The National Symphony Orchestra isn't opening its season until next week. But tonight, the conductor who will take over as the NSO's music director next season -- in the fall of 2010 -- is starting his own final season at the Orchestre de Paris: Christoph Eschenbach, tonight and tomorrow, leads the Mahler 3rd, the beginning of the end of the conductor's multi-season focus on Mahler with this orchestra. The season will also see a celebration of the conductor's 70th birthday.
Eschenbach will only make one appearance with the NSO this season: he's leading a Verdi Requiem in March. But his schedule for the season seems punishing: he's appearing with 12 orchestras, many for more than one program, and going on no fewer than four tours (to Greece with the Orchestre de Paris, to China with the London Philharmonic, to Germany and Abu Dhabi with the Dresden Staatskapelle, and to the U.S. with the Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra). And though he's repeating a few works with different ensembles (the Beethoven 7, the Dvorak 9), he's still offering a huge amount of music, from the Brahms and Bruckner 4th Symphonies to the violin concerti by Szymanowski and Berg to a whole mess of Mahler and Mozart -- some of which he is playing on the piano as well as conducting. He is also planning to spend some time in Washington to get a jump on his new role at the Kennedy Center, which is to go beyond simply leading the orchestra and include functioning as a general musical advisor.
The slightly frightening thing is that this workload is about par for the course for a major international conductor. But it does raise questions about a human's ability to sustain a high level of performance, week after week. Top-tier professional musicians, of course, are supposed to have extraordinary abilities. But the emphasis on music as product in an ever-faster world does seem to me to threaten, at times, the integrity of an art form that is based on taking a lot of time to say important things at considerable length and with considerable depth. Sometimes, musicians want to be praised simply for getting through it. But if that's all there is to it, we are losing the whole point of the exercise.
This is not meant as a particular criticism of Eschenbach, who is conscientious to a fault, though has been criticized in the past for seeming vague about the details of some of his concert programs. It's more a statement on a business that appears to be pushing people faster than they can, in some cases, reasonably operate.
Posted by: barrylyons | September 16, 2009 9:20 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: wsheppard | September 16, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: 74umgrad1 | September 17, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.