Posted inEssay

First Canceled, then Celebrated

On May 2, 2023, Valery Gergiev turned 70. One week later, Russia celebrated Victory Day—a Soviet holdover holiday commemorating the country’s 1945 victory over National Socialism. Gergiev spent that day leading the Mariinsky Orchestra in the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, closing out the 22nd annual Moscow Easter Festival—a marathon of concerts (often two […]

Posted inBreaking


I don’t know what’s more unforgivable: that conductor and long-serving Bard president Leon Botstein accepted money from Jeffrey Epstein, or that he put me in the position of agreeing with American conservative outrage-monger Dinesh D’Souza. “He is ideologically unpredictable, even eccentric,” D’Souza was quoted as saying of Botstein in a 1992 New York Times profile […]

Posted inInterview

The Process of Enrichment

On April 22, Kent Nagano will bring his Hamburg Philharmonic State Orchestra to Carnegie Hall for a performance of Beethoven, Brahms, and a new work by composer Sean Shepherd, “On a Clear Day” (featuring cellist Jan Vogler and an international youth choir and set to poetry by writer Ulla Hahn). I spoke with Nagano recently […]

Posted inInterview

The End of a Voyage

In his long career, Riccardo Muti, 81, has led top orchestras and run major opera houses; for a brief moment about a decade ago, there were rumors he would become Italy’s ceremonial head of state. Muti’s fierce stare is imposing and inspirational—he’s an Italian conductor out of central casting, but with better hair than Arturo […]

Posted inInterview

Places of Refuge

Before February 24, 2022, Serhiy Lykhomanenko was the conductor of the MASO “Slobozhansky” Symphony Orchestra in Kharkiv and the Eclectic Sound Orchestra in Kyiv. Now, he is the Head of Public Relations for the Fifth Assault Regiment of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. “At the moment, we’re at the epicenter of the battles for the […]

Posted inInterview

Pain and Transfiguration

Often the most interesting nuggets of interviews arrive when questioning dissolves into chatting. “Sorry, that previous answer was a bit wishy-washy,” Robin Ticciati says on reflection: Following the tenor David Butt Philip’s recent Times of London interview, where he advised young UK singers to head abroad for the betterment of their careers post-Brexit, I’d asked […]

Posted inBreaking

In Safe Hands

It’s still early in February, but classical music has already seen two major conducting appointments this month. On February 1, Israeli conductor Lahav Shani signed a contract to become the new music director of the Munich Philharmonic from the 2026-27 season, replacing Putin cheerleader Valery Gergiev. On Tuesday, the New York Philharmonic announced that Gustavo […]

Posted inInterview

The Constraints of the Present

Since founding the early music ensemble Le Poème Harmonique in 1997, Vincent Dumestre has brought Palmeritan puppeteers to perform a forgotten opera about the mad Roman emperor Caligula; collaborated with circus players on 17th-century church music; and invited a diverse array of contemporary theater directors and choreographers to stage, among other things, a Spanish Baroque […]

Posted inBreaking

After Barenboim

Every era has to end. Except, so it seemed, the Daniel Barenboim Era at the Berlin Staatsoper. His legacy for the musical life of Berlin is so monumental precisely because it extends far past the city’s musical life. Instead of merely administering his legacy, the Staatsoper needs a fresh start.  When Daniel Barenboim signed his […]

Posted inInterview

The Threshold of Time

In the big pond full of big fish that is the New York contemporary classical music scene, the Argento New Music Project, led by composer and conductor Michel Galante, is an unusual and irreplaceable specimen. As artistic director of the ensemble, Galante combines two qualities that rarely go together: An ear for logical and creative […]