Christian Thielemann leads Vienna Philharmonic US tour

Streaming HUBMarch 3, 2023

NEW YORK (AP) – During the height of the coronavirus pandemic in November 2020, when Vienna was locked down and people were allowed outside mainly to walk their dogs, Christian Thielemann was stopped by a policeman in Heldenplatz The officer stopped.

“What are you doing?” he remembered the officer asking.

“I said I had something to conduct,” recalled Thielemann, who was ready to pull out a special permission slip.

No explanation was needed.

“‘Are you Mr. Thielemann? We come to your concert.'” The conductor remembered the officer telling him before adding; “Go!”

And so Thielemann set to work recording a cycle of 11 Bruckner symphonies, which are being released through the following year – the 200th anniversary of the composer’s birth. Thielemann will conduct the Eighth Symphony at Carnegie Hall on Sunday and at Zellerbach Auditorium in Berkeley, California, on March 9 as part of the Vienna Philharmonic’s six-concert US tour that opens Friday. The Ninth Symphony was released by Sony Classical on Friday, containing Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5 and 8, among others.

Thielemann was home in Berlin, bored with nothing to do, when he received an invitation to record in Vienna. He became desolate.

“I was sometimes the only guest at Sacher’s. Can you imagine?” he said, referring to the famous 149-room hotel where the Sacher tote was invented in 1832.

However, the conditions were optimal for recording. The Vienna Philharmonic supplies pit musicians for the Vienna State Opera, creating a busy schedule, but the pandemic has prompted the suspension of public performances.

‘We will rehearse more than ever. We could even do overtime,” Thielemann recalled Thursday during lunch at Carnegie.

Now 63, Thielemann trained as an assistant to Herbert von Karajan and Daniel Barenboim, worked in smaller German houses and became music director of the State Theater of Nuremberg from 1988–1992.

Thielemann went on to serve as Music Director of the Deutsche Oper Berlin from 1997–2004 and Music Director of the Munich Philharmonic from 2004–11. He has been chief conductor of the Staatskapelle Dresden since 2012–13, a role which is due to end after the 2023–24 season.

Thielemann thought of the review for her US debut at the San Francisco Opera in 1991, with Strauss’s “Elektra” as the lead.

“Somebody wrote, he’s only a Kapellmeister,” Thielemann said, using a German term for a music leader sometimes used pejoratively, “whose apparently boring, unfunny conductor Who has no motivation.”

“We look at it in a different way,” he said. “A Kapellmeister is similar to a maestro, it’s only in German. It’s someone who has to be very aware of what’s happening in the orchestra.

Thielemann was 28 when he made his Vienna State Opera debut in 1987. He led his first Vienna Philharmonic performance in 2000. He conducted 154 Vienna Philharmonic concerts in the tour and will be on stage at the famous New Year’s Day concert at the Musikverein. Second time in 2024.

“He is a conductor who is really close to our orchestra because we are an opera orchestra,” said violinist Daniel Froschauer, president of the Self-Governing Musicians.

Thielemann has led a record 185 performances at the Richard Wagner Festival in Bayreuth, joined as Felix Mott, conducting all 10 of the composer’s mature operas at the Auditorium Wagner designed in Germany.

“Usually in Bayreuth, the temps are high,” he said. “Don’t exaggerate in Bayreuth because people will yawn.”

Thielemann hasn’t performed in the US since 2013 until last October, when he led Bruckner’s 80-minute Eighth with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The Vienna Philharmonic premiered the Eighth on December 18, 1892, and will play it for the sixth time at Carnegie, following performances by Karajan in 1959 and 1989, Karl Böhm in 1967, Georg Solti in 1993, and Bernard Hattinck in 2002.

Thielemann realizes that he will be measured against his announced predecessors. He cautions that the marks are a guide, not an absolute.

“Don’t forget that orchestras were impoverished in Bruckner’s time,” he said. “Violinists were not as good as they are now where everyone has a pretty good instrument as well. And now we have different forces that we play with. Brass players are more powerful because of Bruckner’s time. Instruments are better in comparison. So if Bruckner writes fortissimo, be very careful not to do too much.

Froschauer praised Thielemann for interacting with the musicians, deferring to former concertmaster Rainer Küchl’s performance of Tempi.

“It was unbelievable to me,” Froschauer said. “The Relationship: Give and Take.”

Thielemann insists that shouters like Arturo Toscanini and Fritz Reiner are long gone from the podium, that the fictional conductor portrayed by Cate Blanchett in the Oscar-nominated “Tar” could not exist in the 21st century.

“One has to play a ping-pong game,” he said.

Thielemann does not delve too deeply into Mahler, saying: “I’m still looking for a right path.”

“When (Leonard) Bernstein discovered these pieces, rediscovered with the Vienna Philharmonic, he would exaggerate some things because he was such a spirited character.” Thielemann said. “The worst we can do is follow this path and try to be more than Bernstein.”

His lesson when teaching budding conductors is “You have to start early.”

“I know Karajan also said: ‘The first 20 times Beethoven 9, you can forget,'” Thielemann declared. “You have to make mistakes sometimes. If you always succeed, it’s too dangerous, and then you have no limits.”

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