My Request: Mehta, Zukerman(Again!)

(Originally written on January 13, 2007) 

Dear New York Folks,

This is Jiwon.

My request No. 4 to Barenboim

If Zubin Mehta lost his directorship of Israel PO, what would happen to his life? It’s a waste of time to think of it. Will he give up the source of his fame? How can he prove something without help from Jewish power? Look at other foreign monkey(s) who desperately search for Jewish supporters by finding a Jewish mate. Sometimes, I want to see the VPO play just for Maestro Mehta and check how their ensemble changes, year after year, to decay. I could write the most academic dissertation. I keep wondering. Has Maestro Mehta destroyed the entire music society? Or this dying music society just needed Showman Mehta to trick the innocent audience?

If Mehta lost his Jewish brother, what would happen to him? Barenboim’s death will be heard all over world and Danny’s soul won’t just be able to go to Heaven until the sad news makes Mehta’s Jewish fame hilariously ring the entire world. He would mourn during Danny’s funeral but soon be ready to celebrate his worldwide tour as a godfather of Jewish musicians.

If Barenboim lost his Mehta, what would happen to him? Will he gain more weight and lose all his interest in music? So, it’s fine. Why don’t I allow Mehta and Barenboim to share the same stage? Since there is no possibility for Mehta to prove his ability to train orchestra members, how can I accept this poor concert? So, I will analyze every each moment of Mehta, Barenboim and their ensemble members. What is the reason of his founding the Mehta School of Music? Don’t you think all his music students should know how to respect their hero by analyzing all his performance?  

If I am allowed to advise this godfather of musicians here and there, I seriously recommend Zubin Metha to think hundreds of times before opening his mouth. Or he really sounds dense(=stupid). And my last word for maestro Mehta. Please, please stay away from me. Please. I am begging.

However, no matter what, Barenboim can never play with Pinchas Zukerman, nor he can touch my headquarters. Why? Besides my previous discovery of Mr. and Mrs. Zukerman and the fact that I am sick of Zukerman’s big mouth functioning as Barenboim’s brainless parrot, please compare these two reports: (February 6, 2006) They said they couldn’t imagine the hot-headed Zukerman yielding to or even considering the advice of an outsider, and past experience may bear them out. Early in his tenure, when a team of professional market researchers arrived to deliver a report on the expressed tastes of the NACO audience, Zukerman asked if the researchers knew the key signature of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. When they said they didn’t, according to a NAC staffer who witnessed the scene, he replied: “Then why should I listen to what you have to say?” (Forumite 1 on Jul 5, 2006) I wonder if I’m alone in the world of classical music in my opinion of Pinchas Zuckerman as conductor and musical director of the National Arts Centre orchestra in Ottawa. I find that Zuckerman has absolutely zero talent for conducting an orchestra, and has all but destroyed this orchestra in his 7 years (so far) as its conductor and musical director. The NAC orchestra is and has never been a top worldclass orchestra, it is not the Berliner, or Vienna, or Montreal, or New York etc. But it has always been a decent orchestra. And for someone who loves live music, the hometown orchestra is the most natural choice. However, in the past seven years, any concert conducted by Zuckerman has been awful. Not mediocre, not an off-night, but completely, completely horrid. And what is worse, he has changed the sound of the orchestra. It is a ghost of its previous self. Now, regardless of who is conducting, the orchestra is terrible. I remember a very rare, all-Berlioz program a couple of years ago. I love Berlioz, and I brought my wife who was not familiar with Berlioz. She came away thinking Berlioz’s music was awful. I came away thinking I had just heard 2 hours of something that was not Berlioz’s music. His performance had no resemblence to any Berlioz I have ever heard, live or recorded. His Mozart and Bach is horrible. His Beethoven and Schubert is horrible. His Liszt and Brahms is horrible. I stopped attending NACO concerts altogether. However this past spring, there was a performance of Bach’s b minor mass. Arguably my favourite piece of all music. It was being conducted by X. I have many many recordings of Bach with X and I enjoy his Bach. So I went. I came home from the concert disgusted and frustrated. I *can* enjoy even mediocre Bach live. This wasn’t mediocre Bach, this was non-Bach. The orchestra was terrible. The best part of the concert was the choir, who only plays with the NACO for concerts that require a chorus and which is not directed by Zuckermann. In ’98 or ’99 I saw the St. Mathew Passion by the NACO with Y conducting. That was one of the greatest concerts I’ve attended. A performance which left me elated for weeks. I love the Mass even more than the Passion, and here it was being performed by many of the same musicians. Yet the opposite reaction. Zuckerman had destroyed the NACO. I have enjoyed performances by community orchestras more. Today I received the news that Zuckerman’s contract had been extended to 2011. This means to me the NACO is a dead orchestra. I will travel to Montreal or Toronto to see professional orchestral concerts. I can only assume, that whatever idiot board hired and continues to be obssessed with Zuckerman, is completely non-musical and is more driven by his (for unfathomably bizarre reasons, probably his friendship with Yithzak Perlman) name recognition in the classical music world. “Ottawa and the NACO have a star conductor!”. No it doesn’t, they have an oaf who has no idea how to conduct an orchestra, and a horrible ear for music. I have and have never had any professional affiliation with the NAC or NAC orchestra.  I am just a music lover who loves live music and used to subscribe to the NACO. I want to know why on Earth is Zuckerman a conductor and why so many must be deaf to his horrible conducting.

