(What kind of career would Riccardo Muti have if he were bald and as badly tailored as James Levine?)
Just listening to Riccardo Muti conduct the New York Phil on the radio makes me pissed off. It's one thing to hear him give an all-flash performance of excerpts from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, since this is one of the better pieces by a composer whose work has always seemed like flash and hot air to me. But to butcher Elgar's In the South, one of the great underrated pieces of Late Romanticism, and turn it into the kind of shapeless late-Romantic soup that's turned people off of Elgar for a century, that just makes me depressed. And this is the man who is being given the keys to America's musical kingdom.
In The South. Pretty cool, no?
The truly great maestros of his generation were smart to stay out of America: Claudio Abbado stayed away from America, so did Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Colin Davis, Bernard Haitink (until his dotage), Charles Mackerras, and both Mariss Jansons and Daniel Barenboim left America in a huff, swearing never to come back. They all knew the truth of the matter, which was that post-60's American classical music was a place where innovation and challenge went to die. Exaggerated? Yeah, but who cares.
The only true greats of that generation to succeed in America were Christoph von Dohnanyi, Herbert Blomstedt and James Levine. All three are the sort of all-substance no-style conductors that succeeded in America during those postwar years when it seemed that half the conductors in America were Hungarian Jews. As in so many other areas of life, Europe destroyed itself only to rebuild itself