Conductors on conducting: more difficult than it looks

Posted on: August 16, 2010

In Sunday’s (8/15) Los Angeles Times, Rich Schultz writes, “ ‘Any asino can conduct,’ the autocratic Italian maestro Arturo Toscanini once said, comparing routine conductors to dunces. ‘But to make music, eh? Is difficile!’ Now, try conducting a major orchestra without a rehearsal, as 23-year-old Lionel Bringuier, the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s associate conductor, did in May. … Bringuier faced a different challenge last spring when Gustavo Dudamel pulled a neck muscle during a Los Angeles Philharmonic performance and could not conduct Tchaikovsky’s ‘Pathetique’ Symphony. The associate conductor rushed home during intermission to change clothes, then dashed back to Walt Disney Concert Hall and took the podium, prompting questions from music lovers … What does a conductor actually do? Are subtle musical cues really communicated to an orchestra by a leader’s baton or hands or is it just showmanship? How important is charisma to the conductor’s art?” Detroit Symphony Orchestra Music Director Leonard Slatkin, who is writing a book titled Conducting Business, notes that much of a conductor’s job happens behind the scenes: “It’s really a matter of getting 100 musicians to think like one person.”

Posted August 16, 2010