Lawrence Budmen Writer and Music Consultant
A native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Lawrence Budmen is a former cellist and teacher. He has attended hundreds of concert and opera performances around the globe. Mr. Budmen is a freelance writer and music consultant. He has written reviews for numerous publications including the South Florida Sun-Sentinel,
Miami Herald, Coral Gables Gazette, and ENV Magazine formerly known as Entertainment News & Views as well as South Florida Classical Review. Additionally, Mr. Budmen is Florida correspondent for the internet publication Music and Vision. He has also been program annotator for several concert series including Symphony of the Americas, Sunday Afternoons of Music and the Boca Raton Symphonia. An archive of his reviews and commentaries on music can be found on this website.


As a freelance writer, Mr. Budmen is available to write program notes for concert series worldwide. He is also available for feature articles and reviews for newspapers, magazines, and on-line publications. He welcomes all comments and inquiries. LBudmen@att.net.


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Amadeus Press

 
1.Conductor Christoph Eschenbach has been appointed to the joint positions of Music Director of the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington, D.C. and Artistic Director of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, a newly created directorship that will encompass the capital center’s diverse activities in music, dance and drama as well as multi-disciplinary, multi-media festivals. Eschenbach is a superb orchestra builder whose greatest successes have been symphony directorships in Zurich and Houston, third tier ensembles that he molded into the artistic front rank. The National Symphony should be a major league orchestra but, so far, it has eluded conductors’ efforts to successfully raise its artistic standards. Of its previous conductors, the versatile Antal Dorati came closest to bringing the orchestra upward from its third rank status. Mistislav Rostropovich and Leonard Slatkin, his successors, failed to significantly raise the ensemble’s level of music making, despite occasional fine performances. Eschenbach brings European sophistication, strong orchestral standards and important advocacy for contemporary composers to the complex task at hand. Through his artistic directorship of the center’s programming, he can bring the National Symphony into America’s orchestral mainstream. If anyone can bring musical change to this group, it should be Eschenbach, despite his predecessors’ dismal record.
2. Eschenbach did not have much luck or rewarding artistic experiences in his previous position – Music Director of the august Philadelphia Orchestra. From the moment he was appointed, the Philadelphia musicians were openly hostile to him; many publicly stated that they did not want him to be their conductor. Some two years late, when Eschenbach took over the orchestra’s reigns, a non-stop barrage of complaints from orchestra members about his allegedly unclear beat, variable tempos between rehearsal and performance and contemporary music programming issued from orchestra members. With a hostile ensemble, performances tended to be uneven (according to reports from Philadelphia). Yet, when the orchestra was on tour, reviews were nearly always positive. When this writer reviewed an all Beethoven concert by Eschenbach and the Philadelphians in Ft. Lauderdale in 2006, the music making was distinguished indeed, some of the most lucid, perceptive Beethoven performances heard in South Florida in years. After four seasons, Eschenbach elected not to renew his contract. Basically he was run out of town by the players’ hostility (although no one wants to admit that). During his decade as director of the Chicago Symphony’s summer concerts at Ravinia, Eschenbach caused no such rancor. His relations with the Chicago ensemble were cordial, the performances consistently excellent. Clearly the Philadelphia musicians sabotaged his tenure. Now comes the fallout from this unfortunate artistic situation. The British magazine Gramophone asked a panel of international music critics to choose the world’s 20 greatest orchestras. Philadelphia was not among them. While the remaining four ensembles (New York, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland) of the traditional American big five orchestras made the grade, Philadelphia was nowhere to be found. (The Los Angeles Philharmonic and the San Francisco Symphony also made the list.) Since most of the critics on Gramophone’s selection committee were European, it is doubtful whether they actually heard the Philadelphians in recent years. They were familiar with Eschenbach’s music making from his distinguished tenure as conductor of Hamburg’s NDR Symphony and regular guest appearances with the Vienna Symphony. The news of the shabby treatment the conductor received was enough to remove the Philadelphia Orchestra from consideration. So what did the musicians accomplish? Besides the loss of a major international conductor and lowering of their own stature, other high profile conductors are reluctant to take up the music directorship of this tarnished ensemble. (The brilliant Russian conductor Vladimir Jurowski has mesmerized Philadelphia audiences with his intense performances during guest appearances with the orchestra. When queried about the music directorship, he replied that he was not ready for such a position. Jurowski had no such qualms about accepting the principal conductorship of the London Philharmonic. Such is Philadelphia’s reputation after the Eschenbach debacle.) The veteran conductor Charles Dutoit has taken over as interim Music Advisor and Principal Conductor in Philadelphia. Hopefully he will restore respectability to this fabled American ensemble. Meanwhile, with his new duo directorship in Washington, Eschenbach has been awarded the musical brass ring. Philadelphia’s loss is Washington’s huge gain.
3. The New York Philharmonic has also attracted some bad publicity. Millionaire publisher Gilbert Kaplan has made it his life’s mission to bring Mahler’s Symphony No.2 (Resurrection) to the world in its most pristine state, remaining true to the composer’s musical text and epic vision. After taking conducting lessons, Kaplan has traveled the world leading orchestras in this monumental score. Members of such jaded ensembles as the London Symphony and Vienna Philharmonic have marveled at his grasp of this visionary work. (He has recorded the symphony twice.) Kaplan has conducted the piece in such far flung places as China and Siberia. More recently he has been editor of the new edition of the score, officially adopted by the Gustav Mahler Society of Vienna. Kaplan corrected over 500 errors from the previous printed score, referring to the composer’s manuscript and other early sources. On December 8, 2008 he conducted the New York Philharmonic, America’s ultimate Mahler orchestra, in this symphony, exactly 100 years to the day that Mahler led the American premiere. New York Times critic Steve Smith praised Kaplan’s clear beat and eloquent treatment of the score. In the days following the performance, however, several orchestra members have publicly criticized Kaplan, claiming his baton was impossible to follow and that he ignored textual details in the score. Never mind that Kaplan is an expert on the text or that other orchestras have praised his highly charged account of the music. Obviously this was pure snobbery on the New York musicians part, disenchanted that they had to play a new, unfamiliar edition of the score. This orchestra’s collective negative attitude is all too well known. Pierre Boulez’s tenure as music director was sabotaged by the musicians. At the conclusion of his decade at the orchestra’s helm, Zubin Mehta stated in an interview that half the musicians were out to undermine his performances; that every rehearsal was a trial. That is why Riccardo Muti and Daniel Barenboim have declined offers to become the New York orchestra’s music director. The young, largely untested Allan Gilbert takes over the ensemble next season largely by default. There was a time when there was an unofficial protocol among American orchestras that musicians did not comment on conductors until after they were deceased or, at least, until decades after they conducted the ensemble. Occasionally (usually during crisis periods) this protocol was breached. For the most part, however, such public commentary from musicians would have been unimaginable two decades ago. It is time to return to that orchestral etiquette. These often petty commentaries do no credit to America’s orchestras.

