1994: YEAR IN REVIEW : The Beckmesser Awards of 1994

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It was a happy, sad, frustrating, exhilarating, discouraging, encouraging, soothing, frazzling, stimulating, depressing, uplifting, bracing, painful, joyous, provocative, dull, exciting, hysterical, lackadaisical, exceptional, humdrum year. Just like 1993.

To commemorate the high--and low--points, The Times proudly and shamelessly presents the 27th annual awards dedicated to the spirit and memory of medieval Nurnberg’s immortal, most noble, most misunderstood humanitarian, critic, musicologist, lutenist, poet, singer, bon vivant and guardian of public virtue, Sixtus Beckmesser.

Let us know if we have overlooked anything.


Out- of- town media hero of the year: Esa-Pekka Salonen.

Year’s most stirring demonstrations of orchestral vitality: The heroic concerts of the Kirov Orchestra of St. Petersburg, conducted by Valery Gergiev.


Dignity- under- pressure award: To Jane Alexander, who tried to sustain credibility as the National Endowment for the Arts crumbled around her--with a political future now bleaker than bleak.

Wagnerian critic of the year: A posthumous award to Katanda, the sensitive cud-chewing okapi who threw a fit and collapsed after artists from the Danish Opera began to sing excerpts from “Tannhauser” at a summer concert in the Copenhagen zoo.

Ligeti-split award: To Kurt Sanderling, whose warm and expansive Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms are sorely missed at a Philharmonic that now shines in fresh-frozen Bartok, Messiaen and Lutoslawski.

Year’s most blissful overachiever: Placido Domingo, who sings strenuous leading roles virtually every other night, conducts pit bands in between (for better or worse, mostly worse), gives normal-size as well as monster-concerts, continues to expand his huge repertory, serves as official adviser to the Music Center Opera, and now-- ridi , Pagliaccio --has taken over leadership of the Washington Opera.

Opera- survives- even- in- Los- Angeles award: To the Music Center forces that gave us “El Gato Montes,” “Rosenkavalier” and “Xerxes”--all good enough to make us nearly forget, though not forgive, the local “Faust,” “Boheme” and “Elektra.”

Gosh- he- isn’t- a- faker award: To Bobby (son of former Met baritone Robert) McFerrin, incipient maestro for all--well, many--reasons.

Happiest- respite- from- the- summer- Bowldrums award: To Yoav Talmi and the San Diego Symphony for playing intimate Schubert indoors at Copley Hall.

Most- inspired- combination- of- art- and- altruism award: To the San Diego Symphony genius who placed a bloodmobile to accept donations outside the concert hall the night the orchestra hosted a screening of “Nosferatu.”


The stimulation- lingers- on award: To the brave powers that be at the otherworldly Ojai Festival.

It- wasn’t- perfect- but- it- sure- took- guts award: To the usually cautious, sometimes even tawdry Opera Pacific for bringing “Die Walkure” to Costa Mesa, while better-endowed Los Angeles continued to neglect Wagnerian music-drama.

He’s- good- even- if- he- ain’t- that- good award: To Bryn Terfel, undeniably talented Welsh baritone who made an emphatically overballyhooed Met debut as Mozart’s Figaro.

There’s- no- Commie- hiding- under- the- podium award: To the American Civil Liberties Union for exposing the pathetic continuing effort by the FBI to prove that Leonard Bernstein posed a threat to our national security.

Once- in- a- while- the- good- guy- wins award: To Don Bondi for maintaining standards of taste and decency while triumphing over bogus accusations of racism at the L.A. County High School for the Arts.

Most charming musical salesman: John Mauceri, ever slick emcee and dauntless maestro of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.


Year’s most poignant musical moment: Jessye Norman singing “Panis Angelicus” at the funeral of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.


Most- callous- changing- of- the- guard award: To the youth-oriented Philharmonic management, which seems to find players of a certain age (even concertmasters) easily expendable--talent, dedication and record of service notwithstanding.

