Friday’s (7/17) Los Angeles Times includes an essay by Mark Swed on the art and politics of two composer/conductors and leaders of the New York Philharmonic, outgoing Music Director Lorin Maazel and the late Leonard Bernstein. “A couple of weeks ago, I attended a performance of Mahler’s epic Eighth Symphony in [Avery] Fisher Hall. Forty-seven years ago, Bernstein had led the blazing first part of this so-called ‘Symphony of a Thousand’ at the hall’s opening night. This night Lorin Maazel conducted the Eighth as his last program as music director of the New York Philharmonic. Times have changed. Where Bernstein’s Mahler had been effusive, Maazel’s was controlled and magisterial.” Swed comments on the current Broadway revival of West Side Story and notes that, “like his Philharmonic predecessor, Maazel happens to have written a subversive piece of political musical theater. London’s Royal Opera gave the premiere of his opera 1984 four years ago.” Swed praises Maazel’s 1984, and wonders why other opera companies have not staged the work: “I doubt that an overt policy of government intimidation anything like what Bernstein experienced lies behind all this. But a sinister mood of caution no doubt causes U.S. arts organizations to fear political controversy, and that is its own kind of insidious oppression.”

Posted July 17, 2009