It has been a tough year for Kurt Masur. The conductor, who turned 85 last week, had to cancel a performance with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in February because of his weakening physical condition. Then in April, he fell while onstage in Paris and broke his left shoulder.
Masur has canceled all of his appearances through September, with one exception. Sunday afternoon at Tanglewood, he will conduct the BSO in Mozart’s Symphony No. 36. But there’s a twist. His son Ken-David Masur, 35, a Tanglewood Music Center conducting fellow, has agreed to conduct the first part of the planned Mozart program, which features “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” and the composer’s Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor (K. 491), with Gerhard Oppitz as the soloist. The Masurs spoke by phone late last week from Tanglewood.
Q. How are you feeling after your fall?
Kurt Masur: I’m fine. I’m recovering. I’m ready to come back, hopefully normal or better than normal.
Q. You canceled everything on your schedule through September. Why not just rest up for the fall? Why is it so important to do Tanglewood?
KM: It’s so important to go on. Not only Tanglewood. This is because to keep the engine of your body, if you wait for being better, you are already sick. I need music like my daily food.
Q. Ken-David, is it hard being a conductor with that last name? I think of Julian Lennon or Pete Rose Jr.
Ken-David Masur: The answer is simple: It could be hard, but it’s not. Because to me, it’s a big gift, it’s a great gift that I actually get to sort of relive my father’s beginnings through my beginnings of conducting. When I committed to conducting several years ago, that’s when the regular phone calls in which we would talk of music would start. And I would ask, ‘Have you done this before, that before?’ And every single time I would ask about a piece, he had these stories about what he had done and where he had done it. It’s been a great journey for me and actually has led to some more father-son time together.
Q.Did you ever worry about your son becoming a conductor?
KM: Look, it was so natural that it started with him. It is so natural. He sang under me, “St. Matthew Passion” and other pieces, so he knows it by heart. So he grew from piece to piece, and it was very natural.
Q. I would like to hear what Tanglewood has meant to both of you.
K-DM: Tanglewood was one of the first places my parents took me to when my father started coming here in the 1980s. As a boy I would roam around, and when we went back to Germany — and at the time it was East Germany — [Tanglewood] was an idyllic, almost utopian place. Then when we came to the States, I never thought I would be able to study here.
KM: The audience. And the musicians. It’s very unique. This is so natural. You feel that you are surrounded by music and also the wonderful surroundings. You can tell the people are very faithful to this place.
Q.Tell me about the idea of splitting up the concert.
K-DM: We had a few possibilities where we could share programs before. These were very special occasions, and we don’t generally do this. But when the occasion happened in Rio de Janeiro [a few years ago], it was a wonderful thing. Because that was where my parents met. My mother was a violist in the orchestra.
Q.And how did you settle on which pieces to play?
K-DM: This was actually a program he had already put together with “Nachtmusik.” I know he loves the piece, and it’s not done very often for large symphonies.
KM: It’s mostly seen as an appetizer not taken seriously. But it’s actually one of the hardest pieces to conduct. It is difficult to keep simple and beautiful. The Mozart Symphony [No. 36] is one of the first pieces I did with the Boston Symphony.
Q. You know that there’s a big search going on for the next music director of the BSO. Any suggestions?
KM: This is always one of the highest desirable positions. It depends on who is lucky enough to get it. But you know, the tendency now is [select someone] younger and younger.
Q. You know conductors perhaps better than anyone. Anybody you have in mind?
KM: I wouldn’t tell you, of course [laughs].
Q.You mentioned young conductors. How about the 35-year-old sitting with you, Ken-David?
KM: No, no. I never speculate that way, and my son would kill me.