Most boring ever conductor interview

Most boring ever conductor interview


norman lebrecht

August 13, 2022

The Financial Times has a backpage interview with Susanna Mälkki in which she says precisely nothing. Colourless does not begin to describe it.


Who was or still is your mentor?
When I was younger, I didn’t have anyone like that. I wish I had. The mentor-like relationships and trust emerged later in life. I have wonderful colleagues. And friendships that have become almost like philosophical partnerships. And there are people I look up to. All of those are my mentor pools, and I’m very grateful.

How fit are you?
Relatively fit, I guess, compared with people of my age, but I would love to be very sportif, and I’m not.

Tell me about an animal you have loved.
There were allergies in my family, so I haven’t known an animal well. I’m already loving the little doggie I am going to get one day, when my lifestyle permits….

Read on here.



  • Brettermeier says:


    I think I’m gonna pass.

    • Anthony Sayer says:

      She could have done a Ricky Gervais when confronted with an anodine question:

      Interviewer: If your house caught fire, what three things would you save?

      Ricky Gervais: My pet cat, my salamander…oh, and one of the twins.

  • Paul Dawson says:

    It’s certainly lightweight, but I think you should be blaming the questions set, rather than the answers given.

    She appears to have escaped the prime discipline imposed by PR experts. “Don’t even think about answering the questions posed. Just recite what you want to see in print.”

    She has answered the questions directly and it is a very bland set of questions.

    • Pianofortissimo says:

      There is a cultural aspect: Susanna Mälkki is Finnish, seemingly quite a typical one, and the Finnish are always straightforward and very precise when answering the questions they receive when they appear for an interview. If you are a journalist asking a Finnish politician for an interview you will most often get a ‘no’, but if you get an interview you may be sure that it will be a great one (if you pose the right questions, of course).

  • MacroV says:

    Well, to be fair, based on the limited amount I could see in front of the paywall, the questions weren’t particularly inspiring, either.

  • prof says:

    Two of three questions cited here are utterly inane — Charles Manson couldn’t find an interesting response to them.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    This is what happens when people want to know about musicians as people. I don’t want to know these things. I want to know what their musical interests and ambitions are; what composers they want to promote; what their programming philosophy may be, etc., etc. They’ve spent far too much time developing themselves as musicians to have informed or interesting thoughts on various other topics. Sometimes they do, but that’s still only a distraction. The People Magazine approach is counter-productive.

    • Tamino says:

      that is so true. why people think most musicians have much of substance to say about matters outside of their sphere of musical competence is beyond me.

  • Enquiring Mind says:

    questions about fitness and pets are just so pithy

    • David K. Nelson says:

      This interviewer really dropped the ball. A really insightful interviewer would have pressed her to learn more about the fitness of her pets. You can tell quite a bit about a musician by the fitness of their pets. Conductors with obese dogs have nothing new to tell us about Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf, in my experience. Just by way of example.

  • Gerry Feinsteen says:

    What’s your view on Russia’s War in Ukraine?
    ‘I really can’t see it because Ukraine is beyond my window.’

    How do you feel about pineapple on pizza?
    ‘I must say, pizza is delicious.’

    Describe one Beethoven symphony that inspires unity.
    ‘They all do. That is my job, to unify.’

    A long list of conductors were awarded Solti grants. Apparently only one (or two) of eighteen winners is a woman; how do you feel about this?
    ‘The real, answer, of course, is how do we feel about anything? Are emotions felt or experienced? I now have some food for thought.’

    You wrote when you were 11 that you wanted to be a conductor [..interruption]
    ‘Excuse me, I wrote a lot of things when I was 11.’

    When you conduct Prokofiev, what do you find more interesting, the rhythm or the pitches?
    ‘The notes are always interesting.’

    How do you start your day when you have a Bruckner marathon?
    ‘Like any other day, just with a bit less fibre.’

    Thank you.

    • Ya what says:

      I’d honestly love to hire you as my PR manager – this is pure gold!

    • For crying out loud says:

      Reminds me when I read an interview of Sergio Tiempo in a programme book at a concert hall.

      What are your guilty pleasures?
      ‘I do not feel guilty about any of my pleasures’.

      Terrible pianist, it turned out.

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    What does anyone expect with this type of interview? It’s not as if we can hope for salacious Celibidache-type opinions of his colleagues or massive revelations about seedy private lives. I gave up on classical music interviews a long time ago. They are no more insightful than a typical post-match interview with a footballer.

  • kaf says:

    1) Fault lies with the interviewer, the questions are inane. Ask inane questions, get inane answers.

