The maestros' magic, in their own words

They can move audiences to tears with their inspirational performances, but few can put their finger on that indefinable something that marks out a great conductor.

Indeed, the maestros themselves are sometimes reluctant to even try, preferring instead for their music to speak for them.

At this month's Enescu music festival in Bucharest, however, three famous conductors, Daniel Barenboim, Lawrence Foster and Tiberiu Soare, agreed to explain what they considered to be the essence of their craft.

"Music is something that can unite the thoughts, the feelings and the temper, or, in other words, the head, the heart and the stomach. This is what I try to reach when I conduct," Barenboim told AFP ahead of a series of concerts in Bucharest with the Berlin Staatskapelle orchestra.

Born in Argentina in 1942 to Jewish parents, Barenboim was hailed as a "phenomenon" at the age of 11 by the legendary German conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler.

Since then he has conducted leading European and American symphony orchestras and set up the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra bringing together musicians from all over the Middle East.

"Music is the result of a connection between various elements," he said.

But to get there, you have to "think", he added, rejecting the idea of simply "rehearsing mechanically for many hours."

"For example, if you have a crescendo, it is not sufficient to play louder, you have to know how much and how far you will go," he said.

Romanian Soare, conductor at the National Opera in Bucharest, said he shared Barenboim's ideas.

"To interpret well, you cannot only execute, you have to be able to make imaginary connections" between the various elements of a work, said the 34-year-old conductor whose career highlights include conducting the London Philharmonic orchestra with Romanian opera singer Angela Gheorghiu.

He also stressed the importance of studying the political and social context of a work in order "to convey the letter and the spirit" of the music.

Once all the elements are linked, "this gives an extraordinary feeling of achievement. It is a moment of grace, when you feel like flying," he said.

US conductor Foster, who was musical director of the San Francisco Ballet at the tender age of 19, said he believed it was "important to understand why composers wrote what they did in the manner they did because music is a constant dialogue.

"I feel I understand better, approaching 70, how this dialogue works," he told AFP before conducting the Lisbon-based Gulbenkian orchestra.

"If I can somehow convey the emotional and architectural intent of the composer, I did a good work," he added.

Foster disliked piano lessons when he was a child but was influenced by an older student with whom he played chess.

"He loved classical music, I looked up to him and I thought if he likes classical music, then it is OK."

The revelation that he wanted to be a conductor came when he was 12 and saw the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra for the first time.

"I was so impressed by the idea of 100 musicians making this sound together," he said.

Each of the three conductors has his own method of preparing for a concert.

Soare said he liked to smoke and play Bach or Mozart on the piano, while Foster preferred to rehearse in the morning and then eat some pasta and sleep.

"I eat if I am hungry, sleep if I am tired", said Barenboim, adding though that he always refrained from smoking his beloved cigars until after a concert.

All three remain driven to constantly improve their performance and admit that even they have off days.

"I did bad concerts but I always learned something," said Bareneboim, while Foster stressed that being completely satisfied with a performance would rob him of the will to achieve greater heights.

"We cannot have exceptional moments at every concert but our duty is to try and create these moments every time we conduct," added Soare.

The Enescu music festival runs until Sunday. www.festivalenescu.ro

Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'