“It has been nearly a year and a half since Thomas, at 78 one of the world’s leading musicians for more than half a century, announced he would be undergoing treatment for an aggressive form of brain cancer,” the New York Times reported in a story about conductors of classical music. The story, “A Mighty Generation of Musicians. A Moving Final Chapter” by Zachary Woolfe, opens with the conductor, Michael Tilson Thomas, leading the Los Angeles Philharmonic in Mahler’s Ninth Symphony. He is still working.
The story goes on: “The performance came just days after another miracle of a concert from an eminent maestro lately forced to reckon with mortality. On Jan. 6, Daniel Barenboim, 80, stepped down from the podium of the Berlin State Opera. . .after a year buffeted by health problems.”
Woolfe goes on to note that:
- Riccardo Muti, 81, will end his role as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
- Maurizo Pollini, 81, a pianist, canceled a recital at the Salzburg Festival last summer after the audience was seated because of heart trouble
- Herbert Blomstedt, 95, a conductor, had to stop touring last fall because of a fall, but will conduct the New York Philharmonic in Symphonie fantastique in February
The tone of the story is quite elegiac. Writing of Barenboim’s conducting the Berlin Philharmonic in Brahms’s Second Symphony earlier this month:
“Without lacking vividness, the Brahms had a gentle cast in its opening; the allegro finale sent off bright energy, but its colors were the blaze of a sunset rather than daylight brashness. It was just the right amount of goodbye.”