 

Music News Continued >>

Frost Symphony Orchestra
Thomas Sleeper/Zoe Zeniodi/
Bergonzi String Quartet
Stravinsky/Bruckner (9-12-10)
Frost Symphony Scales Heights
Impressively With Bruckner


Photo credit: Hilary Scott

Tanglewood - August, 2010
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Christoph Von Dohnanyi/Shi Yeon-Sung
(8-6, 7, 8-10)
Richard Goode/Hilary Hahn/
Arabella Steinbacher
Bernarda Fink (8/5/2010)
Yo-Yo Ma/Silk Road Ensemble (8/8/2010)


Photo credit: Hilary Scott
Tanglewood Festival 2010
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Charles Dutoit/Juanjo Mena
Kirill Gerstein/Hei-Kyung Hong/Yo-Yo Ma (7-30, 31, 8/1/2010)
Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra
Alexander Prior/Herbert Blomstedt (7/2/2010)
Boston University Tanglewood Institute Young Artists Orchestra
David Hoose (7/31/2010)
Tanglewood Music Center
Strauss: Ariadne Auf Naxos (8/2/2010)


Tanglewood Music Center
Ariadne Auf Naxos (8/2/2010)
Freshly Minted Ariadne at Tanglewood Captures Strauss' Wit And Energy


Tanglewood
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Johannes Debus
Mozart: Abduction From The Seraglio (7/23/2010)
Herbt Blomstedt/Gilles Vonsattel
Brahms (7/24/2010)
Hans Graf/Lynn Harrell/Steven Ansell
R. Strauss/J. Strauss II (7/25/2010)
Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra
Keitaro Harada/Cristian Marcelaru/Alexander Prior Mendelssohn/Tchaikovsky/Hindemith (7/25/2010)


Peter Wispelwey
Bach: Cello Suites (7/22/2010)
Tanglewood 2010


Carmel Bach Festival
Bach to Beethoven: Realism to Idealism



Awadagin Pratt (7/15/2010)
Beethoven/Schumann/Bach/Chopin/Liszt
Pianist Pratt Brings Old Fashioned
Virtuosity to Coral Gables



Orchestra Miami
Elizabeth Caballero (6/12/2010)
Elizabeth Caballero Delights Audience In Wide Ranging Recital


Seraphic Fire
It Is Well With My Soul (6/9/2010)
Seraphic Fire Kicks Off Summer Series With Enjoyable Gospel Program



Mainly Mozart Festival
Amernet String Quartet
Mozart/Shostakovich/Dvorak (6/6/2010)
Amernet Quartet Delivers High Voltage Program At Mozart Festival



Mainly Mozart Festival
Bergonzi String Quartet/Marina Radyushina
Debussy/Bartok/Dohnanyi (5/30/2010)
Bergonzi Quartet Serves Up Winning Program



Miami Symphony Orchestra
Eduardo Marturet/Gilles Vonsattel
Brahms/Tchaikovsky (5/7/2010)
Pianist Makes Terrific Debut In Brahms With Miami Symphony


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