Thursday, July 24, 2008

First Time

I gave the downbeat and nothing happened. It was my first time conducting the New York Philharmonic and so far the concert had been going well, but the Stravinsky wouldn't start. I could hear it in my head. What was I doing wrong? The musicians looked at me blankly. Did I have the tempo wrong? I gave them a measure. Was it in three? I spoke to the concertmaster. It's just a technical problem, I said. What is the trick? Let me see your score. His score was not the music but many pages of handwritten words. None of the eight musicians had a score. Ah, you've played it before, you know it. Just play it then. The audience wants to hear it. I was reduced to pleading. They didn't even pick up their instruments. One of them, an oboist, was standing in their midst with a strange expression. Something is happening, he said. I can't see.

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