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Mahler deserves better. So do orchestras.

November 19, 2007 at 4:26 AM

The tough weekend is over. Spent Saturday training Assistant Language Teacher’s for my company. Poor dears probably hadn’t quite realized how much singing, dancing and telling stories is expected of them once they get to their respective elementary schools. Come four o’clock I’m on the high speed train to a concert hall in the armpit of no-where to dress rehearse Schubert Rosamunde, Mozart 3 (Wakabayshi Ayu) and Mahler 5. Things are not going too well in the hall. GikkyoGakudan orchestra rehearses in a specially built venue that covers a multitude of ensemble sins. The reality at this point – things are not together. A late night drive over roads perched atop very high embankments designed to protect from river flooding. They are two car widths wide plus one cm. There are no lights. I manage not to wet myself. Get back home at 12 and Po (my cat) is ragingly angry. `Where the hell is my dinner? ` Good job he didn’t pee on anything. He’s good that way!
Up at five and two hours practice. I have a recital on Tuesday and the Mahler is no fun either. Back to the hall and things are going better except for the Adagietto. I had politely requested the conductor he not begin in 8. That can be risky even for pros if they are tired. Today he has decided to conduct in 8, switching to triplets because he is not happy with the harpist. Except every now and again he switches to four and his tempos are so fluctuating it is not clear if he has done so or not. I stop for a friendly chat and spell it out to him- this is an orchestra of talented amateurs and semi-professionals. Its one of the best in Japan but its not flexible. He needs to give clear beats or they will be to nervous to play well. He doesn’t care. I make a mental note to take the Adagietto away from him in the performance and force the strings to go with me. Sod him. It’s been a very trying time. The guy is one of the most famous Mahler conductors in Japan yet to me he was the epitome of musician’s deadliest weakness: the fundamental rule that one is not here to be moved and express our feelings. That is basically ego centered junk, as is crying on stage. Our job is to play in such a way as to evoke emotions in the listener. This is what art rather than musical onanism is about.
It’s the performance and our conductor is singing, dancing and making the most bizarre rubatos all over the shop. Fame aside he doesn’t know Mahler, who knew exactly what he wrote and what he wanted. Why oh why in Japan must we occasionally genuflect to famous people because somehow they got that way if they are full of cr%$. As one of my very talented colleagues who was sitting on a back desk as an extra asked pointedly afterwards `Why does this guy change his feelings all the time? `
Whinge over Back to school and my beloved v.commie. Po has calmed down.

From Laurie Niles
Posted on November 19, 2007 at 5:49 AM
I've played under so many self-indulgent conductors I've lost track. The best ones are the most selfless and often have a number quirky and odd-looking moves, from an audience perspective, that nonetheless work efficiently and effectively in communicating with the orchestra.
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on November 19, 2007 at 6:05 AM
I'm glad you found comfort in :-)
From Corwin Slack
Posted on November 19, 2007 at 1:14 PM
I'd love to comment but I am afraid of who might read my post. Oh for anonymity.
From Ihnsouk Guim
Posted on November 19, 2007 at 8:25 PM
Ha ha, I like the comment, "Why does this guy change his feelings all the time?" ``


From Pieter Viljoen
Posted on November 19, 2007 at 8:51 PM
How famous can he be if....
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on November 19, 2007 at 10:37 PM
Pieter, it@s just funny how things get really distorte din Japan at times. It`s still hard for Japanes emusicans to really expres what they are feeling (which is the same as evyone else...) unless they go abroad to study. So when they see a `musican` emoting` all over the palce it can be misinterpreted as great art rather too easily. Its a dman shame really when conducters like Kent Nagano or Ozawa are such a sheer joy to play under.

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