Back to historic concerts this week – this time it’s Lorin Maazel leading the Cleveland Orchestra with Christoph Eschenbach at the piano in concert of music by Beethoven, Roy Harris and Maurice Ravel (the concert actually started out with a Concerto Grosso by Geminiani, but it was partially destroyed . . . sorry – it’s also in Mono as there was a problem with the radio station transmitter at the time . . sorry too). It was recorded most likely late in 1975, but was broadcast on March 4, 1976.
The program starts with the Beethoven Piano Concerto Number 1, with Eschenbach as piano soloist. It continues with a performance of the 3rd Symphony of Roy Harris and concludes with Ravel’s Bolero.
Lorin Maazel was a child prodigy, taking his first conducting lesson at age seven with Vladimir Bakaleinikov and making his debut at age eight, conducting the University of Idaho Orchestra in Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony in Los Angeles on July 13, 1938. In the same year, he conducted the National High School Orchestra at the National Music Camp in Interlochen, Michigan; the following year he conducted 11 concerts by the same orchestra at the New York World’s Fair. At the age of eleven, he guest-conducted the NBC Symphony Orchestra on the radio. At twelve he toured the United States of America to conduct major orchestras. He made his violin debut at the age of fifteen. He attended the Fanny Edel Falk Laboratory School at the University of Pittsburgh as a child, followed by Peabody High School and the University of Pittsburgh. Maazel studied briefly with Pierre Monteux in 1945.
In the early 1950s, Maazel toured as the conductor with the Gershwin Concert Orchestra. The orchestra consisted of 25 members and a noted array of soloists. The orchestra was organized in cooperation with Ira Gershwin, to give the public a comprehensive Gershwin program. The list of soloists included George Gershwin’s friend, Jesús María Sanromá, Carolyn Long and Theodor Uppman.
In 1960, Maazel became the first American to conduct at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus. He was chief conductor of the Deutsche Oper Berlin from 1965 to 1971 and the Radio-Symphonie-Orchester (RSO) Berlin from 1964 to 1975.
In 1972, Maazel began his tenure as music director at the Cleveland Orchestra, succeeding George Szell. Maazel’s emotional, rich interpretation of music greatly differed from Szell’s characteristic crisp, defined precision in performance. A notable achievement during this time was the first complete recording of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, using an all-African American cast (except for the chorus). Maazel held the post until 1982. He never returned to the Cleveland Orchestra after his departure, although a scheduled engagement in 2006 did not occur because of illness. In 1977, he became music director of the Orchestre National de France in Paris, a position he held until 1991.
As a pianist, Christoph Eschenbach has won numerous first-place piano competition prizes, including first prize in the Clara Haskil Competition in Vevey, Switzerland in 1965. In 1964, he made his first recording (of Mozart) for Deutsche Grammophon and signed a contract with the label. Eschenbach continued to study conducting with George Szell, with whom he worked for more than three years. In addition, he counted Herbert von Karajan as a mentor.
In 1981, Eschenbach became principal guest conductor of the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, and was chief conductor from 1982 to 1986. He was co-artistic director of the Pacific Music Festival from 1992 to 1998. He was chief conductor of the NDR Symphony Orchestra, Hamburg from 1998 to 2004. He was artistic director of the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival from 1999 until 2003. From 2000 to 2010, Eschenbach was Music Director of the Orchestre de Paris.
Definitely Wednesday Anti-Road Rage music – a couple rough spots in the Beethoven via transmitter noise, but ultimately, an enjoyable concert to kick your feet up and relax to.