Do you play in fear?

From a new US documentary:

Conductors were recently rated 3rd in a survey about what causes the most performance anxiety in musicians. Here we use both musicians and conductors to discuss the use of fear in orchestras. Tell us below what you think?

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  • Crazy to ‘use’ fear consciously… can never achieve the best results with players. Bruno Walter and Arturo Toscanini were both top conductors of their time but Walter was just better, because he did not intimidate but inspire.

    But fear may help to get the right orchestral effect, when the music deserves it.

    • Re Bruno Walter: That’s the reputation, or the propaganda. Some players might have had other opinions, Robert Bloom for one. (With Mr. Bloom you can leave out the “might have.” His words were, “he’d stab you in the back while smiling to your face.”)

      • ???!! If that is true, would be very disappointing indeed.

        On the other hand, players may cultivate resentment towards conductors with true musical authority, which make them feel inadequate. In spite of the music, both players and conductors are human beings, in the end, and to get a good performance on the rails will always remain quite a challenge, also with the ‘best’ orchestras.

        At least, working with players like this, is best avoided nowadays:

  • Jesus Christ. Even when it comes to something as uplifting, purely creative, impermanent, and utterly inconsequential (meaning no one will die if you stop in the middle or get it wrong) as music, humans cannot stop themselves from injecting screaming, threats, intimidation, abuse, and fear into something. Some people just wake up every day eagerly asking themselves, “Yippee, who do I get to treat like shit today?” Shit like this really makes me think I must be a separate species from all those other hairless primates out there.

    Seriously, screaming at people who get it wrong in emergency rooms or airplanes is one thing, but a fucking noise-making event? It’s fucking artistic noise, people. If you are looking for excuses to scream at people over something like that, you are just looking for excuses to scream at people.

    And we wonder why audiences for status music genres are staying away and the culture has a reputation for poisonousness. If that’s what the culture is like, then let it die.

    I’ll happily remain a singleton musician for the rest of my days, thanks. Let the snarling monkeys fling shit and rip each other’s faces off somewhere else, far from me.

    • So heartfelt, this comment! I agree… we get quite some screaming here on the estate as well, and although we are treated very tolerantly, the nonsense we get a glimp of on a regular daily basis is sometimes too much to bear. Last week it got so bad that I went to a Mahler concert to relax, can you imagine. Classical music is far too insignificant to bother about.

      • Nowadays, it has become quite hard to find suited staff. I may have to fire her, she is becoming much too impertinent.

    • I remember reading an interview with a famous conductor of fairly recent vintage (I want to say Lorin Maazel), where he said that to become a conductor, the will to dominate is more important than musical talent.

      He might have meant something more like “having the strength of conviction to get 100 independent-minded individuals to agree to go along with your vision of the music,” but I wouldn’t bet on it.

      • That’s why I used to prefer chamber music until I realized that there are plenty of string players who just want to dominate a quartet. It’s all about jockeying for whose “conception” prevails.

  • Um…there will be times the conductor has to be “firm” or “forceful”. Deliberately making people nervous about performance and berating mistakes is unlikely to improve a performance, but occasionally berating slovenly or careless performance or the deliberate ignoring of the conductors wishes (and we all know orchestras can ignore the visiting conductor if they don’t rate or like him/her) is not “bad”. However, if the conductor “loses the orchestra” then (s)he will never get much of a performance from them.

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