Reasonable Words: MTT on Conducting

Nice piece by Geoffrey Norris on orchestral conductors in the current Gramophone. (Can’t find it on their hard to navigate web site.) Many great lines, including this reflection from Michael Tilson Thomas:

Tilson Thomas stresses that a conductor needs to ‘resolve issues of ensemble, balance, nuance, and to help a large number of people appreciate where “now” is’–to find a focus when each musician in the orchestra might have particular thoughts on what should be happening. ‘It’s the members of the orchestra who are actually giving the concert, and the conductor’s job is to inspire them, make them confident and do the best they can.”

Sounds like fodder for any management text, at least that “now” bit.

That said, the cult of the conductor seems at times to be a little much (BBC classical music producer Hans Keller and critic called it “the phoniest profession.”) And yet, it makes a difference, as any long-suffering audience member at the Boston Symphony of late can attest. (They have been without a music director since James Levine stepped down.)

Part of that is charisma and leadership, and one of the Norris’ subjects is Ukrainian conductor, Kirill Karabits, principal conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, who has it in abundance. Here’s a sample, and the pianist is no slouch either. First 60 seconds of Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto #1. Still as amazing as when I was 7.

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