Benjamin Zander has established himself as one of the most probing and thoughtful musicians of the age. As a revered educator, leader of master classes and conductor of numerous orchestras around the world, Zander has engaged in a life-long inquiry into the fundamental issues that face musicians in the interpretation of the great classics, with particular interest in the works of Mahler and Beethoven. He was one of the first to deeply explore the issue of Beethoven's tempi, long before any of the period instruments conductors had entered the fray. Zander's pioneering work in exploring Beethoven's metronome markings preceded by many years the efforts in this area of any other conductor. But for Zander, adherence to Beethoven's metronome indications is only one element in a complex and deeply considered essay on the unique sound world and meaning of the Beethoven symphonies.
Zander "has been rightly described as one of the most able communicators since Leonard Bernstein," said the London Independent. A persuasive and passionate advocate for getting classical music to the layperson, he is known for guiding his listeners, be they experts or neophytes, to a richer and more emotional relationship with the music at hand. In this recording of the Fifth and Seventh Symphonies, the first in a planned cycle of the complete Beethoven symphonies, he demonstrates his communicative powers in an extraordinary bonus—a 72-minute discussion CD. In it, the conductor takes the listener on an irresistibly entertaining aural journey through the two symphonies, offering his insights on tempo, structure and phrasing, interspersed with many musical examples.
"This recording and the accompanying commentary disc can help to bring this music to a much wider audience," Zander says, "including those who have no background or training in music."
Zander's debut on the Telarc label, a live performance with the Philharmonia Orchestra of the Mahler Ninth Symphony (CD-80527), also accompanied by a discussion CD, won universal critical acclaim, garnering such accolades as "brilliantly lucid;" "the most enlightening and inspiring Ninth in many years;" and "powerful and incredibly moving." Upcoming Telarc recordings will include the Mahler Fifth Symphony, scheduled to be released in 2001.
The conductor has established an international reputation as a presenter of motivational seminars for world leaders and corporate executives, in which he uses classical music and conducting as a metaphor for leadership, teamwork and creativity. Zander's work as a musician and motivational teacher has been caught on a BBC documentary that was shown world-wide last year and he will be the subject of a featured segment on the nationally telecast news show, "60 Minutes,".