Year’s most costly and least funny musical jokes: The tacky concerts of the World Cup Festival.

Purple-hyperbole award: To Itzhak Perlman, pitchperson of the year, for his reckless push-button gush as narrator for the triple-tenorissimo telecast.

What’s-in-a-name? award: To the managerial hucksters who tried to persuade us that a bus-and-truck farm club called the Moscow Grigorovich Ballet was really the mighty Bolshoi.

There- otta- be- a- law award: To local and visiting dance companies, including the one bemoaned above, that think it is artistically defensible to straitjacket the dancers with recorded music.


Saddest retrenchment: The shrinking of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra season and distancing of its music director, Christof Perick, as the result of yet another financial shortfall.

Saddest- it- ain’t- what- it- used- to- be award: To the Royal Ballet of London.

The- still- unanswered- question award: To Peter Hemmings, who makes us keep asking why first- rate conductors are so scarce at the Music Center Opera.

Most- irksome- trials- in- the- name- of- culture award: To the stations that stoop to obnoxious carnival-hawker fund-raising marathons on behalf of “non-commercial” radio and television.

Year’s most dubious journalistic achievement: The institution of Tutti, a bubble-gum music magazine for Neanderthals, published at a time when America no longer can claim a single serious magazine on the subject.

Things- are- rough- all- over awards: To the embattled American Ballet Theatre and Joffrey Ballet, both of which are canceling key engagements as they teeter (again) on the brink of ultimate fiscal disaster.

Was- this- trip- necessary? award: Shared by Marilyn Horne and Jerry Hadley, for their cynical popsy-schlocksy crossover CDs.


Puffery- lives- in- Pasadena award: To Ambassador Auditorium for calling 18-year-old Alex Slobodyanik “astounding” and for pushing both Ivo Pogorelich (the resident dubious-contest impresario) and John Williams (the guitarist) as “superstars.”

Year’s saddest quasi-comeback: Van Cliburn’s much ballyhooed, ultimately aborted attempt to re-melt the snows of yesteryear at Hollywood Bowl.

Curious and Curiouser

Oddest- aesthetic- double- standard award: To the Pulitzer Prize honchos who choose critics for the drama jury but composers for the music jury.

Political- correctness- is- terrific- but- this- is- bizarre award: To the cellist in Eureka who urged a boycott of “Peter and the Wolf” on grounds of animal insensitivity.

Critics- critics- everywhere award: To the musically sensitive itch- producing scabies (mites that burrow under the skin) that infested the orchestra pit at the end of one of the deadliest San Francisco Opera seasons in memory.

Year’s most expressive operatic actor: The tenor portraying the aristocratic Mantuan in an avant-gardish “Rigoletto” in Stuttgart who, according to the magazine Opernwelt, “turned and urinated during ‘La donna e mobile.’ ”


Journalistic-puzzlement awards: To the New York Times for viewing Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic through the rosiest of rose-colored glasses in a huge advance story, then sending its No. 2 critic to cover the Lincoln Center concerts. (New York Newsday’s No. 1, not incidentally, stayed away too.)

Culture- is- alive- and- well- in- the- City- of- Angels award: To the Music Center Opera advertising virtuosa who advised potential customers to pronounce Xerxes “ZERK-sees.”

Year’s best defender of verbal aids in quest of cultural survival: The same advertising virtuosa, who explained that she learned her lesson when she worked for a ballet company and would-be patrons requested tickets for something called “One-Gin” (as in Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene . . .”).

Virtue-by-association award: To James Doolittle for selling the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes in tandem with the Joffrey Ballet to local yokels as part of a “dance events of distinction” package.

Year’s loneliest stranger in paradise: Ballet at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Keep-on-digging award: To the Music Center authorities who promise to replace the parking lot across the street with a symphonic auditorium called Disney Hall but seem unable to advance much beyond Disney Hole.

