The Three M's
They came to New York's Manhattan School of Music from far and wide — they being a squadron of ten young but already experienced conductors who were chosen to participate in a unique seminar, the fourth of its kind under the tutelage of master conductor Kurt Masur. The 81-year-old maestro had seen no fewer than 104 videotapes from which he culled ten of the most promising from China, Israel, Austria, and England as well as several cities within the United States.
A week's intensive work with the MSM Symphony Orchestra culminated in a concert featuring two major compositions, each with a clear connection to New York. The German composer Siegfried Matthus wrote his Manhattan Concerto, a four-movement concerto for orchestra that features the percussion section, some fifteen years ago, commissioned to celebrate the school's 75th anniversary and given its world premiere under the direction of Kurt Masur. Following intermission came the Symphony No. 8 by Antonín Dvorak, not only the composer of the New World Symphony but also the founder of the first American music conservatory. Each of the two works' eight movements was conducted by a different conductor, and the concert concluded with an encore directed by Masur himself. The full house was enchanted and, rising to cheer both maestri and orchestra, would not let the presenters go before it had sufficient time to show its enthusiasm and gratitude.
But it was not even the vociferous endorsement of the public that proved to be the most memorable experience for these young conductors. It clearly was the week's work with Maestro Masur who imparted to them musical as well as contextual insights that are bound to remain with them long after the applause has died down. Judging by the rapt faces in the orchestra, the players, too, were given an unforgettable lesson in musicianship above and beyond mere technique, communicated with unique wit and grace.
Matthus's Manhattan Concerto has become a favorite on both sides of the Atlantic and one of the composer's most often performed works. The 74-year-old Berlin resident whose Te Deum will receive its U.S. premiere in Minneapolis/St. Paul this year, is also the founder of the Rheinsberg Festival, a summertime delight in an old castle situated in a picturesque section of northern Germany and featuring young artists from differing parts of the world, many of whom go on to stellar careers. In recognition of his contribution, the Festival this year paid him the honor of building and naming a new auditorium for him.