We musos may be critical of conductors (cf. Norman Lebrecht, The maestro myth: great conductors in pursuit of power), but don’t get me wrong, we deeply admire great ones—such as Boulez, Tennstedt, Gardiner, Rattle (unlikely bedfellows…).

Apart from Boulez, another highlight of depping regularly with the BBC Symphony Orchestra was working for Rozhdestvensky.

Gennadi Rozhdestvensky—conductor or conjuror is a wonderful film:

In a work that otherwise requires little imaginative filming, do watch the wonderful scene from from 32’40”—the traffic cop Marcel Mehala should take a bow too.

Believing in a kind of spontaneous combustion, and trusting his players to match his own mastery, taking risks together, Rozhdestvensky is renowned for his aversion to rehearsal—greater still than that of orchestras. Once, turning up for the first of a couple of whole days’ scheduled rehearsals for a fiendishly difficult and unfamiliar modern piece, he conducted the first few bars and then told the band, “Good, see you at the concert”. In a rare reversal of the musos’ “It’ll be all right on the night” philosophy, the leader took him to one side and asked him if he wouldn’t mind just playing through it once first.

His gestures are by turn minimal and flamboyant. Doing Petrushka, it was as if we were all composing it, living it, together with him.

And the Scriabin piano concerto with Viktoria Postnikova was exquisite too. Oops, it’s just disappeared from youtube…


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