His declared intention is to be an egoless conductor, a seemingly implausible goal in a profession not known for self-effacement, and perhaps an undesirable one. Orchestral players like and need strong leadership. How do you lead without a sense of self?
You do it, Mr. Davis said, as we shared a sofa in his handsome but not lavishly appointed Georgian terrace house in London, by sharing the performance rather than imposing it. “What players want,” he said, “is to feel they can play well: not told what to do, but offered possibilities.”
When I suggested that he was making it sound like social work, he disagreed.
“There’s nothing cozy about this,” he said. “They’re on that platform clinging to their chairs with tension, on a knife edge. And it’s certainly not about making everyone your friend. It’s about giving players the freedom to concentrate on what matters, which isn’t me with the baton. I’m of no account. It’s the music.”
Watching Mr. Davis in rehearsal is to see his argument in action. Quiet, benign, his gestures small but eloquent, he barely talks except about the music. When things go awry, no matter who is responsible, he smiles and asks, “If I could just try that again?”
– Michael White’s article on conductor Colin Davis, “A Maestro Reflects on a Life of Batons and Knitting Needles,” NYT.
Addendum: you may deduce, correctly, from this article’s presence on this blog and no “Via ArtsJournal” or other such citation, that I have caved and paid for an NYT.com electronic-only subscription. God, it’s good to be able to read the entire Arts section again. I don’t know how I held out this long.