Last Friday evening we found ourselves at Davies Symphony Hall, for a performance of Scheherazade conducted by Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos.
One humorous moment occurred early, when de Burgos became so passionate in his conducting that the baton escaped his hand and shot (at short distance) across the stage. Until a pause in the music his hands flailed wildly, baton-less. A more regular dose of humor occurred at each pause in the music, as all the audience members who were repressing coughs let forth a cacophony before the music resumed.
While watching de Burgos, I recalled my puzzlement at the role of the conductor when I was a kid playing the violin. Isn't everything people need to know in the sheet music right in front of them? This isn't even a play, where memorization is required. The music's right there! The conductor seemed to be vestigial, there as part of the show but not in charge of the performance.
How untrue! Now, from my own experience "conducting" teams, I know how vital the conductor is. If the baton flags the energy wanes. And if the baton is lively the orchestra's on fire. This may seem illogical, and in a way it is. But there's an invisible thread connecting the energies of the leader and the followers. The goal is always to harness that energy wisely and with humility.