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Taming the lion

JABEZ DOLOTZ talks to British conductor Sir Henry Collard-Barker about experiences in and out of the concert hall


Unable to secure a face-to-face meeting with British conductor Sir Henry Collard-Barker, our conversation took place mostly as text chat, with some email communication. I first asked the conductor about his studies.

Henry Collard-Barker: Yes, I was very fortunate to learn in New York with Dimitri Mitropoulos, although I can hardly say that I was one of his better students. Of course, I learnt a huge amount very quickly, especially about the importance of score preparation to an orchestral conductor, and about general attitudes towards directing.

Jabez Dolotz: Mitropoulos was notorious for conducting without a score?

HCB: Yes -- there's that famous quote, isn't there? 'I never use a score when conducting my orchestra. ... Does a lion tamer enter a cage with a book on how to tame a lion?'

JD: Mitropoulos was also famous for living as if in a monastery, wasn't he. Did his lifestyle have an effect on you too?

HCB: Yes -- I live in a very similar way -- very simply. I don't have many material wants. Mitropoulos encouraged me to pare life down to the essentials. Score-learning is a very solitary job ... one spends hours just sitting at a desk, staring at printed music and manuscripts. But you know, living in a simple way also makes things simpler in your own life and head, and you end up quickly knowing what you really want.

JD: Which is what, in your case?

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Copyright © 1 April 2006 Jabez Dolotz, Isle of Dogs, London UK


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