Friday, August 20, 2010

New thinking on conductors

UPDATE: sadly, NHK has made a copyright claim on this video. I think this is somewhat insane, because this was really great publicity. I'll keep you posted if it goes back up on youTube.

I've long argued that conductors are relatively useless- at least compared to their pay scale. I don't know if this video offers incontrovertible proof, but it is definitely worth checking out. It is a pretty amazing finale to Tchaik 4 (that's musician slang for Tchaikovsky's fourth symphony). Probably the stress of the situation brought out the best in the performers- but man. There's electricity.

Now from first hand experience, keeping a non-profit organization like a symphony orchestra in business is tough, and I'll let you in on a little secret: the music director's job is half fund-raising / figurehead. And that's important. It's easier for people (i.e.: potential donors) to wrap their minds around a single, charismatic personality than it is an amorphous, abstract "orchestra" of 80 musicians. Conductors are also useful as rehearsal organizers, because somebody has to be in charge. But is that worth 20 times (or greater) the pay scale of the average string player? Especially when you hear what a good orchestra can do even without a hand waiver?

I leave you to your own conclusions.

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