Letters: Readers Respond
Conductor Eschenbach's legacy
Readers respond to the departure of Philadelphia Orchestra conductor Christoph Eschenbach.
Arthur B. Lintgen
Christoph Eschenbach's final concerts here clearly reflect his consistent and structurally sound subjective interpretive style and high degree of musicianship that have characterized his conducting career ("Eschenbach's Schubert finale," May 17). Fortunately, the Mahler
has been recorded, and will thus solidify Eschenbach's Philadelphia legacy with his other much-acclaimed recordings. What a shame that the orchestra is losing such an elite musician who is justly revered throughout the musical world but apparently not in Philadelphia.
Christoph Eschenbach is not a great conductor ("Exit Eschenbach," May 18). The biography of Eschenbach included in program notes prominently points out that he studied under George Szell. Yet Eschenbach seems to be unaware of what made Szell a great conductor.
Szell's rehearsals were legendary for their intensity. Eschenbach has routinely been criticized for running poor rehearsals. For listeners like myself, it's clear that Saturdays' performances are better than Thursdays'. Thursday nights sound like a dress rehearsal where the orchestra and Eschenbach are still coming to terms with his interpretation.
And it's on interpretation where Szell and Eschenbach differ the most. Eschenbach's conducting is typically limited to superficial interpretational choices of exaggerated tempo changes and rubato. Szell's interpretations were derived from the score. His precise phrasing and balance resulted in performances that seemed to operate on inside knowledge of a composer's intention.
Szell's recordings of the Beethoven symphonies have been called "the Bible." No one would ever say the same thing of an Eschenbach performance.
Twining F. Campbell
A generous, over-tolerant boss may stimulate some of his employees to second-guess him, question his decisions, and encourage dissatisfaction among their peers ("Exit, Eschenbach," May 18). I suspect that has happened in the Philadelphia Orchestra: An outspoken clique of malcontents arises to undercut the authority and musical taste of their conductor. They enlist a carping, condescending music reporter whose drumbeat of criticism gradually seeps into the thinking of the orchestra board, music elite and benefactors.
So the conductor leaves. But where does that leave the orchestra? What new maestro needs this town, with a contentious, adversarial press, grumbling musicians, and shrinking audience? And by the way, who speaks for the faithful in the seats?
Harold A. Sorgenti
The Philadelphia Orchestra
Maestro Christoph Eschenbach is a creative and collaborative conductor who believes in his very soul that music can transform lives. His concerts with us have been fresh, full of new insights, and powerfully moving. And he has played a vital role in helping to secure the future of the orchestra.
When Eschenbach began his tenure in Philadelphia, he stated that we must "raise the invisible curtain between the music and the audience." This was the result of a deeply held belief that he should do everything possible to help people deepen their engagement with music and the musicians who make it.
Eschenbach built upon experiments and ideas that preceded him, and brought many innovative concepts to the institution as well. Under his leadership, the orchestra dramatically increased the ways in which our musicians connect to audiences, from the way they accept applause, to meeting with audiences in the lobby, to sharing intimate musical moments in free postlude recitals. He was instrumental in renewing our legacy of recording through a unique partnership with Ondine Records, which has resulted in six commercially released recordings to date. In addition, he embraced new technologies to help us explore ways in which we can reach audiences beyond Verizon Hall, from our Online Music Store to performances broadcast live to colleges and universities through Internet2.
These initiatives will continue to evolve, but the desire to reach out in new ways to make an impact on people's lives through music is a central belief that will live on as one of the great legacies of Eschenbach's tenure as our music director.