I'd like to give my last performance in heaven: Charles Dutoit

Sunday, 22 September 2013 - 8:41am IST | Agency: dna

One of world's most sought after music conductors, Swiss-born Charles Dutoit conducted the Symphony Orchestra of India to a packed auditorium at NCPA on Friday and Saturday. Yoshita Sengupta got an exclusive chance to watch the rehearsals and interview the reticent maestro.

At the age of 76, after being a music conductor for 47 years, travelling to 196 countries, rehearsing each day, giving thousands of concerts, where do you find the energy?
Well, it's the nature of my job. Why will a person not have energy? Don't you have energy?

On most days, post 6 pm, I personally don't have any energy left.
Oh, no. Why?

I am not sure why. Do you have any tips I could use to stay energetic?
Haha. I think it's got to do with the climate. Usually, when I work in a country like Singapore or India, I get soaked immediately. I guess the NCPA has a good air-conditioning system.

People have very high expectations when you're delivering a concert. Do you still feel the pressure. Do you still get nervous?
I've never been nervous, really. I was nervous only once in my life, when I was performing at the Vienna Opera. Otherwise, never. If you work everyday and you give 120 or 130 concerts a year and you're nervous to a point that you're sick, then you better change your profession. You can't really survive.

Conductors are usually asked what the audiences can expect at a concert, I want to know what you expect from the audiences?
It depends on where I am performing. Some audiences are better prepared to go to a concert than the others. They play a big role in the success of a concert. The participation of the audience is important. If they are not concentrating, or if they talk or look for bon bons, or if their phone rings, it’s difficult to concentrate. In my case the audience is behind me, so I can't see them. But I can feel them. If they are not concentrating then I can feel that too and the performance starts to get less interesting.

You take a keen interest in mentoring young performers. What is the advice you generally give them?
This is a Japanese question, just like your name. They always want a message.

I don't know, really. I don't know the young performers here. I don't know how prepared they are to listen and to play western classical music. But, my wish would be that music and art should become part of education.

People have to get used to western classical music. If you never go to a museum or an art gallery, how will you appreciate paintings? I wish slowly people will start visiting concerts. Interest in such music will be generated if it becomes part of the eduction system.

All the young performers are always on the go,  jet-setting to concerts, making their careers. Do you think they are burning themselves out too quickly?
The world has changed so much, 50 years ago people had so much time for other things. Now, the young people have iPads and all other gadgets. Anything they need to know is at their fingertips.

There is no effort to reach a certain degree of cultural education. I think you need to take a little effort. I am not against technology but just technology is not enough. And the young people are not the only ones responsible. The politics and education in schools need to drive them on  a certain path.

People say that the world hasn't seen great composers in the past century. Do you know any new composers who can live up?
Oh, yes. In America you have a lot of fantastic composers with a new style. The new composers are fortunate because they are closer to the public than composers could be 50 years ago. After the war there were moments of nihilism in philosophy. People did not believe in their own background because the civilisation led them to a chaotic situation. I talk about philosophy as it includes arts and music as well. They didn't believe in anything so they decided to erase everything and build something completely new.

In my view it was  artificial.

What did you think of the Zubin Mehta concert in Kashmir? Do you think there is a match between politics and music?
I don’t know how the concert was because I didn’t hear it. I know the problems in Kashmir, between India and Pakistan. I have been to Kashmir. I have been on both sides of the border. To go there with anorchestra and to give a concert is great, its like going to North Korea to perform, which I have done. But, it really depends on the context, it's great if people appreciate it and want the concert to happen. Music is an international language and it can heal a lot of things. Politically, I am not sure if this concert can help, I hope it does but I am not sure it will.

In which city would you like to give your last performance?
Before I die?

No, before you retire.
Haha. In heaven. Come with me.

Gladly, sir.

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