(Forumite 2 on Jul 5, 2006) The NAC selection process for music directors has been repeatedly awful. The founding music director, Mario Bernardi, was not personally popular with his orchestra, some of whom thought him an insensitive martinet, but he lived and worked in Ottawa and did much to achieve a solid professional reputation in the first decade of the NACO’s life. He was succeeded by Franco Mannino, an elderly Italian conductor (and movie score composer) whom most of the orchestra liked because he had soul and passion. But he never lived in Ottawa (i.e. spent only 8 or 10 weeks of the year in the city) perhaps because he was not fluent in either English or French (!) Mannino’s successor was not then well known in N.America. He may have been hired principally because he was willing to live in Ottawa full-time, i.e. function there in the Canadian music community. When his contract expired, however, he was told at very short notice that it was not to be renewed — because the NAC had hired a “star” conductor. This was (Ottawa musicians believed) because he had made so many records, and NAC management hoped him would make future records with the NAC Orchestra, thus increasing both its revenues and reputation. This did not happen. He was admired and respected by the orchestra, and presented some memorable concerts (the OP mentioned Bach’s St. Matthew Passion) but made hardly any recordings with the NACO. Pinchas Zukerman, however, has made several, and enthusiastically joined other initiatives of NAC managemennt (for touring in Canada and overseas, “extension education” by TV, and so on.) He lived here in Ottawa and married Amanda Forsyth, front bench cellist, with whom he has performed duo concerts. Because of his international reputation the NAC management accepted expensive initial demands (e.g. that the concert hall be fitted with a particular acoustic feedback system) and tolerated PZ’s unexpected announcement that he needed an immediate sabbatical for several months, cancelling scheduled concerts. Most particularly, some sort of feud seems to have arisen between PZ and Walter Prystawski, concertmaster for 37 years, so that PZ did not attend the recent farewell concert for WP’s formal retirement. Ottawa concert-goers seem in general to think that activity with ructions and personal confllicts is preferable to inactivity. PZ seems in some respects a competent manager: e.g. for choral concerts much authority is often delegated to Duane Wolfe, a Chicago choir conductor found at short notice a few years ago, to substitute for an incapacitated guest conductor, and since repeatedly employed for “finish rehearsals” for important choral concerts. It seems PZ trusts him in ways he could not trust any of the Ottawa choir directors, thus prefers to leave things in DW’s hands. Partly for economic reasons, the NAC Orchestra never developed any particular policy concerning orchestra players — how long they should play in Ottawa, and so on. Perhaps for this reason half the orchestra now has 25+ years of seniority and may be both unable and unwilling to develop careers in any other city. They are to that extent likelier to defer to PZ’s demands than to resist them.

