The Magic of The Performance



David Jean-Baptiste In Conversation with Anton Weinberg

Anton Weinberg a student of Hans Keller has held international professorships of music at Indiana University, professor of clarinet at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London’s Barbican Centre, a professor in the new Gulbenkian and Leverhulme Trusts, and a member of the faculty for the government-sponsored National Youth Orchestra of Spain.

He has been a professor at Darlington International Summer School under the directorship of Peter Maxwell Davies, a faculty member at the National Centre of Orchestral Studies in New York, and a visiting professor at the Conservatories of Peking and Shanghai, where he gave lectures as part of the first Anglo/American cultural visits. He is also an authority on the sociology and psychology of music.

Anton’s book ‘Unfinished Sentences,’ with a preface from Lord Menuhin, stands as a testament to mastery.

‘Brilliant concepts, I recommend Anton Weinberg as a marvellous musician, interpreter, teacher and thinker’. (Lord Menuhin)

‘The most versatile of us all, he can be regarded as an expert in so many different fields. In addition he is unusually articulate revealing matters which many of us can only hope to demonstrate’. (Jack Brymer O.B.E)

I met with Anton one early autumnal evening in Paddington station, over a coffee to discover what light this man may be able to shine on mindset in relation to performing. Naturally I have my own practical techniques on this. Other than the obvious one of visualizing a perfect performance, I approached the meeting with one main question…What can a performer do mentally in preparation for a performance, to increase the likelihood of giving the audience a wow! Moment…a moment of magic?

A moment of magic can best be described as a point in time where thoughts disappear and the viewer is suddenly in another world.

Performing to an audience as I see it is a multi-directional wave of consciousness connecting everyone in the room. A connection comprised of sounds, bodily sensations and impressions. The performer creates a moment of magic when in such a state of complete flow that they draw the audience into a moment of total awareness.

Anton agreed, adding that a performance mindset that creates magic is totally instinctive, and the essence of art is interaction. He talked of Andres Segovia and how he would take a passage or phrase of music and interpret it in thirty different ways in preparation. This was certainly an ah ha moment and struck a chord with me.

He spoke of cellist Rostropovich and Sting how they can summon these great musical moments with a jazz like improvisatory flair. How Katya Labeque plays chords so improvisatory, formal and simple with an unexpected quality; as Beethoven and Bach used to improvise at parties.

Anton told stories from the lives of actors and comedians Sid James, Morecombe and Wise, and Tony Hancock; stories of situations that created moments of magic in comical genius. He talked of Pushkin http://rosiamar.nm.ru/ruslan.html and that audiences in all forms of art seek these moments of magic be it literature, dance or visual art.

Indeed I thought, these special moments have the power to enlighten people and change the course of their lives.

“The instrument is just a vehicle, sense the audience, feel the corporate character of the audience,” he said. “It is something you can’t really prepare for, in fact too much preparation can be counter productive. When Leopold Stokowski the British born conducter conducted, if there was a fidgety audience he would play quieter and slower. Dynamics in the music have nothing to do with volume and everything to do with character. A silent whisper can be infinitely more potent than an outburst. Maintain a positive mindset question everything and believe nothing.”

In my mind it had been a very satisfactory meeting, as Anton had totally over delivered on my question. Leaving me plenty to think about and had created ample growing room for me to improve on my own performance.

We both agreed that performance is where the money is, as these days what is expected of the top players has become homogeneous in terms of sound, technique and musicality. Now unlike the past it is becoming harder to tell one top player from the other on recordings.

“Everyone is a genius but if you end up measuring a fishes ability by his ability to climb trees he’ll end up thinking he’s stupid” (Einstein)

So to summarise, to harness the power to create moments of magic do everything to play with increasing awareness and never over prepare. Ask yourself often, how can I create a moment in the now? Knowing in your ability to do this. The more we think of our own individual abilities to create magical moments, the stronger these thoughts will become and the more often they will happen.

Have Fun David

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© The Wellness Clarinet Ltd 2012





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