Stuttgart. Captivation – a lesson from a busker

Good music attracts people by itself. Good music brings people together.

This was brought home to me late one evening last month when I was walking down Königstrasse in Stuttgart (I had come to hear rehearsals of the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra with Sir Roger Norrington).

To my surprise, although it was very cold and the street was all but deserted, I came across a busker sitting in the light of a display window, a classical guitarist playing his own compositions.


They were lovely. Lovely melodies, sensitively played. I retied my scarf against the cold and sat down on a bench. I was captivated. Soon, a small group of people had gathered – among them a roller-skater with dreadlocks, and a tired waitress who had stopped to put out her cigarette on her way home.

We stayed together, just listening, for more than twenty minutes. Then when we parted we shook hands with the busker, and we gave each other little nods of recognition. And I think we all felt that the evening was better for our time together.

I want the same thing to happen for all my performances. Music should captivate people. This may seem like an obvious point – but it is easy to forget among all the other details of making music with an orchestra.

And I will judge the concerts I see by the same standard. Of course, in a concert hall we have bought a ticket, it is warm and dry and we have cushioned seats – so we have plenty of incentive to stay! But we should be no less fascinated by the music than I was on that night in Stuttgart.

It seems to me that if a busker can draw together a group of strangers on a cold night, and can keep us all listening by the quality of his playing, then a conductor should achieve no less in a performance with orchestra.

(Sorry about the delay between posts – I have been travelling. I will make it up to you in the months to come.)

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