MUSIC: Age before beauty II

Because I have let whim decide this blog’s topics for more than six years now, I know reading Inkless can be frustrating  for readers who want it to be about federal politics only (and especially for those who wish I would cheerlead for one or another of the political parties). But much of the kick that comes from writing this blog has to do with the moments when an off-the-wall post manages to reach a wide and engaged audience. That happened when I wrote about criticisms of James Levine, the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s music director.  That post had nothing to do with anything that usually goes on this blog, but it found an audience that stretched as far as Boston and New York City. Some of the ensuing debate is captured in the comments below the original post.

Now Arthur Kaptainis, the classical music writer for the Montreal Gazette, chimes in with his own, typically elegant, reflections on the effects of age and experience on the role orchestral conductors play in their communities. Arthur applies my arguments to the local case of Montreal’s two world-class conductors:

In Montreal, we are somewhat insulated from this ludicrous youth kick. Our major conductors are Kent Nagano, who looks young, and Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who is.

The latter was giving interviews in anticipation of his current run of Bizet’s Carmen at the Metropolitan Opera. To the British critic Norman Lebrecht, he made the indiscreet admission that his interest in Bruckner was ignited in 1990 by an MSO performance led in Notre Dame Basilica by Stanislaw Skrowaczewski. Careful, maestro. That Polish conductor was a Methuselah of 66 at the time.

Then Nézet-Séguin goes on, most imprudently, to imply that he might not, at 34, have reached the summit of his art: “I know Bruckner is not the normal path to start a career, and I am well aware that this is music which, as we mature, gets deeper. I hope I will have more to say when I’m 70. But I just can’t wait until then.”

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