Are peripatetic conductors overworked?

Posted on: September 16, 2009

Wednesday (9/16) on her Washington Post blog Classical Beat, Anne Midgette writes, “The National Symphony Orchestra isn’t opening its season until next week. But tonight, the conductor who will take over as the NSO’s music director next season—in the fall of 2010—is starting his own final season at the Orchestre de Paris: Christoph Eschenbach, tonight and tomorrow, leads the Mahler 3rd, the beginning of the end of the conductor’s multi-season focus on Mahler with this orchestra. … His schedule for the season seems punishing: he’s appearing with 12 orchestras, many for more than one program, and going on no fewer than four tours … The slightly frightening thing is that this workload is about par for the course for a major international conductor. But it does raise questions about a human’s ability to sustain a high level of performance, week after week. Top-tier professional musicians, of course, are supposed to have extraordinary abilities. But the emphasis on music as product in an ever-faster world does seem to me to threaten, at times, the integrity of an art form that is based on taking a lot of time to say important things at considerable length and with considerable depth. Sometimes, musicians want to be praised simply for getting through it. But if that’s all there is to it, we are losing the whole point of the exercise.”

Posted September 16, 2009