11 Jun 2017

The last-minute maestro

From Standing Room Only, 2:25 pm on 11 June 2017

American conductor James Feddeck has a reputation for stepping onto the podium at the very last moment.

The New Yorker is heading our way soon to conduct the NZSO's Schumann & Barber tour.

James Feddeck

James Feddeck Photo: Terry Johnston

A guest conductor only gets to rehearse with the orchestra for a few days before a performance – a challenge Feddeck loves.

"Suddenly together we're charged with presenting this really thoughtful and emotional music … It's a bit of a mysterious thing."

The conductor's responsibility is to try and get the best out of everyone as quickly as possible, which means they must be strong leaders, he says.

"Because let's face it – the conductor has to make certain interpretive decisions that maybe not everyone on the stage would agree with.

"The most successful [conductors] are the ones who can really work with people and bring them together and make an environment where the musicians feel free to express themselves."

Before a concert, Feddeck walks around in the lobby of the concert hall.

"There's something about each day which is unique … The energy that the people bring when they come to a concert, we have to connect to that. That's what the spirit of live music is about."

The conductor and orchestra can tell when the audience is connecting, he says.

"We're all trained as performers to listen and to try and inspire people to listen to us and broaden their listening."

As a younger man, Feddeck says he had a personal crisis trying to choose just one instrument from the many he loved playing.

Conducting offered a way of avoiding this choice – he now works with all of them.

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