(Forumite 3 on Jul 8, 2006) A hundred times yes. I managed to survive one season’s subscription after Pinnock left, then cancelled. Zuckerman has an astoundingly narrow list of pieces he can somehow run, with the orchestra mostly on auto-pilot, and I know them all. I suppose that Iqaluit Symphony would do a better job. He practically killed off Canadian premieres, He keeps inviting his buddies. I could go on, but why bother? The NACO handlers who rehire Zuckerman regularly must indeed be deaf. Blind, too. Pity. Pity.

JIWON: However, it is not my basic reason. Keep reading, please: (November 1, 2006) Stage rage diva earns web fame: For a few treasurable days, YouTube had its first classical star. Onto the DIY video zone just bought by Google for two billion dollars popped a long, blonde cellist by name of Amanda Forsyth, a Jacqueline du Pre lookalike who was playing the legend뭩 trademark Elgar concerto. Midway through the music, soloist and orchestra came apart. Nothing unusual about that. Artists are prone to lapses of memory and concentration and learn to improvise their way out of mishaps without the audience being any the wiser. Not Ms Forsyth. Out of her seat she leaped, rushing over to the conductor and berating him with heated gesticulations and tempestuous shakes of blonde tresses in full view of a live Chicago audience and cable-TV cameras. Anyone would have thought the conductor was at fault. In fact, in the view of many cellists who watched the clip, it was the soloist who had skipped several pages of music and could not apparently find her way back. Resuming her seat, Ms Forsyth pouted and snarled through the finale, at one brief rest twirling her cello around by the neck to communicate her disgust. The conductor, a retired concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, maintained professional decorum. It was made for action replay, the sort of thing you see on a soccer pitch every Saturday between an overpaid striker and a harassed referee. Which mischievous soul put the clip on YouTube is a mystery, but more than 4,000 viewers enjoyed the show and word was spreading like wildfire when, within days, the clip was withdrawn by legal-eyes at Google for reasons of alleged copyright infringement. The plot thickens. It turns out that Ms Forsyth was, on the night of the concert, on paid sick leave from her job as principal cellist of the National Arts Centre Orchestra of Ottawa. The NACO is directed by her husband, Pinchas Zukerman. Her absence must have taken some explaining, but it is a pity the film was pulled. From what I saw and heard of her playing that night, I doubt Amanda Forsyth will ever get a better crack at international attention. (November 3, 2006) Violinist Pinchas Zukerman, an increasingly in-demand conductor, stepped in and worked fluently with the orchestra (National Symphony Orchestra). He brought out a burnished sound in German music centered on Mozart and early Beethoven. Wagner’s brass-laden Prelude to “Die Meistersinger” is fist-shaking stuff with grand musical proclamations and a firm pulse, and Zukerman took an expansive approach. Cellist Amanda Forsyth, Zukerman’s wife, was the soloist in “Kol Nidrei,” Op. 47, an achingly poignant setting of an old Hebrew melody. Max Bruch wrote the piece because he liked the tune rather than from a desire to commemorate Judaism. Yet Forsyth – applying a darkly lush tone – played the part with a nurturing lyricism and grace that evoked religious solemnity and timeless belief. A similar sensitivity and verve shot through Zukerman’s playing in Mozart, in which he was both conductor and soloist. His mastery is so complete that… At the close, Beethoven’s Symphony… It was not the most insightful performance, but it was a picture of self-restraint and charm. (November 7, 2006) The 92nd Street Y is to be lavishly praised for its mounting of the family concert of the Zukerman Chamber Players, a concert geared toward children that contained absolutely no condescension whatsoever… The group suffers from a common ailment: There is only one experienced veteran. Mr. Zukerman’s tone is naturally far superior… When the players turned to Brahms, their weak tones had a disastrous effect… The problem this day was that the expansive, rollicking opening of the Allegro non troppo requires a cellist of extraordinary power, and Ms. Forsyth, although pure in tone, is simply not ready for so zaftig a passage. All sounded rather anemic in this first movement and things simply deteriorated from there. The opening theme of the Adagio was stated lovingly by the violas. But as the movement correctly progressed to higher and higher levels of volume, the quintet cracked through the shrillness barrier, producing some fingernails-onthe-blackboard sounds I am sure they would like to erase from memory. (November 24, 2006) Shopping, sushi, then show / Looking for a saviour by Amanda Forsyth, National Post: This week’s diarist is Amanda Forsyth, principal cellist for the National Arts Centre Orchestra. Forsyth kept her diary last week while on tour in Quebec. – – – Montreal. Okay, I am ready now for a city! With a lot of my favourite shops and restaurants, and my best friends driving from Ottawa to meet me, I look forward to some serious retail therapy. My favourite shop is Soho on St. Denis, a hard street to beat for the best in fashion. Later we will go for a meal at Shodan, a Vietnamese-inspired sushi place. They have a dish called Romeo and Juliet that mixes fish, blueberries and pineapple. It’s a taste explosion in your mouth! It’s great to visit cities that are bursting with culinary excellence. This was not the case recently when Pinchas and I were in Bulgaria. The food was not what I would consider pleasurable. There was not a vegetable to be seen. On the menu were delicacies such as tongue in butter, tripe in butter, bear’s paw and sheep intestine. (And I’m getting sick of sheep intestine.) The next morning, during rehearsal of the Brahms Double, Pinchas turned to me and asked me if that was the waiter from last night sitting in the viola section. It was indeed! Had I known, I would have tipped him better and he probably could’ve shown me where Bulgarians hide their salad! The refreshing part about travelling in Canada is that one knows what to expect — excellence in every facet! Canada is so rich musically coast to coast, that it is always a pleasure touring around and meeting young musicians. These up-and-comers are the future of Canada’s music scene. I am looking forward to teaching another class at Universite de Montreal where we will work on orchestral excerpts. Hope they practised! And speaking of which, I have to get off this bus soon so I can get to my cello! It’s been a blast. Quebec is a beautiful and accomplished province and I feel privileged to have been able to get to know it even more intimately.


