The Best Seat in the House

I am often asked why I love conducting so much. They ask me why I have chosen to focus more on conducting and less and less on playing the French horn, and if it has anything to do with being more in control. A lot of people seem to think than most conductors like to feel the power of being on the podium (as if the batons had suddenly become more of a magic wand…), or that they chose to do conducting because they often did not achieve a high level with their instruments or their craft in composition. I could spend hours arguing back and forth with people about the reasons why a part of me has always wanted to conduct (my friends say I used to dream of conducting the New Year´s concert in Vienna from when I was very little). But instead of arguing, I often just answer: “Because it is the best seat in the House!”

I must admit that I have experienced that magical moment of complete musical joy sitting in the audience many times, and also many times while sitting in the horn section as a player. I will never forget the goose bumps I got playing Bruckner 8 at the RCM Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall with Maestro Haitink, or when I played a concert with the American Youth Symphony and John Williams (one of my childhood idols) in the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion in Los Angeles. I also will never forget the concert I attended a couple of weeks ago in Vienna, when conductor Jonathan Nott and the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra brought tears to my eyes after performing Mahler´s Symphony No. 2 in the majestic Musikverein of Vienna. Undoubtedly they are all experiences I will never forget!

When I conduct though, I feel that same excitement but in a complete different way. Suddenly, in those moments when the music gets exciting, you find yourself surrounded by all those other musicians in front of you who are sharing that moment. You do not feel alone on stage, the process becomes all of a sudden a shared experience. It is the collaborative effort of everyone together which creates those great moments. After the concert at the Musikverein I thought long about what it was about that concert that was so special to me. Listening to a concert in one of the best venues for classical music could have explained it. Listening to one of the best youth orchestras of the world and seeing one of the best conductors I have ever seen could also have explained it. But I do believe that it was that connection between the conductor and all of those talented musicians what brought the best possible performance forward. It was that trust between performer and conductor that made everyone in the audience feel at ease and enjoy the great concert they offered. In that moment, that podium must have truly felt like the best seat in the house.

Having those kinds of experiences on a regular basis is something to really aspire to. As a conductor I do not only get to experience the end result, but I experience the process in a very rewarding way. From studying the scores or work with the composers if they are still alive, to working with an orchestra and all of those talented musicians towards a performance and finally getting on stage and sharing that work with the audience, the whole process becomes a real treat. It is a process I look forward to every day, because no matter what part of the process I am immersed in, it always feels like the best seat in the house!