Quotable Quotes

Ach- for- the- good- old- days award: To Christa Ludwig on “today’s conductors”: “I think they are afraid to show personality. That would explain the revival of Baroque music. It’s the kind of music-making you can hide behind. They don’t give themselves . . . and I have always believed the personality of the conductor has to be in the music.”

Love- is- where- you- find- it award: To Luciano Pavarotti, who dedicated a song during his Met recital to a soprano in the audience named Freni, saying, “With Mirella I have done everything except love.” The tenorissimo voiced agreement when a voice from a balcony suggested that it wasn’t too late. The reaction of Freni’s husband, basso Nicolai Ghiaurov, went unreported.


Historical- myopia- in- excelsis award: To Tibor Rudas, P. T. Barnum of quasi-concerts, for his souvenir-book description of the three-tenor circus at Dodger Stadium: “One of the landmark events marking the close of the 20th Century.”

Golden hearing-aid award: To Tibor Rudas, for his official pronouncement on the disastrous, echo-ridden, booming, electronified mock acoustics imposed on the tenors at Dodger Stadium: “Without a doubt, the finest concert sound ever experienced out-of-doors.”

Year’s most revealing aesthetic admission: Zubin Mehta’s published comments on the glories of conducting eine kleine junk-Musik with Luciano, Placido and Jose in a ballpark: “I am flying on a magic carpet with them. . . . They don’t know what a fan I am. . . . I am completely in my element with this concert.”

Wanna-bet? award: To Paul Griffiths of the New Yorker, who claimed that Zubin Mehta “is remembered with far more fondness in Los Angeles than in New York.”

Soprano-critic of the year: The splendid Karita Matilla, who thus described the staging conditions at her Met debut for Finnish Music Quarterly: “That must have been one of the most dreadful ‘Don Giovanni’ productions I have ever been involved with. . . . The director Franco Zeffirelli was interested in nothing much more than how the thing looked--the staging and the lights.”


Stay- tough- stay- bright- stay- in- business award: To the vicissitudinous Los Angeles Philharmonic, on the occasion of its 75th birthday.


Stay- modern- stay- smart- stay- young award: To the non-aging enfant terrible Pierre Boulez on the occasion of his 70th birthday.

Gone- for- the- moment- but- hardly- forgotten award: To Kathleen Battle, exquisite and temperamental diva, who was fired by the mercurial Met administration reportedly for difficult behavior at rehearsals.

Auf- Wiedersehen- and- Addio awards: To Christa Ludwig, who, for reasons unknown, never appeared much in Los Angeles, and is one of the last of a vanishing artistic breed. And to Carlo Bergonzi, ditto.

The- Barenboim- memorial- now- you- see- him- now- you- don’t award: To Myung-Whun Chung, latest conductor to be pushed through the revolving Bastille door by the politicos who run the Paris Opera.

