Saturday, July 26, 2014

Lorin Maazel, one of the last great conductors of his generation

Lorin Maazel died at age 84. He along with Leonard Bernstein was among the first American conductors to make a mark on European music. He was a brilliantly talented polymath, a child prodigy who developed into a major conductor, conductor of the Cleveland Symphony, The New York Philharmonic, Pittsburgh Symphony, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, and significantly, the Deutsche Oper Berlin from 1965 to 1971. Europeans looked down on American musicians. It took a long time for Europeans, Germans and Austrians in particular to learn that the centre of musical talent had moved to America as a result of Nazi policies and the Holocaust. After the Second World War, German orchestras were desperate to find conductors who were not compromised by the Nazis. They hired the Rumanian Celibidache and the Hungarian Fricsay in Berlin, they invited the Hungarian Ferencsik to take over the Vienna Philharmonic, which did not happen only because the Hungarian communist government stopped him leaving. The Germans and Austrians white-washed their previously compliant Nazis, Karajan, Bohm, Knappertbush, but they did not invite the great German Jewish conductors whom they drove into exile to return, not Otto Klemperer, not Kurt Sanderling, not Bruno Walter, or even Fritz Busch, who was not Jewish, but nevethelesds the Nazis drove him out. This is why the Jewish American Lorin Maazel taking charge of the Berlin Opera was a landmark, just as Leonard Bernstein conducting Mahler in Vienna was. Europe was coming to terms with American Jewish musicians.