Chetana Nagavajara

This is the beginning of the end. You can be a genius, but there are PHYSICAL LIMITS to what you can do. A young conductor need to master a repertoire, to have time to learn new works, get to know them well through deep reflection, analysis and above all repeated performances under different conditions. The way Nelsons conducted Mahler VI in Berlin last week demonstrated his immense (raw) energy, but it could not match Barbirolli’s or Abbado’s in terms of the profundity of interpretation. He substituted that with physical acrobatics, and in that sportive art he never came near to Simon Rattle who is always very elegant. I am beginning to get superstitious. Both Rattle and Nelsons grew “out of” the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and Rattle never regained the blissful spontaneity that marked the golden days he spent his Birmingham. But there have been no disasters in Berlin: he concentrates on this ONE orchestra. I have a hunch that he will do very well when he takes over the London Symphony: there is some affinity between them.

In the case of Nelsons, what, after Birmingham? Nothing spectacular has happened yet with the Bostonians. Nelsons is too ambitious. At 36 he is behaving like Daniel Barenboim. But don’t forget: Barenboim groomed himself into one of the world’s leading pianists, and even today at 72, if he has time to practise, he is still in the forefront as a pianist. If you have an instrument to fall back on, you never will be completely lost as a musician. With an orchestra, you make other people play for you. The orchestra can be a treacherous instrument. If he is continuing the mode of conducting that I witnessed last week in Berlin, the publicity conglomerates will have to work very hard to manipulate positive criticism and blockade adverse criticism. They can’t oppose me, I am nobody, just a music lover, and only a dozen “friends” read me (in English). Besides, our Website is a space where freedom reigns supreme.