In February, the New York Philharmonic became the first American orchestra to perform in a country officially ruled by a dead man. Observers hoped that the Phil’s historic visit to North Korea would spark a thaw in U.S.-DPRK relations, thereby making director Lorin Maazel the greatest Cold War diplomat since George Kennan. Instead, today, the six-party talks have collapsed, Pyongyang has restarted its nuclear program, and Maazel is retiring to Rappahannock County. His successor will be Alan Gilbert, who, at 41, might recapture the youthful and telegenic vigor of the Bernstein era. (At 68, the National Symphony Orchestra’s newly appointed director, Christoph Eschenbach, is still considered young as music directors go.) Today’s all-Tchaikovsky concert, the Phil’s first performance in D.C. in six years, may be the first chance for Washington audiences to see Maazel conduct. But it won’t be the last, as Maazel plans a post-retirement concert series at his Virginia estate in 2009.
THE NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC PERFORMS AT 4 P.M. AT THE KENNEDY CENTER CONCERT HALL, 2700 F ST. NW. $42–$152. (202) 467-4600.