I like a good conductor (the orchestral kind not the bus). Since I was kid I’ve been faced with many conductors. They’re all different, and yet, they have a lot in common. Here are the classic features:
An expressive face – they can yell at you in practise, but during performances, it’s all in the face. The glare, the snarl, the pleased and the delighted.
Knowledgeable – they have to know more than you do about the music and not appear arrogant about it. You want to come away feeling educated. That includes all the variety of instruments. There is nothing worse than a conductor who knows only the instrument they trained on. They spent the entire time addressing just that part of the orchestra and ignore everyone else.
Passionate – they have to love it. Love the music. Strive for perfection.
Leaders – not as in managers (the Leader of the orchestra does that). The moment they are on the podium, it is silence, attentive faces and no mucking about. (Yep, we muck about like kids, wrong music, sucking on sweets, reading books….) A good conductor will hold your attention.
Sadistic bastards – oh yeah, they like to humiliate (not all conductors) but some do and revel in it. During rehearsals verbal humiliating anyone who isn’t giving them their full attention, who doesn’t give their all, who clearly has not practised. I’ve heard all kind of things yelled at a bunch of hardworking musicians. “You’re playing like marmalade!!!” yelled at an orchestra, who in my opinion sounded perfect.
Worse is the pointing the baton at the offending individual. “You’re flat.”, “You’re early.”, “You’re too loud.” on and on. As a kid in one band, I dreaded one conductor who had a habit of pinning down a section and making them play individually, just to check up on them. The terror of being singled out. You can bet I practised for him – humiliation does make you keen.
Of course not all are great. Some have temper tantrums – walk off and go for a stomp outside. Others have their fetishes – the one who has to hear everything fast, “nothing is slow!” he would yell. The one who only liked French Horns….
What makes a great one? They’re appreciate your efforts and show humility back. I was once fortunate enough to see the great Yehudie Menuhin conduct at a concert. A renown violinist, in his later years he would conduct as a guest. We had the chance to see him from the choir seats (sat behind the orchestra and facing him) rather from the auditorium. He wasn’t one who put a lot of effort into what he did, very subtle and gentle. At the end of every movement he would smile at the orchestra (a national youth one), put his hand on his heart and give a tiny bow. It was so touching. If I was in that orchestra I would have done anything for him.
A good conductor is hard to come by. A rarity.
Stefan, the conductor in my book Perfect Notes, is quite delicious, not mad or scary, in control absolutely and his talents are appreciated. Do they extend beyond the baton to other areas?
Callie is all he desires—the tonic for his dominance. But to fulfill their dreams, she must succumb to his passions.
Amateur clarinetist Callie turns up for an orchestra rehearsal following a six-week absence to find a new conductor in residence—Stefan, a charismatic man with ambitions of being a composer. After he gives her a lift home, he invites her to his house for a practice session. What begins as a music lesson ends with a passionate display of dominance by Stefan.
As their sexual affair blossoms, Callie is increasingly drawn to find out more about her aspiring composer and why he is a potent lover in the bedroom. When she turns up unexpectedly at his house, she is shocked to find him in the company of a naked woman. Horrified to think that he might have betrayed her, she calls an end to their relationship, but persistent Stefan begs for a second chance.
Encouraged by her boss to resolve her feelings toward Stefan, Callie seeks out a friend of his, hoping to understand what drives him to dominate, but the given explanation creates more unresolved issues for Callie. Determined to seek out the truth, she plans to confront Stefan. But by then, he has gone abroad. Callie must make a decision—cash in her savings and follow Stefan, or banish him from her life. If she does the latter, she will never understand the nature of the intense emotions he has awakened within her. Does she dare to love him?