by Anton Wills-Eve

<a href=””>Practice Makes Perfect?</a>

I wish I could conduct as well as I play the piano.




I stand to attention, bow, and hitch my cummerbund into position before slowly descending the steps to the hall floor, and then up again onto the conductor’s rostrum.

“Tap, tap, tap.” I look round the orchestra and raise an eyebrow at the third violins. They are sitting askew. Creates such a bad and disconnected impression. But they know this and I am left inwardly fuming but helpless.

“Tap,tap,tap, tap. We’re off. Da Da Da Dum!” The leading cellist quietly whispers,

“Oh God. Beethoven’s fifth! We could all play this with our eyes shut and certainly don’t need any help from that idiot with the stick. He wouldn’t know his Mozart from his Mendelsohn. Just look at the pompous show off. What the hell he thinks that last twirl was meant to tell us to do I don’t know. Heaven only knows!” The pretty little Chinese viola player cannot hide her smile or contain her reply.

“Oh Gregor! Look his cummerbund has cummadrift, at the side. Some of the audience can just see and are tittering.”  The first movement, which is largely a series of variations on the same four notes, was  the first major work produced by Ludwig when he was going deaf as he composed it. It gives the conductor great scope to diversify.

Well, this is what I told the orchestra at rehearsals and a lot of them, I assumed, murmered agreement. I was told later that what actually happened was a hilarious conversation between the bassoonists which went like this, lst bassoon:

“It’s the twit with the baton who’s going deaf! My score includes five bars here which he seems to have overlooked completely.”

“Never mind”, says the second bassoon,” the rest of us know this so well we have just carried on and inserted it. The old idiot hasn’t even noticed.”

I fear that the mutterings among the players continued throughout the work but nobody minded. We were famous for our interpretation of the symphony and the audience didn’t notice at all. Mind you, this was probably also because half of them were asleep and the rest bored stiff. The concert was in Helsinki and they assumed my reading of the score was brilliant, modern and way beyond their comprehension. It was certainly way beyond mind!

The wild applause at the end gave me the chance to ask the players to take a standing ovation and bowed often enough to show that I thought they were applauding me. Indeed the crescendo of sound reached such a pitch it woke me up and I made my way over to the piano, a musical instrument I had mastered. But as I began practising Liszt’s sixth Hungarian rahpsody I started to wonder why it was so much more difficult to produce beautiful music with just one piece of wood in one hand, instead of a using a whole range of black and white keys, two pedals and all ten fingers?!