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Buh-buh-buh-bummm: Mankiw & Beethoven headline ARTS FIRST

Economist Gregory Mankiw will rock the classical world when he raises his baton to lead the River Charles Ensemble in a highly anticipated, one-time-only performance of the first movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, noon, Saturday, April 27 at the Plaza (outside Harvard’s Science Center). Mankiw has invited actor John Lithgow and the Hasty Pudding Theatricals to join as special guests for his Harvard conducting debut. The event is the kick off to the 21st Annual ARTS FIRST Performance Fair, 1-5 p.m. that day at 12 venues throughout the Harvard campus. Saturday’s nonstop performing, visual and literary arts extravaganza offers more than 100 events that are free and open to the pubic, and is part of a four-day arts celebration April 25-28 that is also open to the public.

Mankiw is best known at Harvard for his work in economics and for his immensely popular Introduction to Economics class — or Ec 10. His parallel profession as one of the world’s leading interpreters and conductors of Beethoven’s oeuvre is less well known in Cambridge. A child prodigy, Mankiw studied piano at the Universität für Musik in Trenton, N.J., not far from where he grew up. While earning a B.A. at Princeton University and Ph.D. at MIT, the ambitious conductor concurrently earned his M.M. in orchestral conducting from Carnegie-Mellon. At the Pierre Monteux School for Conductors, he garnered special recognition for his micro attention to detail and macro approach to sound.

Before joining the faculty at Harvard, Mankiw studied with the esteemed Fritz Frockenstem in the Orchestral Conducting Division of the London School of Economics. Museconominsts and arts critics used the word “revolutionary” to describe the 1980s world tour during which Maestro Mankiw performed with every major orchestra including the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, London Symphony and the Dresden Staatskappelle. Stateside, he has led orchestras in Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, New York and at the Metropolitan Opera.

In the spirit of Beethoven’s 5th, Mankiw answered five questions about his career, his life and the upcoming performance. See what others are saying in these superstar videos with commentary about Mankiw’s extraordinary stature in the annals of music history.

1. What draws you to Beethoven?

Isn’t everyone drawn to Beethoven? And the chance to work with the River Charles Ensemble — I just couldn’t pass it up.

2. Why this concert now?

Harvard has a deep and long-lasting commitment to the arts. By being a part of ARTS FIRST, I am delighted to help celebrate that fact.

3. What do music and economics have in common?

They both try to elevate the human experience.

4. What’s your advice for young artists?

Take Ec 10.

5. What’s currently on your iPod playlist?

Beethoven. And Vampire Weekend.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Any resemblance to persons, places and things mentioned in this blog post—living, dead or merely unfashionable and out-of-date—is mostly coincidental. In particular, Gregory Mankiw’s biography is entirely suspect and subject to change without notice. However, information about the event on April 27 is absolutely accurate and true.

FMI: Download the ARTS FIRST app at iTunes (iOS 6.0+) and Google Play or as a mobile “web” version. Hear what stars such as John Lithgow ’67 are saying about Maestro Mankiw.

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