times and the Wisconsin State Journal:

ingrid fliter with keyboard

By Jacob Stockinger

Sometimes things just seem to happen in waves and clusters.

This past week has been a rough one for the media, for example.

There were the deaths of reporter Bob Simon (he was 73) of CBS News and “60 Minutes” and columnist David Carr (he was 58) of The New York Times.

Then there are the ongoing truth-telling problems of NBC’s top-rated anchor Brian Williams. And comedian-host Jon Stewart is leaving The Daily Show.

The same seems to go for orchestral conductors.

Female Orchestra Conductor With Baton

ITEM: Edo DeWaart will step down at the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra after the 2016-17 season. It is a major loss for the orchestra that many critics say has never sounded better.

edo de waart conducting

ITEM: Alan Gilbert will step down from The New York Philharmonic after only eight seasons, after the 2016-17 season. He has his reasons for leaving such a prestigious post, especially after all the praise he has earned for programming and performing during his tenure.

Here is a terrific story from NPR (National Public Radio):

And another story for the revered British magazine Gramophone:

New York Philharmonic Alan Gilbert

ITEM: The conductor Israel Yinon – known for exploring neglected repertoire — has died at the age of 58, during a performance in Lucerne, Switzerland of Richard Strauss’ “An Alpine Symphony.”

Israel Yinon

But there is some good news:

On the other hand, the acclaimed Yannick Nézet-Séguin -– the openly gay French-Canadian maestro — has just extended his contract with the Philadelphia Orchestra through 2022.

Here is a story:ézet-séguin-extends-his-contract-with-the-philadelphia-orchestra

Yannick Nezet-Seguin close up



  1. By the way, Ingrid Fliter’s YouTubes of the Chopin #2 have something like 200,000 views (there are more than 1) with hundreds of “thumbs up”. This one, with the Warsaw Philharmonic, K. Kord conducting, is especially beautiful: (the 2nd movement of #2 performed in 2000).


    Comment by fflambeau — February 16, 2015 @ 1:33 am

  2. Gilbert’s departure is a huge flow to the NYP and to American classical music. I expect he wants the position in Berlin (and he likely will get it).


    Comment by fflambeau — February 15, 2015 @ 10:09 pm

    • Should read “blow” of course.


      Comment by fflambeau — February 15, 2015 @ 10:10 pm

  3. Lots of good stuff here to comment on. Thanks for all the info. Yes, Edo De Waart has done a superb job in Milwaukee. I suspect they will soon hire a younger, up and coming conductor who has served as their guest conductor recently.

    John Barker’s review misses the target (as usual, it seems). He does not understand the Chopin #2 at all, and to call the symphony a “clunker” is nonsense. A more thoughtful (and informed) reviewer would have pointed out that Chopin intentionally wanted to move away from the more traditional Mozart/Beethoven conception of a piano concerto and make the piano the focus of his work. “Chopin’s concertos – indeed, all of his works in classical forms – have always suffered from comparisons with those of Mozart and Beethoven,” Kevin Bazzana has intelligently written. “But he was not trying to re-interpret the classical concerto. He was working in a different tradition called stile brillante, made fashionable by such virtuoso pianist-composers as Weber and Hummel. Chopin borrowed from their example a conception of the concerto as a loosely organized showcase for a virtuoso soloist, as opposed to a more balanced, cohesive and densely argued musical drama in the classical vein.”

    Concludes Bazzana, “showing off the soloist was the whole point”, something that Barker completely misses or dismisses. See With his ‘this is either good or bad as I the reviewer deem it’ attitude, Barker must be a big fan of Girolamo Savonarola!

    Nor do fans of classical music share Barker’s absolutist views. A YouTube with A. Rubinstein playing the Chopin #2 with Andre Previn and the LSO has more than 500,000 views. Indeed, the fact that Rubinstein, perhaps the gold standard for Chopin playing, played this frequently and recorded it (he certainly didn’t need the money) as well as other outstanding pianists and groups (E. Kissin, K. Zimmerman, I. Pogorelich and the CSO, M. Argerich and the Vienna P., C. Arrau with G. Szell and the NYP, M. Pletnev and the Russian National Orchestra; C. Arrau and the London Philharmonic) certainly would seem to indicate that this is anything but a “clunker”.


    Comment by fflambeau — February 15, 2015 @ 9:05 pm

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