I used to watch conductors leading their orchestras and think, what's the big deal? I could do that. Anyone with an impeccable sense of rhythm could do that.
Then I started reading translations of Russian novels.
I've read several Dostoyevsky and I'm very nearly finished Tolstoy's "War and Peace".
I quickly came to the conclusion that all translations are not created equal.
The translation of Dostoyevsky's "The Idiot" that I read was wonderful. Likewise "Crime and Punishment".
Then I tried "The Brothers Karamazov". I got bogged down less than half way through it. The language was murky and thick as pea soup.
I put it aside.
Thinking about this- the crucial role of a translator- made me think about music.
(It was a long, windy road, going from Russian literature translators to music, but get there, I did.)
I thought- the translator takes what someone has written, and has to make it accessible to another audience. He has to understand it, and interpret it preserving the integrity of the original thought or concept.
This is what a conductor does.
Mozart or Beethoven or Brahms... anyone with a quill and a sheet of parchment and a symphony in their head- took what they heard and wrote it down.
The conductor must understand and interpret what the composer wrote, preserving the integrity of the piece. He has to have a heart for what the composer was trying to say, and to communicate this to the musicians, drawing out of them his interpretation of the original thought or concept, so that they in turn can communicate these musical thoughts to the listening audience.
What a joy to have the gift of interpretation- to be able to see, hear and feel what another artist has conceived of and to make it accessible to others.
War and Peace has been wonderful; funny, poignant, thought provoking and interesting. I do think, however, that Louise and Aylmer Maude's names should be on the front as big as Leo Tolstoy's, because their part in taking the original thoughts and concepts and interpreting them for a wider, English speaking audience is integral to said audience's ability to understand and enjoy Tolstoy's writing.
Let's hear it for THE INTERPRETERS. Those musical and literary geniuses that enable us to enjoy classic works of greatness.