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JOHN LUBBOCK talks to Bill Newman


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Watching Lubbock conduct, his 6 foot plus enables him to reach out and 'grasp' the players, welding them together to give some exciting performances in which all the essential orchestral colours come through. How much does the physical preparation for each new concert become a repertoire chore? 'The old war-horses don't come around too often. I haven't done Schubert 5 for five years, and I can organise that with the group because they are my dearest friends. The more I work with them, the less satisfying it is to conduct other ensembles. The atmosphere of seeing them sitting there at the start determines 60 per cent of what comes out during the concert. Playing crotchets short or long has nothing to do with it. Nobody fights for stardom - it is the corporate unity of coming together and working as a group. Audiences understand this!'

Years ago, Lubbock himself had just a fortnight working with the famous conductor Celibidache. It changed his life. 'I was sitting at home in Brixton, and a cellist-friend in the LSO rang me up: "we are just at the coffee break, and after a dozen bars I haven't played anything, yet." I went along and became completely captivated. What I witnessed was something I hadn't seen before - somebody conducting a symphony orchestra like a string quartet, as if they were responsible soloists with significant contributions to make. They weren't just sound fodder at the back of massed violins. I like to think I have this same rapport at St. Johns. The freelance profession is made up of skillful people, and there is no sense clocking in and slogging through the Pathétique, then departing. Here was this man doing this with the LSO and you could hear the result - absolutely transforming them, breathtaking! "You shouldn't remain an idiot - come and study with me." He was obviously completely arrogant, but had something special. At the University in Germany, Celibidache was known to be destructive as a teacher on the rostrum, and I already had my orchestra for 11 years. Rather than continue conducting, I jacked it in and sat at the back and watched and listened. The whole idea of balance - how he got what he wanted - was a revelation; I witnessed a musician that developed his interpretation, with a brain! He spoke to everyone in their language as he looked at them - he spoke 11 languages, and had that unbelievable knowledge of the score without using one at any rehearsal.'

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Copyright © 17 June 2000 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK


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