For all its fascination with youth, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, while Gustavo Dudamel is away, has hardly become no country for old men. Last month, Lorin Maazel (79) spent two weeks at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Last weekend, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos (76) was on the podium; he was preceded the previous week by Herbert Blomstedt (82) and will be followed by Charles Dutoit (73).
Esa-Pekka Salonen, when he turned 50 in 2008, printed T-shirts with the slogan “50 is the next 70.” But the fact is, conductors age exceptionally well. A 95-year-old Leopold Stokowski remained a gratifyingly flashy conductor right up to his death in 1975. Nor, I’m happy to report, has the Spanish-German Frühbeck lost his flamboyance.
His manner is courtly. His gestures are sweeping and charismatic. He is a connoisseur of colorful French, Spanish and Russian music. They especially love him in Boston and Philadelphia, where he brings back memories by extracting the ripe, fleshy sounds of their orchestras of yore.