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John Mauceri’s distinguished and extraordinary career has brought him not only to the world’s greatest opera companies and symphony orchestras, but also to the musical stages of Broadway and Hollywood, as well as the most prestigious halls of academia. Regarded as the world’s leading performer of the music of Hollywood’s émigré composers, he has taken the lead in the preservation and performance of many kinds of music and has supervised/conducted premieres by composers as diverse as Debussy, Stockhausen, Korngold, Bernstein, Hindemith, Elfman, Ives, and Shore. As an accomplished recording artist, John Mauceri has over 70 albums to his name, and is the recipient of Grammy, Tony, Olivier, Drama Desk, Edison, Cannes Classique, Billboard, two Diapasons d’Or, three Emmys, and four Deutsche Schallplatten Awards.

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Classical Notes: Conductor Mauceri’s memoir an inside look

Posted March 24th, 2018

 

TimesUnion.com

Joseph Dalton, Classical Notes, published Thursday, March 22, 2018

Composer Gian Carlo Menotti stormed out of the first rehearsal of his opera “La Loca” after Beverly Sills firmly told him that there would be no changes in the staging from its San Diego debut. He did not return to the theater until opening night. This was in 1979 when Sills was not just the star of the opera but also the general director of the producing company, the New York City Opera.

After Menotti’s exit, conductor John Mauceri stood there in silence as Sills said of the composer, “Who does he think he is?” Mauceri had considered also walking out in support of the composer. But that would have caused a scandal and besides, he was newly settled in New York with his wife and their 1-year-old child. He needed the work.

This is one of the more juicy episodes in Mauceri’s highly readable new book, “Maestros and Their Music: The Art and Alchemy of Conducting” (Knopf). Mauceri, 71, knows whereof he speaks. He is an acclaimed maestro on the international scene, with triumphs from La Scala to Broadway. He conducted the soundtrack to the film of “Evita” and is the only American to have led an opera company in Italy. In 1991 the Los Angeles Philharmonic established the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra expressly for him and he led it for 16 seasons. Locally, Mauceri conducted last summer’s production of Marc Blizstein’s “The Cradle Will Rock” for Opera Saratoga.

In his first book, Mauceri gives a broad overview of the world of opera companies and symphony orchestra and the duties and challenges of being a conductor. His opening chapters break down in easily understood language the emergence of the field of conducting and how it changed the way in which music was written. Over the course of Verdi’s career, his writing showed an increasing reliance on the presence of a conductor to finesse matters of tempo and coordination.

 

Read the full review at TimesUnion.com

TheaterJones review of Maestros and Their Music

Posted March 23rd, 2018

www.theaterjones.com

By Cathy Ritchie
published Wednesday, March 14, 2018

As a total non-musician, I always find the blending of orchestra-created sounds in a concert to be somehow magical, and the person in front, waving either a stick or empty hands, to be creating that same magic out of squiggles on a page. How does it all happen?

John Mauceri has been swinging his own mean baton around the world for 50 years, conducting symphonies, opera, ballets, musicals and film soundtracks, including award-winning recordings. But I’m happy to report that his podium skill is matched by his facility with the written word, as he’s brought us a graspable and entertaining look at the people known as maestros — let’s face it, mostly men — creating that very “alchemy” for us all.

The author’s enthusiasm for his vast topic is palpable, as he shares personal anecdotes from and about some of music’s greatest leaders, plus behind-the-scenes historical fun facts, but he also focuses on the how and why of creating blended sound via motley folks wielding instruments. He states early on: “Conducting is both bigger and smaller than you think….When you love us, we are geniuses. When you dismiss us, we are charlatans. We are these things and more — and less, since we are simply human, even if occasionally appear to be godlike to some.”

And later: “The person who stands before a symphony orchestra is charged with something both impossible and improbable. The impossible part is herding a hundred musicians to agree on anything, and the improbable part is that one does it by waving one’s hands in the air…Music is the one art form that is invisible. It is controlled sound, constructed to pass through time in a series of transformations.”

Mauceri’s pithy reflections are scattered throughout his text, as he devotes chapters to conducting technique; learning an orchestral score; the conductor’s role in the recording studio; and what differentiates one maestro’s performance from another’s, along with a look at the demands of constant traveling from one orchestra gig to another, which he characterizes as “the loneliness of the long-distance maestro.” He also devotes a large portion of his text to the concept of a conductor’s relationships — with the musicians, the music itself, the audience, the critics, and orchestra management.

He brings his, at times, theoretical discussions back to earth by dropping some legendary names in conducting history — Karajan, Solti, Maazel, Reiner, and Toscanini among others, with special emphasis on Leonard Bernstein, with whom Mauceri worked extensively.

