A Chat with Valery Gergiev – March 12, 2009

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One of the wonders of the new digital age is the ability to have live interactive events that are shared by individuals and organizations scattered throughout the world.  I first experienced ‘Internet-2‘ two years ago during the Steve Reich 70th birthday year in which I actually had a brief long-distance conversation with Steve – I was at the Eastman School and he was in London, England.  Our conversation was shared live in real-time over the internet with other participating music schools in the U.K. and U.S.A.  Very COOL!

So I was prepared this time to have another interesting live Internet-2 experience with the internationally acclaimed conductor, Valery Gergiev.  The Eastman School’s participation in this event took place today (March 12, 2009 at 12:00 noon EST) and was organized by ESM’s Director of Technology, Helen Smith.

As we hooked-up online with the other video participants in the U.K., including the  London Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Northern College (Manchester), and Cambridge University, Gergiev was already speaking in general terms about conducting.  About 15-minutes into our linkup the moderator in London – the principal flutist with the LSO – requested a question for the maestro from Rochester, New York.  I leaped up to our microphone in front of our digital camera and began: “Maestro, would you please comment on your experiences in dealing with the tension between audience/critics/musicians expectations [conventional interpretations] and any of your own original (non-conventional) ideas performed in a work from the standard classical repertoire; how did you go ‘over the line’ and what was the reaction?”

I’m not sure whether or not Gergiev was seeing me on his screen, but I’m sure he heard my question, because I could hear my own voice coming back at me from the London monitor with about a 2-second delay.

His rather lengthy response was wonderful.  In summary, here are some Gergiev bullets:

1) “I don’t worry about critics.”;  “I do care about audiences.”

2) “There is always a lot or risk-taking in a performance; I don’t know – and the orchestra doesn’t know – what exactly is going to happen.”

3) “The musicians must see the conductor as one of them.  A conductor must be a good ‘people person.'”

4) “If a performance is boring, it’s the conductor’s fault, not the musicians’.”

5) “There must be ‘magic.’. A performance without at least one or two moments of magic is a failure.’

What a world, in which a measly percussionist sitting in front of a digital projector, a digital camera, and a microphone in a classroom in snowy western New York can speak directly with one of the world’s most respected and in-demand maestros half a world away in one of Europe’s major music centers – London . . . Awesome!

 

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