Bernard Haitink

Bernard Haitink

Music Alchemists

Journeys with great conductors

It is an alchemical transformation that we take for granted, which happens in concert halls every night all over the world, but whose mechanics and mysteries seems to elude the most seasoned music-lovers: just how is it that the gestures of great conductors are translated and transcended into sound by the musicians in front of them? Tom Service sums up this on-stage wonder …

They create a charmed circle of listening that starts on the podium.
Tom Service, The Guardian

Is there anything that you can find that defines why one conductor can inspire an orchestra to the highest heights, and why another … well, why some just don’t? Or is the vaunted secret of the baton-wielders (well, they mostly use sticks!) up there on the podium a good old-fashioned con trick: they don’t even make a sound themselves, apart from the odd unwanted laryngeal grunt; so isn’t conducting a kind of shamanic ritual at best, and an odious musical charlatanism at worst? After all, all they’re doing up there is waving their arms around in front of an ensemble, like the LSO, who could quite happily use their combined centuries of musical experience to create a much more than passable performance of everything from Mozart to Mendelssohn, from Beethoven to Brahms. So why are conductors, even the great ones, actually necessary?

It’s a fundamental question with some strange answers. For Sir Colin Davis, a lifetime of devoting himself to music-making with the world’s most distinguished orchestra led him to this essential assessment of his role in the musical process: ‘You don’t matter at all as a conductor. And if you think you do, you’re on a hiding to nothing. You have to get rid of your ego’. And yet: that egolessness is a hard-won prize that very few conductors ever attain; paradoxically, their musical and persuasive powers on the podium increase in almost direct proportion to the diminishment of their sense of self in front of the music and their musicians.

That’s something that really does connect all in this series of maestros, however different their approaches to rehearsal, to the psychology of dealing with orchestra players, to interpretation, to the fundamentals of performance practice. All of them have a core inner belief that what they are doing, or trying to do, is to channel their vision of the music as transparently as possible to the players and to an audience. And in their LSO concerts, they can all create an irresistible collective journey that we all go on – conductor, players, listeners. If theirs is an alchemy, it’s because they create a charmed circle of listening that starts on the podium, extends to the players, and finally includes and envelops the audience. Their alchemy is our alchemy, too.

Bernard Haitink

> Thu 10 Oct 2013
MOZART Piano Concerto No 9 K271 with Emanuel Ax

> Tue 15 Oct 2013
MOZART Piano Concerto No 27 K595 with Emanuel Ax

Michael Tilson Thomas

> Thu 12 Dec 2013
LISZT Mephisto Waltz
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No 1 with Simon Trpceski

> Thu 19 Dec 2013
TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Concerto No 1 with Evgeny Kissin
PROKOFIEV Symphony No 5

Sir John Eliot Gardiner

> Tue 21 Jan 2014
MENDELSSOHN Overture: The Hebrides
(‘Fingal’s Cave’)
SCHUMANN Piano Concerto with Maria Joao Pires
MENDELSSOHN Symphony No 3 (‘Scottish’)

> Sun 23 Mar 2014
MENDELSSOHN Overture: Ruy Blas
SCHUMANN Violin Concerto in D minor with Alina Ibragimova
MENDELSSOHN Symphony No 4 (‘Italian’)

Sir Mark Elder

> Sun 4 May 2014
STRAUSS Wind Serenade
MOZART Piano Concerto No 22 K482 with Imogen Cooper
STRAUSS Till Eulenspiegel

> Thu 8 May 2014
MOZART Symphony No 38 (‘Prague’)
STRAUSS Extracts from ‘Der Rosenkavalier’

> Thu 12 Jun 2014
BRUCH Scottish Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra
DVORAK Symphony No 8

Sir Simon Rattle

> Sun 1 Jun 2014
BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto
HENZE Being Beauteous
BRAHMS Symphony No 4

Event Calendar

< November 2013 >

13/14 season listings PDF

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