Questioning the conductors: Andrew Manze

Andrew Manze

The early music world has known Andrew Manze for years as an accomplished Baroque violinist, but the rest of the classical music world is getting acquainted with Manze as an assured, intelligent conductor working hard to establish a reputation as an interpreter of core 18th and 19th century repertory.  Manze’s recent Beethoven recordings have even been met with praise from David Hurwitz, a period performance skeptic of sorts.

For my interview with Manze yesterday, I was most curious about his view on the limits of historically informed performance practice (HIPP). We talked at length about vibrato, its appropriateness, and HIPP as it relates to 20th Century music. Manze’s concerts this week with the Seattle Symphony juxtapose music by Corelli and Tallis with Tippett, Elgar, and Ralph Vaughan Williams. 3/5 ths of the program was composed in the first half of the last century.

Manze struck me as an artist who lets HIPP guide his work on the podium without dominating it. He readily admits that Elgar wouldn’t sound like Elgar without vibrato and the contends (although not explicitly) that there hasn’t been a time before vibrato and a time after vibrato.

There was one shocking moment in the interview. As we talked about how he inhabits the musical world of the composers he is conducting, Manze admitted (after a question from me) that he doesn’t understand Dvorak, Tchaikovsky, and other nationalist composers.

The SSO is split this week and for the next few weeks because of Seattle Opera’s premiere of Amelia.  Even with the smaller forces of the SSO Manze’s insights from the podium and a Baroque influenced program should make for good listening this week.

from on .

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4 thoughts on “Questioning the conductors: Andrew Manze

  1. Manze put on a good show Thursday, with a diverse programme within its constraints. The Tippett was quite good. And he made the Elgar sound much more like Elgar than the last time I heard his music by the SSO (the Violin Concerto). It was also a pleasure to hear the SSO strings sound so lush when appropriate, with the RVW featuring playing of real class.

    Thanks, Zach, for an interesting interview.
    Is Manze in the running to replace Schwarz? – That would certainly be a change…

  2. I am not sure if he is in the running. I would assume he is, that is the line coming from the admin at the orchestra. Can he be a serious contender without a firm grounding in the 18th and 19th century repertory? Can he be a music director who doesn’t get Tchaikovsky and Dvorak? I’m not sure. Those composers are such staples its hard to see a way to lead without conducting them now and then. Of course, Spano said point blank he doesn’t do Bruckner (which is not entirely true, he conducted Bruckner’s 4th at Curtis a few months back) and it hasn’t seemed to tarnish his reputation or his artistic leadership of the ASO.

    You heard what he can do, should he be a serious contender?

  3. I’m not entirely sure he’d be interested. Or, to be honest, that he’d be a good fit. His programming this season at Helsingborg looks pretty much like standard mid-Romantic stuff, though he has conducted Webern (sharing a programme with Berwald and Schumann, to contradict my first sentence). This season he leaves the interesting stuff (by my estimation) to the guest conductors. I don’t really see him as the dynamo-powerhouse organizer and fundraiser that American orchestras need, though admittedly I don’t know anything about that aspect of him. Dausgaard seems to have a firmer grounding in standard rep, including Bruckner as well as stuff we don’t hear much of (Sibelius, Nielsen, and of course Lutoslawski) though unfortunately I had to miss his concert. I also missed both of Morlot’s. If next season’s conductors are also in the running, I’m very excited by Deneve, Wigglesworth and Hrusa. And of course Spano, who seems the front-runner so far – and whose repertoire jives most with what many more progressive (read: younger) audience members might want. We can leave Bruckner to guest conductors if need be.

  4. I wouldn’t recommend Wigglesworth, a notorious control freak who has fallen out with more orchestras than is sensible. Spano, I suppose, is well known and perhaps appreciated in Seattle but he is really a bit shallow when it comes to interpreting the great 18th/19th C rep. Maybe that doesn’t matter. Morlot is said to be very good, but may have fish to fry in Europe from what I’ve heard. Hrusa seems quite good, though I thought him a little dull and too ‘safe’ in concert, a bit like his mentor Belohlavek. Deneve – well he’s quite a showman and relates well to audiences. Excellent in French music, but not so good in the austro-German stuff. His present orchestra in Scotland can’t wait to get rid of him I’m told, but then that often happens when a conductor has done more than 5 years with an orchestra. On balance I would go for Dausgaard.

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