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the maestro myth

I keep meaning to read Norman Lebrecht's book The Maestro Myth but have not done much quality "fun" reading during and now after the dissertation writing process. This article in The Guardian certainly recalls the title, but I am not sure Lebrecht had this kind of thing in mind. Entitled "The myth of the maestro," the article begins with the sentence: "For all their huge salaries, it is hard to say what difference the conductor really makes to the playing of music." Ouch! There are too many things about which to comment here, and I can in no way be comprehensive. But to begin with--how many conductors out there have huge salaries? Don't give ammunition to smaller organizations to underpay their directors. Perhaps you want to take issue with highly paid conductors, but even then--so many athletes and celebrities and CEOs etc. receive incredibly huge salaries that I am surprised someone has time to write an article on the handful of highly paid conductors out there.

The waving of our arms in a performance, while the most visible aspect of conducting, is such a small part of our work. Granted, it is an unusual field: conductors do not actually make the sound in a performance. Of course they rely on the abilities of ensemble members. And despite what the article suggests, even highly skilled musicians like members of the LA Phil have been supportive of the hype surrounding Dudamel's arrival in Los Angeles. Sure, they may not get to stare at him straight on while he's at the podium, but they do understand that a new and talented conductor can bring different strengths and focii, revitalize the organization and the community. Look at the attention Dudamel has received from the press worldwide and from many different subsections of the Los Angeles community; this is more than gesture.

I wish Maestro Dudamel and the Phil well and think these circumstances demonstrate some of the positives conductors contribute. There is plenty more to say, but I leave you to think on it for now.