The case for the conductor—even from a distance

Posted on: March 11, 2021

“When people find out I play cello in a symphony orchestra, the question I’m asked most often is, ‘Why do you need a conductor?,’ ” writes Barbara Bogatin in Monday’s (3/8) San Francisco Classical Voice. “This is a topic I know something about, having played with at least a thousand different conductors starting in my Philadelphia elementary school orchestra … through youth orchestras, conservatory training, and a decade freelancing in New York. For the past 26 years I’ve played with the San Francisco Symphony, where we typically see about 20 guest conductors per year…. A great maestro, through the sheer force of his or her spiritual presence, can inspire musicians to play not with our hands but with our hearts…. Now just as [Music Director] Esa-Pekka Salonen has arrived, we must navigate the limitations imposed by the global pandemic. Unable to play for live audiences in the concert hall, we moved online with Zoom-style concerts from our living rooms and backyards, smaller chamber ensembles, one-to-one concerts … A team of media professionals was enlisted to help us pivot to production of audio and video content.… Despite being physically separated … music flowed spontaneously as we responded to Esa-Pekka’s subtle gestures.”