Quotes from famous conductors

Your editors recently read Christopher Seaman’s book “Inside Conducting”.  Seaman is Conductor Emeritus of the Rochester Symphony Orchestra in the USA. His book, published in 2013, is a textbook for budding conductors.  For readers who do not aspire to become conductors, it is an eye-opener for what’s behind the music.  It facilitates deeper listening.  Here are some select quotes from the book:

In a chapter on choral works:  “Clarity of diction isn’t enough.  To communicate with an audience a choir has to project the words meaningfully.  Words such as “joy” and “grief” can be made to sound like their meaning, whatever the language.  (Freude and Trauer in German; Gloria and dolore in Italian).  Clear diction on its own is sterile and makes a choir sound as if it’s singing from a telephone directory.”  (We are sure Carlos would fully endorse this remark!)

Singer Sherrill Milnes, writing about the conductor James Levine:  “For me, Jim was the first ‘love conductor’ versus the old-time ‘fear conductors.’  I’m old enough to have worked with Karajan, Böhm, Bernstein, Solti, Leinsdorf, Reiner…. They were great conductors, but when you looked down at the pit, you were a little afraid.  With Jim you have huge respect – and love.”

A quote from a chapter on marking parts:  English conductor (no longer with us):  “Ladies and gentlemen, on your music stands you’ll find my own private parts; I’d be obliged if you would not write on them.”

Quotes from a chapter on audience response to program planning:
“No, I don’t know Berg’s Violin Concerto – and what’s more, I don’t like it.”
“Give me Beethoven’s Fifth every time!”
“Why do you only play music by dead people?”

Gustav Mahler:  “The most important things in music cannot be noted in the score.”

Quote from a chapter on heritage:  Gustavo Dudamel:  “My education was sitting in an orchestra.  And what a beautiful model for a society.  Everyone together, listening to each other, with one goal.  This is the best way I can think of to build a better world.”

And we, your editors, think that is a very apposite sentiment for these troubled times.



Leave a Reply