Rupert Christiansen

‘Play Better!’

Music as Alchemy: Journeys with Great Conductors and their Orchestras

By

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During one of her summer holidays in Salzburg, Margaret Thatcher spent a day with Herbert von Karajan. The Prime Minister got on famously with the supremo of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Leading a government and conducting an orchestra confronted them with many of the same daily quandaries. According to Richard Osborne’s biography of Karajan, what Thatcher specifically wanted to know was how a conductor creates a sense of ensemble in an orchestra and then controls it: through force of will or through persuasion?

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