Canada is a very weird country. When I was in America, I thought Canadians were more talented than Americans. As usual, my experience leads my thought. But then, the news from Canada is usually not healthy for the professional musicians, especially in recent days. It is a dying country, yet I still find lots of valuable opinions from Canadian forumites. Not to mention, so many legendary musicians in piano and voice department. I didn’t know that… To cut the long story short, I never want to travel this lovely country tailing along Barenboim’s pee, male Zukerman, and his poop, female Zukerman.

If Zukerman finds his last wife, who just reminds me of Jacqueline du Pre, I will allow him to join Zubin Mehta.

To be continued…

Sincerely yours,


(Originally written on January 15, 2007) 

From Folks, British & Berlin Press… Shut Up! : P.S.: I’m pretty sure. Zukerman’s administrative officials knew my insulting Forsyth’s husband. I’m even sure. They wanted to use it to sell the Zukerman-tickets to du Pre-Fans, and Mr. and Mrs. Zukerman loved my insulting. Fuck You! 

(Originally written “after” June 15, 2007 and then December 7, 2007)


If Maestro Zubin Mehta ever wants to receive my respect, why doesn’t he find ALL those poor orchestra members, whose old-fashioned performance skills had to be butchered while he was hilariously dancing on the stage with his fame soaring skyward, and return them what they deserve? I still remember how miserable those faces looked.

When I first joined Barenboim’s Furtwangler dream, I never planned to meet this famed word, Zubin Mehta. It took less than a month to realize that he is in fact Barenboim’s big brother, whose music has nothing to do with something-Barenboim, so I quietly asked him to let his Barenboim go on his way if he really cared for his younger brother’s real happiness. Whether he ignored my plea or not, he has been very busy… and now I can never accept this fucking name. 

When is he going to die?

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