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Orests Silabriedis. Photo from the personal archive

Orests Silabriedis: On Age in Music 0

Orests Silabriedis, music journalist


She is still too young to understand the depths of this piece of music. And he isn’t mature enough to completely discover the content of this symphony. Mahler? At this age? What are you thinking? He still has to grow and grow... These judgments have a basis, and at the same time they don’t. For some reason I get the impression that age is discussed more in music than in the other arts, both when discussing composers and musicians.

The tendency in the world is to encourage the young. The marketing strategy is to create a star, to squeeze from it much light as possible, and then to abandon it if the star wasn’t sensible enough to set forth its own conditions to guard against burning out too early. There are musicians who perform about one hundred and fifty concerts a year. As the violinist Sergey Hachatryan once said, that’s just flying on autopilot. About fifty concerts a year would be normal, yet that’s possible only if the agency takes into account you and your desires not to become just a cog in the music business. If this wisdom were dependent just on the experience of a certain age, not on a person’s character and education, then there would only be young musicians in the world, because everyone would end their career at thirty years of age, completely burned out.

In Latvia (at least in the professional environment) a certain constraint can still be observed toward young musicians. On the one hand, this is understandable, because a young person’s self-awareness is not always linked to their ability to critically evaluate their achievements. On the other hand, it’s slightly strange to believe a priori that a certain age must be reached in order to play, for example, Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto or to conduct Mahler’s symphonies. Well, we shall see, we shall see if Andris Nelsons is ready for Wagner—that’s what a certain smartypants said a few years ago. Nelsons was ready for Wagner from the moment he began to conduct. This readiness depends on the ability to think in larger or smaller dimensions, and this can’t be learned. The same holds true for Mahler: a conductor must have the skills of an architect, not necessarily be born a Jew with signs of Weltschmerz and a tragic childhood, where the tavern’s accordion blended in a single chord with the eternal arguments of the young composer’s parents. Or with Tchaikovsky—if you don’t like young boys, then you can’t understand his tragedy. Absurd.