A genial, warm voice came from the other end of the wire - that of Julius Rudel, an indefatigable music maker whose career is more far-flung today than ever before.
"I'm very much looking forward to coming to Salt Lake City, I've heard so much from my colleagues, who rave about the place," he said. "The (Mormon Tabernacle) Choir is quite extraordinary, there is great music making in Utah, and I also hope to ski a little while I'm there. I love to try, though I am an eternal beginner. I did a lot of musicals as a young man, and I knew Maurice Abravanel well. He did Kurt Weill's `Street Scene' on Broadway, then I did it in the opera house."Rudel will conduct soprano Kiri Te Kanawa, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Utah Symphony on Friday and Saturday, in this year's Tanner Gift of Music concerts. A variety program of religious-inspirational nature, the concert will also be videotaped by KUED-Channel 7 to produce a special for national PBS, and audiotaped by London Decca Records for later release. (See accompanying story).
Rudel is perhaps best known by most American musicians as head of the New York City Opera, from 1956-1978. He's also shouldered responsibility for many other American music institutions, at one time simultaneously holding five executive posts - first music director of the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., director of the Caramoor Festival, director of the Cincinnati May Festival and music adviser for the nation's first performing arts park, Wolf Trap Farm in Virginia.
After so many years in the musical saddle, Rudel now holds no permanent post. "I resigned as music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic two years ago," he said, "and I can go and do my thing wherever it might come up, not burdened with administrative problems."
Rudel now accepts dates all over the world. He returns regularly to his native Vienna with its Staatsoper and June festival, and he's been a regular guest conductor of Hamburg and Paris operas, London's Covent Garden, and Munich Opera. In 1978 he made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera, and has conducted there every season since. Other American assignments are with the opera companies of Chicago, San Francisco, Houston and Cincinnati.
He has a repertory of 150 operas at his command, and he's also welcome on the podiums of the world's leading orchestras, including those of New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Chicago, Israel and Vienna, to name a few.
"I guess I do about two-thirds operatic conducting and one-third symphony. Some of the nicest houses have asked me - Berlin, Cologne, Rome Opera. I don't go to Paris anymore. Rolf Lieberman knew how to run an opera house, he had the backing of the president and could do things," said Rudel, obviously taking a backhanded slap at the chaotic condition of the Paris Opera just now, since Daniel Barenboim's firing.
"I was born at the crossroads of music, in Vienna," he said. "I like the Slavic, European repertory, especially the Viennese classics and composers, such as Berg, Mahler, Schubert."
Rudel has several prize-winning recordings to his credit, and looks forward to doing more. "I have been recording Schubert's symphonies on Music Master label, with the St. Luke's Orchestra, a young New York group, very good. I also will play the piano for Placido Domingo to record unknown Puccini songs. I brought him to America, he first sang for NYCO, you know. I also first featured Sherrill Milnes, Tatiana Troianos, Jose Carreras, Beverly Sills."
After resigning from NYCO, he remained as principal conductor for a number of years, but the past few years he hasn't been back. "I gather things are going all right," he said. "It's part of my philosophy, when you have finished and concluded with a place, it's best to look ahead - `Climb Every Mountain' and all that." -