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Archive for Wednesday, January 17, 2001

New York Philharmonic names controversial director

January 17, 2001

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Lorin Maazel will replace Kurt Masur as the musical head of the New York Philharmonic when Masur's contract expires at the end of the 2001-02 season, sources close to the negotiations said Monday.

Details of the three-year arrangement were still under discussion; the 70-year-old Maazel was in New York to lead the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. Because Maazel is one of the busiest and highest-paid guest conductors in the world, it is likely that he will be available only for a limited time for at least his first season and possibly through his entire tenure. His services are also likely to cost the Philharmonic well in excess of the $1.3 million a year that Masur receives. The official announcement is expected to be made sometime after the Philharmonic returns next weekend from a tour of Spain.

So ends a long and unusually public three-year search by the 158-year-old orchestra, the nation's oldest. The Italian conductor Riccardo Muti, who was the music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra from 1980 to 1992, was the early favorite to replace Masur, but talks broke off last summer after Muti said that he would be available for only about eight weeks a season. It is not yet known whether Maazel will offer much more.

In the meantime, Maazel, who was not even considered as a possible music director until late November, had become the clear favorite of the Philharmonic musicians, who were deeply impressed by the authority and virtuosity he brought to two recent weeks of subscription performances in New York.

Maazel will be the first American-born Philharmonic music director since Leonard Bernstein. Maazel, a child prodigy, made his conducting debut at the age of 8. He joined the Pittsburgh Symphony as a violinist in 1948 and became its apprentice conductor a year later.

He came to world acclaim in 1960 after becoming the first American to conduct at the Bayreuth Festival in Germany. From 1984 to 1996 he was music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony and in 1993 he was appointed music director of the Bavarian Radio Symphony. Because of Maazel's age, he likely will be, in effect, an interim music director rather than the innovator that many critics and musicians have suggested would be salutary for the staid Philharmonic.

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