A Great Night for Robot Fans; PERFECT TIMING: Lorin Maazel's 'Exact, Minutely Detailed Beat' Is Ideal for Stravinsky's Rite of Spring

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), September 7, 2008 | Go to article overview

A Great Night for Robot Fans; PERFECT TIMING: Lorin Maazel's 'Exact, Minutely Detailed Beat' Is Ideal for Stravinsky's Rite of Spring


Byline: David Mellor

Prom 57 New York Philharmonic Royal Albert Hall, London, conducted by Lorin Maazel . . . ..

Prom 62 Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra conducted by Sir Colin Davis . . . ..

Prom 64 Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Sir Simon Rattle . . . ..

Messiaen Piano Music Pierre-Laurent Aimard Deutsche Grammophon . ?10.99 inc p& p (01634 832 789) . . . . ..

You can always tell when the Proms season is drawing to a close, because visiting orchestras stack up like aircraft waiting to get into Heathrow.

This week the Berliners, the New York Philharmonic, the Oslo Philharmonic and the Vienna-based Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra, as well as the Lang Lang circus, hit town, and I took in three of them.

Somewhat to my surprise, the best by a margin were the New Yorkers under one of my least favourite carvers, the now 77-year-old Lorin Maazel.

Big Apple music lovers will tell you the New York Philharmonic isn't what it was under Leonard Bernstein and before in the Thirties and Forties, when its macho, 100 per cent male membership were so cockily unpleasant to visiting conductors that they were known as Murder Incorporated.

Today's Philharmonic is mainly young, and at least among the strings, women predominate. No expense has been spared on this tour, and there were almost 120 players on the platform for a riveting, technically brilliant performance of Stravinsky's Rite Of Spring.

This music is a perfect fit for Maazel, a conductor with such an exact, minutely detailed beat that if ever they find a robot to do the job, it'll conduct like him. There's a price to pay for this precision; Maazel doesn't do warmth or emotional depth.

But thankfully the Stravinsky doesn't require them, and nor does Gershwin's Piano Concerto, superbly played by Jean- Yves Thibaudet. A New Yorker by adoption, Thibaudet revels in this kind of stuff, as did the orchestra, with some superbly sleazy trumpet playing in the slow movement. Thibaudet reminded me throughout of the great Earl Wild, and there's no higher praise.

Ante-post betting would have suggested the ailing Maazel and an orchestra supposedly trading a bit on its reputation would have been easily out-pointed by local hero Sir Simon Rattle and the burnished Berlin Philharmonic, but they weren't.

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A Great Night for Robot Fans; PERFECT TIMING: Lorin Maazel's 'Exact, Minutely Detailed Beat' Is Ideal for Stravinsky's Rite of Spring
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