When Marin Alsop lifts her baton to conduct the Symphonic Dances from Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story at the start of the LSO's Amériques season, she will be affirming one of the greatest influences on her musical life. Her world changed when, aged nine, she went to a Bernstein concert. "What I registered," she says, "was his joy, his bottomless enthusiasm, his energy, the sense that he was having so much fun – I instantly knew that was what I wanted to do.
"He became my hero – the captain of my home-town team – and I was in awe of him. And at Tanglewood he became my teacher. I loved his music, too – his ability to live in so many worlds at one time, to create a piece as timeless as West Side Story, which straddles the legit classical world and also the world of pop. He influenced my development on many levels, as well as through his example of how to be an artist in the world we live in.
"But his greatest gift to me was one of validation, that what I had to say was positive, and good, and valuable." Alsop is the woman who blazed the trail for her sisters, in what had hitherto been an almost exclusively male profession.
Another work she will conduct in this concert is Christopher Rouse's Der Gerettete Alberich, about which she tells a piquant tale. "When this was being premiered in 1997, Michael Tilson Thomas – how can I put this? – developed tendonitis for this piece, and only for this piece. He was also doing Mahler Five, but he didn't have tendonitis for that."
What made him quail? "It's as violent and wild as rock and roll, and it reworks Wagner's Ring in a thousand ingenious ways. It's very much music for today." Mr Tilson Thomas – touché!
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