Wisdom for Young Conductors
from a 2002 BBC interview with
Mark Wigglesworth
a young British conductor



Conductors mature at different speeds and ages.

I may take it differently in some respects [on replacing Bernard Haitink at Covent Garden], but I haven't started rehearsals with the orchestra yet, and you can't make decisions until that's happening. When you study a score, you learn the options: the decisions come when you find out what the performers have to offer.

Conducting can't be a simple matter of an individual asserting authority over an orchestra. People don't like being told what to do. I once worked with an orchestra which instantly did everything I asked, and I've never been so bored in my life.

You have to be clear about what you want, but you also have to be ready to change your mind, and ready to admit a mistake.

Colin Davis once gave me an image which sums it up beautifully - holding a bird in your hand. If you hold it too loosely, it will fly away; if you hold it to tightly, it won't sing. With an orchestra, you are operating somewhere between the two.

I like planning series of concerts, and you only get to do that if you're the music director. That position also has the liberating feeling of being allowed bad days as well as good ones - you're not judged purely by your last perforfmance, as you are if you're only there for a one-time engagement.

(edited by David Van Alstyne)
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