Thursday, February 4, 2010

Fabio Luisi Leaves Dresden

("Wagner's Orchestra")

Some depressing though not unexpected news from Dresden today. Fabio Luisi announced his immediate resignation from the Staatskapelle Dresden two years ahead of his contract's expiration. In two years he will be replaced by self-appointed conducting √úbermensch, Christian Thielemann.

(Luisi directs the opening to The Alpine Symphony. Tough to believe that Strauss had any other sound in mind for this piece than the one this orchestra makes.)

A while back, I wrote about Thielemann various imbroglios and particularly about the depressing news that Thielemann will be taking over the world's most individual sounding orchestra. Here's an excerpt from that piece so that you can understand how important this orchestra is to music history:

The Staatskapelle Dresden was founded in 1548. It was not only described by Richard Strauss as the world's greatest orchestra, it was also described by Beethoven as the world's greatest orchestra. Going back through its history, its music directors have included such luminaries as Bernard Haitink, Herbert Blomstedt, Kurt Sanderling, Rudolf Kempe, Karl Bohm, Fritz Busch, Fritz Reiner, Wagner (!), Weber (!!), Hasse (!!!), and Heinrich Schutz (!!!!). It has given the world premieres of untold dozens of works music-lovers still love today. But the greatest peak of its history was probably on Christmas Day 1845 when a young composer named Richard Wagner conducted what amounted to a second premiere of Beethoven's 9th Symphony that established it to the world as the masterpiece we still know.

(The third movement of Beethoven 9, a piece which they've performed every Christmas for the last 165 years.)

The Staatskapelle Dresden is more than an orchestra, it is a symbol to the World of the gift German culture gives. The Allies may have bombed Germany's most beautiful city past recognition, but so long as the Staatskapelle Dresden remains the city retains its most important link to its history. Erich Honecker realized this as well as anyone, and during the Communist years a steady parade of great western conductors were allowed behind the iron curtain to conduct in Dresden so that the orchestra could maintain its greatness even under dictatorship.

(The Vienna Symphony. Luisi's 'other' orchestra. This one has only been around since 1900...)

Fabio Luisi is a fine conductor who will get any number of chances to prove himself again in the future. In two years he will take over the Zurich Opera and perhaps even more to the point, he is more and more a fixture of the Met Opera's guest conductor roster. With James Levine looking more and more frail these days, who knows?

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