Now and then, Mauceri becomes somewhat technical in his explications of specific orchestral works, but never to the point of discouraging reader attention, and he always quickly segues from these moments to a more conversational voice and subject matter. Thus, interested laypersons and practicing musicians alike should find much here that is entertaining and enlightening.

As John Mauceri puts it: “Conducting is many things but fun is rarely one of them. There is joy and there is stress…There is glory in being inside the greatest expressions of the human soul…It is also true that we look like we are having fun when the music is happy — because we become music when we conduct. We are always in the zone of the intentionality of the composer, as we perceive it. We laugh. We weep. We dance. We despair. We hope. We die. Then we start all over again.”

John Mauceri’s Biography updated

Posted January 18th, 2018

John has updated the Act Four chapter of his Biography. The full biography can be read at johnmauceri.com/biography.

You can also download the biography as a PDF.

Gramophone review of Maestros and their Music

Posted January 17th, 2018

Reviewed by Jeremy Nicholas for Gramophone

November 2017

John Mauceri is one of the few conductors who is as convincing in every genre of classical music as he is in musical theatre, film and light music. ‘Carmen’, he says, ‘is my favourite musical and Carousel is my favourite opera.’ Now 72, Mauceri is far better known in his native America than elsewhere. Gramophone readers will know him from his long tenure at the Hollywood Bowl, his recordings of Broadway musicals, the restorations and arrangements of Hollywood film scores and his resurrections of such works as Korngold’s Das Wunder der Heliane and Between Two Worlds, Weill ‘s The Threepenny Opera and many others besides.

Stokowski, Giulini and Bernstein were his mentors . He worked closely with the latter for 18 years, a relationship reflected in this book and its myriad ‘Lenny’ anecdotes. With 70 albums to his name and a few shelves full of awards (including two Diapasons d’Or, three Emmys and four Deutsche Schallplattens), Mauceri knows whereof he speaks.

And also how to write. This is a most engaging volume. Well before I got to the end, I felt I knew Mr Mauceri well enough to ask him round to dinner. He would make an entertaining guest, smart and sassy with an articulate, analytical approach to whatever he is conducting without the baggage of egotism or academia. The book is not an autobiography, though much of the narrative relies on his own experiences. Nor is it a handbook on conducting, though you will learn about everything a conductor has to do, and how he/she does it, with a litany of the kind of challenges every conductor must face. For example, he devotes four fascinating pages alone to handling the aria ‘In questa reggia ‘ (from Puccini’s Turandot): ‘We [conductors] are everyone on that stage as well as everyone in the orchestra pit, commenting : we are the singer, we are the character, but we know more than Turandot knows about herself and communicate that knowledge to the audience .’

Like Leonard Slatkin’s Conducting Business (Amadeus Press, 9/13), he is good on the practicalities of the conductor’s life – the travel, the loneliness, the hotels, the packing: ‘Ironically, the lighter the music, the heavier the scores. Of two pieces that fill an entire concert, ‘Mahler’s Symphony No 3 . .. is a single book of 2 31 pages weighing 20 ounces. Danny Elfman’s “Music for the Films of Tim Burton ” … is bound in 17 separate books, weighing 11 pounds .’ He posits the interesting proposition that ‘composers who were/ are conductors write the music that exhibits the greatest predisposition for realisation … Thus Mendelssohn, Wagner, Mahler and Richard Strauss tend to be easier to conduct than Verdi, Puccini or Debussy.’

As to the book’s structure and tone, Mauceri ‘s opening chapters assume the reader has not got a degree in music but is, perhaps, an interested concert-goer who likes what he/she hears and sees but does not know (or has not bothered to discover) how it all works; how it all comes together (in the different worlds of the concert hall, opera and ballet with their vastly different demands); how one man can stand in front of a hundred musicians and, without saying a word, make magical things happen by waving his arms about. Mauceri is a particularly lucid and informative guide for anyone who is not completely au fait with the essential elements of music. Then there is the conductor’s relationship with the music he is leading, with the musicians he is conducting, the audience, the owners and management, and the critics. ‘Never get into a pissing contest with a critic’, advised one former manager. ‘You will only get wet.’ Nevertheless, Mauceri doesn’t pass up the opportunity of settling a few scores.

Gossipy, insightful and (inevitably) America-centric, Mauceri’s alliterative Maestros and their Music is a record of a conductor’s 50 years on the podium in which he explores, remembers (sometimes a little too discursively), explains and justifies, and shares ‘stories told by the great men I knew, who implicitly knew I would pass them along’. It is a book in which Mauceri, both metaphorically and physically, is passing the baton to the next generation.