Watch: Mravinsky loses it

Watch: Mravinsky loses it


norman lebrecht

March 24, 2018

The Leningrad conductor has a bad day.


  • mr oakmountain says:

    Well, he knew he was being filmed. I’ve heard different things about his rehearsals.

  • Anon says:

    I can’t see the part where he loses it. To the contrary, he seems to be leading in a process to find it.
    And why a bad day? Seems like a good old fashioned rehearsal, from those days, when real conductors knew how to rehearse for real.

    • Peter Phillips says:

      Agreed, though there are stories of the orchestra sitting in silence, all tuned up, awaiting his arrival.He seems remarkably patient, in this clip, though, as in other rehearsal footage of him. For comparison, there’s a clip somewhere of Barbirolli (another “real” conductor) being equally demanding over a rhythmic figure in a Bruckner symphony. Unlike Mravinski, however, his impatience and irritation are quite apparent.

      • Anthony Kershaw says:

        Yes, the Bruckner 7 Scherzo where he sings the wrong rhythm to the Halle and stops them 7 times in the space of a minute. Players love that!

  • Mark says:

    He seems remarkably polite, urging his musicians to play in tempo and make it sound “gentle and plangent”

  • M. says:

    That’s what Toscanini must have sounded like—asleep.

  • Gregor Tassie says:

    Yevgeny Alexandrovich isn’t ‘losing it’ here but is just showing how uncompromising he was to getting the musicians to play better, often his insistence on artistic perfection (which he confessed he would never achieve) went to extraordinary measures when he cancelled a concert of Bruckner’s Ninth after he said the concert would never equal what was achieved at his rehearsal. Even his wife ( who was principal flute) didn’t understand what he wanted from some of his rehearsals, he seemed to hear things nobody else could hear. But nice to see him here again showing his drive for perfection.

    • Sixtus says:

      Neither do I see him losing it. The opening of the finale to Brahms 2 may just happen to be one of those places that is difficult to get right. Back in my college days I played 2nd violin in this piece and our conductor, as here, took enormous pains and time to sort this passage out.

  • Michael Endres says:

    He may not be a model of a Teflon™ coated maestro who ticks all of today’s boxes, but the interpretatory results speak for themselves.

    • Anon says:

      It’s a bit sad that apparently not only the agents seem to prefer the conductors with show man appeal over the more stoic but intellectually deep and reflected musicians, (which is more understandable) but that also the top orchestras these days prefer the type.

      • Petros Linardos says:

        I generally agree, but there are some conspicuous exceptions. Like him or not, Thielemann is no showman at the podium. If the Berlin Philharmonic wanted a showman for their next music director, they could have chosen Nelsons. In videoclips, K Petrenko looks lively but by no means showy.

  • Anon says:

    losing it sounds more like this:

    • Kenneth Berv says:

      My father and two uncles in the NBC horn section dealt with that for 17 years.

      • Petros Linardos says:

        How often did Toscanini have such fits of rage, and how did the musicians really feel?

        Remarkably, even when yelling, Toscanini sounds like he had a good Italian tenor voice.

        • Kenneth Berv says:

          With weak unions and no tenure, musicians feared for their jobs, if not their careers, But they had the utmost respect for “the Old Man,” “the Maestro.” However, my Uncle Arthur who is still known today as arguably the greatest orchestral first horn (Cleveland, Philadelphia, NBC-and asked to play in Boston when AT retired), used to say Bruno Walter was a gentleman, and got as good results without the drama. And some said they were so nervous their performances were sometimes the very best-and sometimes not.

    • Mark Henriksen says:

      making an ass of yourself sounds like that

  • Mark Henriksen says:

    Then after the 15th time, you go back to trusting your musicianship and do it the way you did the first time, and the conductor says “perfect”!.

    • Anon says:

      Yeah, your musicianship might have been fine the first time already, but now you do it in ensemble, not like 16 crazy chicken each minding their own. 😉
      Did you know that certain inconsistencies and improvements can be judged better from the conductor’s position, then some random place in the orchestra? I guess it requires trust in the man or woman on the podium.

  • Rob says:

    Has he got a heart problem here, doesn’t look well, constricted movements, smokers cough?

  • Göran Södervall says:

    Hard to contradict all the comments already given on Mravinsky’s demand of his orchestra to play the particular phrase as he wanted it to sound.

    Some kind of frustration is definitely shown in this clip but when you listen to some of his marvellous interpretations of Russian music e.g his early cycle of Tchaikovsky perhaps you have to accept this old-fashioned conductor style to get the ultimate result.

  • Freddyng says:

    Isn’t it easier just to have each stand play it alone to get to the root of the problem…..? : p

  • Andrew Matthews says:

    I don’t understand why this video has been posted with the title “Mravinsky loses it”. This particular video is a waste of time.

  • anon says:

    He could’ve saved a lot of time by singing the phrase he wanted at the beginning. Orchestral payers are not mind readers, and they need to coordinate with each other, so if the conductor doesn’t have impeccable stick technique and body and facial language, he needs to express what he wants in words or in singing, before asking the orchestra to play.

    At the beginning, he was staring into the ceiling, you can’t communicate with the orchestra without making eye contact.

    • Anon says:

      Yeah? Karajan disagrees. So do most great conductors of the past.
      Actually, you can not not communicate.
      Closing your eyes or staring at the ceiling is also communication. For instance it can communicate, that everyone should listen more than watch.

  • M2N2K says:

    It is odd that he wasn’t addressing the most obvious problem – that the three fast notes that follow the opening D are starting too late and are played too fast. This kind of rhythmical distortion may be permissible and maybe even appropriate in some of Russian music but it is certainly damaging in Brahms. Fixing that would have immediately made the rest of the phrase more sensible and ultimately expressive.