Monday, November 14, 2011

Fabio Luisi and the Wiener Symphoniker in NYC

Of course I couldn't miss a chance to reunite with the Wiener Symphoniker on Sunday. (known in these parts as the Vienna Symphony Orchestra--where the "orchestra" came from, I know not). I wrote about it for Bachtrack.
The Italian conductor Fabio Luisi has become an increasingly familiar and welcome face to New York audiences. Recently appointed Principal Conductor at the Metropolitan Opera, he is primarily known here as an operatic conductor. But he has also been the chief conductor of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra (known as the Wiener Symphoniker in German) since 2005, and on Sunday the Viennese joined him in Avery Fisher Hall. While the warhorse program recalled the taste of the city’s other major orchestra--the arch-conservative Vienna Philharmonic--it was a fine afternoon.
Click here to read the whole thing. I like Luisi a lot but I was really going to this concert to hear Schmidt's fantastic Symphony No. 4, which was swapped with Beethoven's Symphony No. 7, a piece the Symphoniker could probably play in their sleep. (The obvious explanation is that this change had to do with the amount of time Luisi has been spending at the Met.) I was quite disappointed.

It's interesting how Luisi's reputation in New York is so much better than it is in Vienna. He keeps canceling Symphoniker gigs to conduct at the Met, which doesn't endear him to the Viennese, but most of the people I talked to managed to both be pissed about his absenteeism and denigrate his conducting skills. In my experience he is a better opera conductor than a symphonic conductor, and he doesn't conduct opera in Vienna much (as one of the many, many conductors who doesn't get along with the Staatsoper), but he's still a fine musician, far above average, and I was surprised at how low Viennese audiences rated him. I think there might be some national prejudice here--his repertoire overlaps to a dangerous extent with Christian Thielemann's. But anyway, Vienna, New York is happy to take Luisi off your hands.

I'd prefer you send him over with Schmidt next time, though.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Schmidt's Symphony had been canceled because of financial problems (too many musicians to bring to NYC)

Zwölftöner said...

The Schmidt is indeed a fine piece; interesting from a formal perspective and a great cello solo in the second movement.

I do like Fabio, and wouldn't mind him dishonouring more contracts than Wotan if only he didn't cancel so late. The Symphoniker's Mahler 3 and Mahler 7 were not good, and when it's a Mahler cycle which only happened at Fabio's insistence... I don't think our crusty locals are wrong to be disgruntled.

Anonymous said...

I think you are blaming Luisi for being honest to the Met, and the late cancellations are not depending on him, but on Mr. Levine's lack of sense of reality. His (Levine's) cancellations are late and they are becoming a big problem for the Met and New York! Thanks to Mr. Luisi for taking over at such short notice (and so brilliantly!)!

Zwölftöner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zwölftöner said...

To commenter no. 3: of course, you're right to point out that it's a Jimmy rather than Fabio problem. But if Fabio is taking over so brilliantly, then it seems to me that the big problem isn't the Met's but rather the institutions in Vienna and elsewhere that are being left in the lurch. I found the Rome/Elektra reaction completely overblown, but also think that it's unreasonable to expect every town to be as relaxed about it as Genoa (with their Beethoven 9, I believe).

Essentially Levine is holding the Symphoniker and others over a barrel and simply to say that they aren't as important as the Met isn't on.

Finally, to contradict Zerb's comments slightly, I actually think that Vienna - and particularly its critics - has been a lot easier on Luisi than Dresden. I can't find it now, but a few weeks ago a Viennese critic wrote a spirited defence of Luisi, saying (to the Symphoniker) that if they want to be led by a star conductor, then this type of thing is going to happen.

Zwölftöner said...

To commenter no. 3: of course, you're right to point out that it's a Jimmy rather than Fabio problem. But if Fabio is taking over so brilliantly, then it seems to me that the big problem isn't the Met's but rather the institutions in Vienna and elsewhere that are being left in the lurch. I found the Rome/Elektra reaction completely overblown, but also think that it's unreasonable to expect every town to be as relaxed about it as Genoa (with their Beethoven 9, I believe).

Essentially Levine is holding the Symphoniker and others over a barrel and simply to say that they aren't as important as the Met isn't on.

Finally, to contradict Zerb's comments slightly, I actually think that Vienna - and particularly its critics - has been a lot easier on Luisi than Dresden. I can't find it now, but a few weeks ago a Viennese critic wrote a spirited defence of Luisi, saying (to the Symphoniker) that if they want to be led by a star conductor then this type of thing will happen.

Zerbinetta said...

Zwölftöner--I should say that my accounts of Luisi in Wien are largely anecdata. I don't know much about the Dresden situation but gather that it was indeed quite a bit hairer--and Luisi's antagonist there was, of course, none other than Thielemann.

Contra #3 I can understand why the Viennese are pissed, it is questionable if not downright irresponsible of Luisi to cancel SO MANY Viennese gigs at very short notice. I suspect that a motivating factor could have been the significantly warmer reception he has had in New York to date compared to what it seems to be in Vienna. He is indeed a hero here, and no one thinks of what he has given up.

Anon #1, alas, but is it such a big difference? Compared to the Rach I can only guess they would need five or six additional people, unless they thought the string sections should be much larger.

Anonymous said...

To comment Number 6: yes, it is a big difference: 10 people more is ten hotel rooms in NYC for three days, ten A/R Flights. BTW this is not my opinion, but a stated reason (by CAMI and Lincoln Center). After a research in Vienna, the amount of rehearsal Luisi had in Vienna was the same, so it is wrong to assume that the change was due to other Luisi's commitments. Sources in the orchestra say that Luisi fought for Schmidt (whose strong advocate he has always been) but Orchestra Management and CAMI convinced him to accept Beethoven 7.

marcillac said...

My understanding is that Luisi's tenure in Dresden was judged to be most unsatisfying and of course once Thielemann became available (can't quite recall the time line - whether this was before or after [I believe the latter] Fabio committed to Zurich) his fate was sealed.

There was an especially ill received Meistersinger and his work with the Staatskapelle was poorly regarded by many in Dresden. (My experience with them in an Ein Heldenleben/Don Quixote concert at Avery Fisher was nothing short of fantastic and I found Fabio better here than Haitnik in DQ earlier this week and with the VPO in EH a few years back.

However it may be I'll be glad to have Fabio here more but the balance with Zurich will be difficult to sustain.

As for Dresden they finally have a match made in Teutonic heaven in, a residency in Salzburg and the prospect of numerous visits from Renee, Trebsky and all.

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