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The Time Remaining

On March 25, pianist Lars Vogt wrote on Twitter: “Today: fight against cancer, round 2 (chemo). Keep your fingers crossed for me…” A month and a half later, he’s made it to the cusp of round five. “Another six months like this, until October, 12 rounds in total, as long as my body holds up. […]

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The Elephant in the Room

On January 17, 2021, Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny boarded a flight from Berlin to Moscow, where he was arrested immediately upon landing. The previous evening, in Munich, Valery Gergiev conducted a performance of Brahms’s Double Concerto and Symphony No. 3 in Munich. The following Saturday—while the concert streamed online—hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in […]

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Struggling with Time

In September, conductor and Alarm Will Sound artistic director Alan Pierson managed a bureaucratic feat of Olympian proportions: traveling, with COVID-19 restrictions in effect, from the United States to Germany. His essential business: conducting the rehearsals, premiere, and later performances of Hans Thomalla’s new opera “Dark Spring” at the Nationaltheater Mannheim. In early October, Pierson […]

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Conductivity

Around 11:20 on the morning of Saturday March 17, 2018, Laura Eisen, the orchestral manager of the Staatskapelle Berlin, visited Daniel Barenboim in his dressing room, which looks out onto the imposing Bebelplatz. She planned to discuss a personnel change, in the flutes, for an upcoming rehearsal of Verdi’s opera “Falstaff.” According to a statement […]

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Cast Together

An orchestra is like a pendulum. Pull it in one direction—toward a more contemporary, progressive repertoire, say—and eventually it will swing back toward the crowd-pleasers. This regrettable pattern can be observed whenever an enterprising music director leaves. In Boston, the profoundly flawed choice of James Levine nevertheless shaped the idea of what an orchestra can […]

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The Titan’s Shadow

Title Image (EDITED: 8.2.19, 15:15 H) UN GENEVA / UN PHOTO / JEAN-MARC FERRÉ (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) This time Daniel Barenboim was furious because a musician tried to give him flowers. It was July 2018, after a guest performance with his orchestra, the Staatskapelle Berlin, in Buenos Aires. Traditionally, a member of the orchestra presents […]

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Simon Said

Simon Rattle grits his teeth and flares his nostrils. He raises his silver eyebrows, opens his mouth in vowel shapes, closes his eyes again in an ecstatic expression, bounces his baton off the air. These are his ways of expressing how the music makes him feel. They are also the tics that bother some of […]

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Degrees of Density

“99 percent of the day, we are in the thinking mode,” Peter Ablinger tells me across a table in the lobby of our hotel in Bergen. “And in opposition to that, if we decide now to be silent for a few seconds. Just…” His voice drifts off and he raises his eyebrows in anticipation. For […]

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The Bernstein Effect

On an unusually sunny February afternoon, I met Craig Urquhart in his apartment at Berlin’s Nollendorfplatz, the beating heart of the city’s gay life. (Christopher Isherwood once rented a place here.) “I’m going to be very bad and have a gin,” Urquhart said, but then realized he didn’t have any ice. Urquhart was a longtime […]