An exuberant, uniquely accessible look inside the enigmatic art and craft of conducting, from a celebrated conductor whose international career has spanned half a century.
John Mauceri brings a lifetime of experience to bear in an unprecedented, hugely informative, consistently entertaining exploration of his profession, rich with anecdotes from decades of working alongside the greatest names of the music world. With candor and humor, Mauceri makes clear that conducting is itself a composition: of legacy and tradition, techniques handed down from master to apprentice - and more than a trace of ineffable magic.
He reveals how conductors approach a piece of music (a calculated combination of personal interpretation, imagination, and insight into the composer's intent); what it takes to communicate solely through gesture, with sometimes hundreds of performers at once; and the occasionally glamorous, often challenging life of the itinerant maestro. Mauceri, who worked closely with Leonard Bernstein for 18 years, studied with Leopold Stokowski, and was on the faculty of Yale University for 15 years, is the perfect guide to the allure and theater, passion and drudgery, rivalries and relationships of the conducting life.
I felt like I was at a dinner party listening to the author talk about random things in the conducting and music world. He didn’t go into enough depth or detail about specific things - just snippets about this and that. It was hard to stay interested. He should have coauthored with a writer or journalist to make it more engaging.
For example he mentioned the conductor Muti a couple times, but he didn’t say anything meaningful about Muti. Was Muti good or not good, and why? Tell me something interesting about Muti. And the same with other conductors, give me some opinions.
The author briefly mentioned that Petrillo in Chicago was a key figure behind unionizing musicians. Petrillo claimed recorded music took jobs away from musicians. Petrillo was also against something about small musician groups. I was confused. I wanted to know more about Petrillo - how were things before and after him, but it was just sort of mentioned in passing.
Slightly annoying was the way the author frequently said “I was asked to conduct ...” It felt egotistical. I would have preferred hearing him say “I conducted ...”
ONE THING I REALLY LIKED AND I LEARNED SOMETHING:
I was interested in the following comment about Maria Callas. The author was giving his opinion and judgment. I wish he did more of that on other subjects.
“Anyone who attended the farewell performances of Maria Callas in recital with tenor Giuseppe Di Stefano will know precisely what I mean. By 1974 Callas was barely Callas - her voice having shrunk in size, her vibrato having curdled into a wobble in its upper register, and her sound clouded and covered. But every now and then something happened, a fiery flash in her eyes, a gesture of vulnerability, a perfectly turned phrase, and memories were awakened of when she was great and members of the audience were young. Respect, sadness, mortality, curiosity and a desire to stop inevitability, fueled the public’s emotions during the performances and buoyed them and Callas through each evening. It occasionally felt as if the audience were giving her the strength to carry on, and probably it did.”
The author narrated his own book. He was good as a narrator.
Book copyright: 2017. Genre: nonfiction, memoir.
5 of 6 people found this review helpful