    Right up there with Barbara Walters asking Katherine Hepburn “What kind of tree are you?”

    2) As to mentor, it’s kind of ungrateful for her not to mention Pierre Boulez (unless there’s bad blood between them, I mean), who gave her her big break in Paris with his Ensemble intercontemporain and who ushered her into the international orchestras he was associated with.

    3) As to animal, she could’ve been clever with the inane interviewer and included humans as animals (unless, like mentors, she loves no humans either)

  • Tony says:

    Disappointed not to know which is her favourite spoon

    • Genius Repairman says:

      My favourite spoon is any utensil that fulfills that purpose, unlike a fork or knife which is useful for different actions.

  • Luca says:

    No worse than many others, including with those who repeat themselves from interview to interview.

  • Amir Shiff says:

    Mr. Lebrecht, what kind of answers to such questions
    would you expect from your favorite conductor? No reason to be mean spirited.

    • Genius Repairman says:

      Maybe some names could be mentioned. Maybe a little elaboration on how conducting is easier when fit.

  • Sean says:

    Based on the questions (and I certainly had no intention of venturing beyond the paywall given their inanity), I think she managed some surprisingly honest and interesting answers. I wonder if she was asked whether she prefers prints or pastels; wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

  • Anon says:

    A very boring conductor, doesn’t inspire the musicians. Her answers are who she is – bland. We have worked with her!

    • Herr Doktor says:

      I hate to say it out loud, but I agree. I’ve heard Maestra Malkki live in Boston a handful of times, and have yet to hear a great concert. The results have shared some commonalities: the works come across with crystal clear delineation of structure, there’s precision and near-flawless execution in the performance, a lack of warmth, and nothing that reached me emotionally. In some music that’s exactly what’s called for. In others, not so much.

      I noticed online that Maestra Malkki is going to be performing Bruckner’s 4th somewhere in the near future. My honest reaction when I saw that: Can one think of a greater mismatch between conductor and composer?

      May she prove me wrong.

  • Oliver says:

    The title could just be “Most boring conductor ever”. She is as empty as her answers.

  • Hugo Preuß says:

    Would you prefer her to make up a story about a non-existing beloved pet, or invent an early important mentor? Blame the interviewer, not the answers.

  • J says:

    She is actually quite interesting. So a shame this. Worked with her in around 2009 and she was not so good. She’s evolved tremendously and how great how she is thriving musically and professionally now! I know no one who does not respect her.

  • Dietmar says:

    Norman really does not seem to like women conductors. Anything negative he can say, he will say it. Negativity is not very exciting but it does get some traction which he direly needs. Nothing with somebody just being normal. Her work speaks for her. What is you work saying about you, Norman?

  • Rob Keeley says:

    She’s a conductor, and a very fine one – why is it assumed that she’d have as much a flair for words as for conducting? Such interviews are pointless. Good for her.

  • ML says:

    How is telling the truth colourless? Would you prefer her to lie?

    The fact that she couldn’t get a mentor (so you conclude it must be tougher for her in some ways) or wasn’t allowed a pet is already interesting in terms of the reasons she has given.

    “How fit are you” is such a stupid question. She doesn’t look overweight and she doesn’t post endless photos of herself jogging or going for lengthy runs like some celebrities do. So we already know she is at neither extreme, but if she were, it’s none of anybody’s business.

  • Madeleine Richardson says:

    It is certainly a truthful interview with no fantasy just to entertain the readers. Obviously her career is exciting enough for her without embellishment.

  • Mike Jordan says:

    One of the most overrated and disappoint conductors out there. Her Rex at the Met was a disaster. I really want to see more women conductors but she’s not at the level that she’s being presented as

    • music lover says:

      She is great,i played several times under her baton.The MET orchestra players i know were highly appreciative of her work,same as theLAPO and NYPO members i am friends with…Same with BR,HR and NDR in Germany.

  • Fred Funk says:

    Viola players with Tinder accounts….
    Wrap that rascal…..

  • leo grinhauz says:

    Perfect. A musical director for the 22nd century. Piss off nobody. Say nothing. Smile, and accept a minimum wage. And, please; no white willies.

  • Donna Pasquale says:

    Oddly I agree. It was really dull.

  • Miv Tucker says:

    I’m not surprised she didn’t say much.
    Talk about inept questioning: I’m only surprised the FT didn’t ask what her favourite colour was.
    It reminds me of a Woman’s Hour* interview some years ago with Emma Kirkby, where they almost completely avoided asking her about music.

    *A long-running BBC soap opera.