May 30, 2020

The View from There

My Breville toaster oven signifies that the toast is done by going bee-bee-bee-BEEP, bee-bee-bee-BEEP, which I hear as the opening of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony.

Last night I woke up at four A.M. from a typical conductor’s nightmare. I was rehearsing Sibelius’s Symphony No. 2 in a bunker with a bored and unresponsive orchestra. When I stopped conducting, they just kept playing. Humiliation turned into a wrestling match with sheets and a duvet. I had forgotten to prepare, and my score—which was the size of a postage stamp—fell to the floor. As I bent down to pick it up, I heard myself say, “You are losing them. You are losing them!” And then I woke up.

It’s never easy to be a conductor. In a way, the pandemic has made it easier. There is no work anywhere in the world. That doesn’t mean we aren’t surrounded by the echoes of music everywhere.

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