Ave atque vale (in no particular order): Witold Lutoslawski, Danuta Lutoslawska, Gregory Osborne, Jarmila Novotna, Tiana Lemnitz, Irene Jessner, Irene Eisinger, Florence Quartararo, Josef Witt, Jay Blackton, Pierluigi Samaritani, Seymour Raven, Gyorgy Cziffra, Raymond Sabinsky, Rosemary Glyde, Jean-Louis Barrault, Oliver Smith, Gene Boucher, Thomas Palmer, Phyllis Goodhart Gordon, Adolph Baller, Alexander Numa Labinsky (Shura Gehrman), Lejaren Hiller, Raymond Allen, Wilbur J. Gould, Norman Del Mar, Ignace Strasfogel, Alexander Cores, Louis Kaufman, Tracy-Kai Maier, Robert Bloom, Pietro Belluschi, Derek Jarman, Vittorio Rieti, Papa John Creach, Fritz Schaetzler (a.k.a. Shetsler), Gideon Chagy, Ida Parkinson Bruce, Avery Fisher, Tomm Ruud, Melina Mercouri, Monroe Couper, Alexei Haieff, William Bergsma, Gundaris Pone, Joseph Levine, Nicolas Flagello, Benjamin DeLoache, Donald Swann, Albert Goldman, Micaela Villa, Estelle Sommers, Stephen Barrett Chase, Dan Hartman, Henry Osborne Havemeyer Frelinghuysen, David Van Vactor, William Chappell, Graeme Matheson-Bruce, Aldo Baldin, Moje Forbach, David Steiger Wolf, Aida Grey, Brian Gormley, Louise Soelberg, John Curry, Christopher Lynch, Giulio Gari, Gene Nettles, Jan Mickens, David John Falconer, Manuel Enriquez, Joseph Marshall, James Raitt, Charles Jahant, Pietro Argento, Sandro Fuga, Joe Layton, Heywood McGriff, Ivy Clarke, Carola Goya, Dorye Roettger, Dimitri Romanoff, Len Bedsow, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Joe Brainard, Herva Nelli, Tom Kerrigan, Patsy Eaton Norris, Jeanne Mitchell Biancolli, Jeannette Walters, Craig Miller, Thomas Peck, Henry Mancini, Carlo Maestrini, Igor Youskevitch, Jeffrey Lawrence, Manos Hadjidakis, Franklin D. Murphy, Gene Nettles, Herman Lowin, Manny Weltman, Zelma George, Walter Clemons, Nina Stroganova, Anthony Bufano, Rudolf Firkusny, Donald Revelli, Jack Harrold, Hans J. Salter, Alice Peerce, Gottfried Reinhardt, Franco Ferraris, Gianna Perea Labia, Manno (Ermanno) Wolf-Ferrari, Anne Douglas (Doucet), Rildia Bee O’Bryan Cliburn, Ludwig Lustig, Pierre Menard, Thomas Skelton, Thomas Fulton, Benn Howard, Irwin Parnes, Erick Hawkins, Lester Freedman, Leo Lerman, Vladimir Delman, Joseph Rickard, Walter Raines, Michael Peters, Pepita Embil Domingo, Artur Balsam, James F. Jacobs, Karl Donch, Stefan Islandi, Neil Ratliff, Michael Kermoyan, Leonard Feather, Jule Styne, Shibley Boyes, Claudio Sartori, Gottlob Frick, Hans Gabor, Eric Crozier, Andrea Velis, Carleton Sprague Smith, Moshe Paranov, Heinz Arnold, Frances Inglis, Burt Lancaster, Paul C. Echols, Nelle Fisher, Shlomo Carlebach, Kaleria Fedicheva, Nicolas Roussakis, Pearl Primus, Donald Ashwander, Lillan Hayman, Patrick and Taeko Crommelynck (Duo Crommelynck), McHenry Boatwright, Shirley Wimmer, Eve Gentry, James Jamieson, Jens-Jacob Worsaae, Carmen McRae, John Heddle Nash, Cab Calloway, Jeff Wadlington, Hans Neugebauer, Paul Alba, Levering Rothfuss, Viola Spolin, Soulima Stravinsky, Richard Hoskinson, George Bardyguine, James Dunne, Sherry (Bethel) Gold, Eric Hellman, Ross Winter, Ruben Garcia, Dominique Bagouet, Axel Corti, Nicolas Economou, Roman Haubenstock-Ramati, Ruth Haussmann, Henny Henze-Pernerstorfer, Virgilio Mortari, Tatiana Nikoleyeva, Meston Reid, Vittorio Rieti, Herbert Schernus, Reginald Wooley, Raul Julia, Michael Somes, Audrey Langford, Michael Seyfrit, Irwin Kostal, Robert Bernat, Harry Horner, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Catherine Shouse, Samuel Lipman, Randy Barcelo, Mark Taper, Robert Scevers and Anita Zahn.