Magazine article Gramophone

Maestros and Their Music

Magazine article Gramophone

Maestros and Their Music

Article excerpt

Maestros and their Music

The Art and Alchemy of Conducting

By John Mauceri

Alfred A Knopf, HB, 272pp, 22.50 [pounds sterling]

ISBN 978-0-451-49402-3

John Mauceri is one of the few conductors who is as convincing in every genre of classical music as he is in musical theatre, film and light music. 'Carmen', he says, 'is my favourite musical and Carousel is my favourite opera.' Now 72, Mauceri is far better known in his native America than elsewhere. Gramophone readers will know him from his long tenure at the Hollywood Bowl, his recordings of Broadway musicals, the restorations and arrangements of Hollywood film scores and his resurrections of such works as Korngold's Das Wunder der Heliane and Between Two Worlds, Weill's The Threepenny Opera and many others besides.

Stokowski, Giulini and Bernstein were his mentors. He worked closely with the latter for 18 years, a relationship reflected in this book and its myriad 'Lenny' anecdotes. With 70 albums to his name and a few shelves full of awards (including two Diapasons d'Or, three Emmys and four Deutsche Schallplattens), Mauceri knows whereof he speaks.

And also how to write. This is a most engaging volume. Well before I got to the end, I felt I knew Mr Mauceri well enough to ask him round to dinner. He would make an entertaining guest, smart and sassy with an articulate, analytical approach to whatever he is conducting without the baggage of egotism or academia. The book is not an autobiography, though much of the narrative relies on his own experiences. Nor is it a handbook on conducting, though you will learn about everything a conductor has to do, and how he/she does it, with a litany of the kind of challenges every conductor must face. For example, he devotes four fascinating pages alone to handling the aria 'In questa reggia' (from Puccini's Turandot): 'We [conductors] are everyone on that stage as well as everyone in the orchestra pit, commenting: we are the singer, we are the character, but we know more than Turandot knows about herself and communicate that knowledge to the audience.'

Like Leonard Slatkin's Conducting Business (Amadeus Press, 9/13), he is good on the practicalities of the conductor's life--the travel, the loneliness, the hotels, the packing: 'Ironically, the lighter the music, the heavier the scores. …

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