Steinberg’s Haydn

William Steinberg

I listened carefully and watched this DVD earlier today. What struck me was the precision of Mr. Steinberg’s conducting, yet also his interesting total lack of communicating much emotion as part of his conducting style. What a contrast with Leonard Bernstein!

Steinberg was born in 1899, and he had a career in music in Germany before the time of the Nazis. By the time he came to conduct the Boston Symphony, he was already in his 70’s. During his tenure, Mr. Steinberg came to deal with extensive health issues, and this created an opportunity for the young Michael Tilson Thomas to gain invaluable experience as a substitute for the ailing Steinberg. For the past 20 years, Mr. Thomas has led the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.

My sense is also that there seems to be an interesting challenge here: While Steinberg’s style is very minimal, and he’s not given to grand gestures. But there are times when his conducting is also difficult to follow.

The Haydn symphony on this DVD seemed curiously lacking in humor. Humor was a huge component in Haydn’s music, and somehow Steinberg and the musicians play all the notes but – for me – the humor is missing.

This DVD also has for us the Beethoven symphonies #7 and 8.

Here is a film of William Steinberg with the BSO in Beethoven: Symphony No.7 from the same DVD

And here is renowned American violinist and conductor Joseph Silverstein who reminisces about William Steinberg. Both Steinberg and Silverstein worked with the Boston Symphony Orchestra over the course of their careers: Steinberg as music director and Silverstein as concert master.

Tags: William Steinberg, Boston Symphony, Beethoven, Haydn

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