The Maestro Myth - Revised (Anglais) Broché – 1 février 2001
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Je venais de lire "au coeur de l'orchestre" de Ch. Merlin et "Maestro myth" a été un bon complément. J'ai des frissons dans le dos à la pensée que les chefs d'orchestre sont parfois (trop souvent!) aussi gourmands que nos banquiers voyous. Pas étonnant que la musique classique soit en danger et les salles difficiles à remplir. A la fin de son livre N. Lebrecht passe rapidement en revue les acteurs responsables de cette valse des millions et de l'étouffement progressif de la musique...et cela permet de placer la resposabilité du chef d'orchestre en perspective.
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The author begins his introduction with the interesting enough argument that conductors are often irrelevant, that the great ensembles are perfectly capable of playing without these star-figures, and that these are hired merely to attract bigger audiences. It is a fact that nowadays more people go see the performer rather than hear the piece and that music, like any other aspect of human endeavor, has its establishment, hermetic and frequently unfair.
Rather than expand and elaborate on this controversial point, he loses himself in gossip and a lot of ranting on how these conductors were horrible human beings. Anyone with a modicum of sense finds it perfectly plausible that a person of any talent need not be a saint. The fact that we expect this from politicians, for example, probably accounts for the average quality (or lack thereof) of our representatives, and is evidence of how little sense is to be found around these days.
In the course of this ranting the author states time and again how this orchestra played better under Mr. X's direction, and that one sounded different the moment Mr. Y mounted the podium, or that it was enough that Mr. Z looked at the group with his penetrating gaze for everybody to play their hearts out...
So-are conductors irrelevant or not? What is the point after all?
For I am not interested in the personal lives of actors, , painters, musicians or any entertainer, except insofar as particular circumstances influence work that I enjoy.
Well-written small talk, even pure invective, can be entertaining on its own level, but Lebrecht fails even in this. Other reviewers seem to find entertainment in his style, if not his substance. I do not share that view. Lebrecht piles tired cliche upon cliche, hack metaphor upon metaphor, and peppers the text with the kind of childish alliteration you read only in school essays and tabloid press. His imagery is frequently ugly and not a little suspect (CD buyers browsing in shops are apparently lined up like men standing at urinals).
One is left wondering what target audience Lebrecht had in mind: people interested in serious music? Hardly. People who enjoy empty celebrity biography? Unlikely. One is left with the impression that Lebrecht is writing for his own idle amusement, or apparently with envy that his own musical gifts seem to be in inverse proportion to his propensity to write gossip about the abilities of others. He is welcome to it. For the rest of us, there are finer, more penetrating, more cogently argued and simply better written books on conductors available.
I bought the book on a whim and became deeply entrenched in its pages within minutes (this is not to say that this reads like Clancy but it is very interesting). But the more I read the more frustrated I became at the mindless and senseless editing that was done here. For instance, on one page alone there are 3 different spellings of Mahler's name:
1: The correct way appears- Mahler
2: Then this- Maler
3: And finally this- Mabler
The latter really bowled me over. And the further I read the worse it became. There are also misrepresented facts (such as the stockyards in Chicago) throughout.
In short, if you are looking for scholarship and true presentations, look elsewhere. If you are interested in various interesting anecdotes and trivia-like facts about conductors and you dont mind sifting through misspellings and foreign words with no interpretation, then you will enjoy this book. But I must warn you...any book with a typo on its back cover (The Maesto Myth) may be more of a hassle than good informal reading.
The maestro myth must still be very powerfully alive if it tempts a supposed grownup to this extreme of incoherence.
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