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<<  -- 3 --  Bill Newman    SHARING THE RESPONSE


Another important point was born out when Altrichter continually stepped off the rostrum to discuss points with section leaders, perhaps to get players to listen to each other to achieve integral balance. 'I am trying after twenty or thirty years conducting to listen to what musicians are interested in and to evoke their response. This is the main programme for the conductor. You may be a genius, but if they are sleeping it is nothing! Do what you want, but obey the orchestra. Today, they are sitting there and it represents so small a part of their music life. If a conductor wants to stay from the beginning to the end of his career it can only be a part, otherwise they will see everything surrounding him destroyed. I need this small part to get their concentration and show them how to do it.'

'Once you have their concentration, it is much easier. You know, one has had an argument with his wife, another has a bad stomach, and so on. But I have seen tired conductors at rehearsals fail to get players' responses and altercations would break out. When I was young, I was keen to have arguments and would cry and shout, but I soon learnt the lesson of getting on with things in order to get through. You have to reveal your personality to them; show them that you are their friend, do something!

How easy is it to extend the repertoire of an orchestra? Libor Pesek during his tenure introduced the RLPO to the music of Suk, Novák, Janácek and Martinu, so are you carrying on the tradition? 'Yes, but tradition on its own is not everything and it would be boring. Every Russian conductor now performs Tchaikovsky in the same way. Style of playing is the more interesting question, because generally throughout the world it is dying. Twenty or thirty years ago German, Russian, Czech and English music all sounded different, now it has become unified, more cosmopolitanized. It has some advantages. In Germany I have an orchestra whose personnel number eighteen nationalities, but you must remember you could recognize the individual sounds of European orchestras. On the radio recently I heard some Dvorák Slavonic Dances. Ah, that is the Czech Philharmonic. Afterwards they stated it was the Vienna under Lorin Maazel! He had to leave the orchestra, and that was a pity.'

'You had great Wagner, great Strauss and Tchaikovsky, from conductors on record ...' But didn't all those past greats impart their own personalities on orchestras? ' Karajan recorded the Beethoven Symphonies three times, and the one he (and I) really liked was his first with the Philharmonia. He was more German, then. The other versions were more international'. 'Glossy International', John piped in. 'But Wagner, Strauss and Tchaikovsky require different vibratos. When Czech conductors and orchestras play Dvorák it sounds right and perfectly natural. But the Czech Philharmonic performing Berlioz, even with Zdenek Kosler, is crazy, CRAZY!'

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Copyright © 28 June 2001 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK




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