Episode 2: How to transform the artistic fortunes of an orchestra

David
Welcome to the second edition of Transformation Talks. My name's David Lancefield. In this podcast, my aim is to explore the topic of transformation through the lens of a diverse group of people who've driven, lived through or studied transformation in their own ways.

I'm delighted, honoured and privileged to speak to Sir Mark Elder, one of the most prestigious musicians and conductors of our generation. He's the Music Director of the Hallé orchestra in Manchester, principal artist with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and guest conductor of some of the finest orchestras and opera houses from around the world. Welcome, Mark, and thank you for inviting us into your lovely home.

Mark
It's a pleasure, David.

David
Thank you. I invited you, Mark, if you like, or you invited me into your home, if you like, to share your wisdom and experience, because I know you've transformed many aspects of the art of music-making that I feel business leaders and leaders across all walks of life could learn from, whether that's the success and resurgence of the Hallé, improving the reach and accessibility of music and classical music, particularly to children, and also the interpretation of both classical and modern music and indeed the process of creating memorable moments in music-making. Those are the sorts of things which I know are very relevant to other leaders.

I guess just starting off, it's absolutely clear that you've turned around the creative and ultimately the commercial fortunes of the Hallé with a team, of course, over the last two decades. When you took over, what did you think needed to change and indeed where did you start?

Mark
At the end of last century, the end of the 1990s, the Hallé reached a period of uncertainty and delicacy about whether or not they had a future. It got to such a pitch that, as I understood it at the time, they were two weeks away from bankruptcy. This is very, very serious for any arts organisation to be so close to bankruptcy. But it was particularly important because the Hallé had for decades enjoyed a relationship not just with the community in the North West of this country but with music lovers all over the world.

After the Second World War, the Hallé Board invited John Barbirolli to come back from New York and reform the orchestra. The orchestra had basically foundered during the war. He did this amazingly successfully and he was doing concerts within six weeks of his arrival in Manchester.

He got the orchestra to a pitch of proficiency right at the time when long-playing records came around. Barbirolli recorded an enormous number of pieces of music just at the time when people were realising that to buy records and have your own collection of records was as an enjoyable thing as having your own collection of wine or your own collection of books.

Even now after all these years, it is extraordinary. Wherever I go in the world, whatever country it is, someone, very often many people, will say to me how much they loved the Hallé, because it was how they met music. It was how they first heard music. Either in a holiday they were taken to concerts all over the country, because Barbirolli quite rightly travelled. Or if they were abroad, they were sent long-playing records.

The idea of the Hallé being associated in people's minds with how can I learn to listen is very potent so that at the end of the 1990s, when the future of the orchestra was in serious jeopardy, many people felt that it was something that must not be allowed to happen. Fortunately for the Hallé, the leadership of Manchester as a city believed so too. They did their best to tide the orchestra over.

Now at that time, they needed a new Chief Executive and a new Music Director. It was the end of a previous regime as it were. We found an organisation that was timorous at best, was nervous about its future, whether or not it could have a future, whatever they were told. It's very hard when you're in a large organisation to believe, from the depths of the organisation, what the top people tell you about the financial state. You always assume, don't you, that there must be some immense amount of money that you're just not being told about?

David
Yes, there's a pot somewhere.

Mark
There's this pot. Well, I think the members of the Hallé did actually come to realise that there wasn't a pot and that things were very, very serious. One of the things that's made the Hallé a wonderful orchestra over the years is the idea that you would come and live in the North West and settle there and bring your family up. You would travel, of course, as much as orchestras do. You would still be based in Manchester. The feeling of community associated with this orchestra - and that's something that Barbirolli did during his period - is something that was part and parcel of people's attitude towards the orchestra.

It's called, strictly speaking, the Hallé Concerts Society. It was set up under that name. Of course, as many people know and many people don't know, it's called the Hallé after the man who founded it, who was a German who came to live in Manchester and founded an orchestra in the middle of the 19th century that was known as Mr Hallé's Band. When the concerts for which he was invited stopped, people said, well, you should keep this going, Mr Hallé. Don't let it fall. Nobody suggested it should be the Manchester Philharmonic. It was always called the Hallé Orchestra, Mr Hallé's Band.

That sense of identity was incredibly important. I had to make sure that we got this back, because obviously the music-loving people in the community - and the people who didn't love music but realised that the Hallé was part of the infrastructure of Manchester's greatness as a city - needed to feel that something was happening.

David
So important across music, society, community, in the UK, elsewhere. When you walked through your door knowing all of that, knowing the situation or the finances, the nervousness in the organisation, what was your first move? Did you know what you wanted to achieve or did you have to roll your sleeves up and start somewhere?

Mark
My first necessity was to get to know the orchestra by making music with them, because that was the kernel of what might grow, okay. I think it's fair to say that my predecessor was an immensely talented and clever man - and he's been immensely successful in the years since he was in Manchester - but that he didn't build up a very telling or deep relationship with the players. They didn't somehow get it together.

The business of bankruptcy and the fear of their future, it all seemed to come down to an orchestra I met that I'd known - because, of course, in the early '90s and the '80s, I'd worked with them with some enjoyment and I knew many of them. I found an orchestra that was nervous about playing with true emotion. I found an orchestra that was very competent but one that wouldn't put its heart on its sleeve. They would try and get away with the minimum emotional commitment.

I told them. I just mentioned it. Very difficult thing to do, but I thought to myself, I've got nothing to lose. They need to know something about me as a man and as a musician as quickly as possible.

I seem to remember that we were rehearsing Edward Elgar's Third Symphony, which is a very interesting project to do because it's off-beat. It's off-piste as we would say in our days. It's not a work that he finished. It's a work that only exists in sketches. Somebody brilliantly has made something of these sketches, but it's a piece that none of us knew. It was the Manchester premiere.

So they were all searching for it. I seem to remember that I felt it would be helpful to them and to us all to say, you play very well and I'm enjoying this very much. I must say it doesn't interest me. I don't feel that there's any commitment in the sound as if the sound remains as a museum piece, but it doesn't have your own heart in it. I think we need to be aware of that, because if people are going to come out on a wet November night to hear us, they want to know that it's going to be worth the journey. As everybody knows, there are certainly wet nights in November in Manchester.

It went very quiet. and I said, let's just try it from this place again and try and find the core of the music. Try and play with your imagination. Put your heart into the music so that it will affect the sound. I don't know what they all thought because, of course, orchestras are quite quiet. But it got better.

David
How did you feel saying that? Because in some ways - obviously you're an experienced conductor, but orchestras are full of highly talented, highly skilled - some might say they've got a number of egos. Even if they're quiet, they have strong opinions. How did it feel saying that? Was that something you felt that needed to be said or was it something you felt was a risk?

Mark
It was a risk, because I didn't know whether or not it would produce better results. It might have produced worse results. Perhaps it did for a time. Perhaps people felt discombobulated and unsure about what this was all going to lead to. But I just thought I should be direct. I wanted to develop their sound. I wanted to develop the product.

I knew from the discussions I'd had with people that the history of the orchestra over the previous 10 years had been very sensitive. It hadn't been good and that there were a number of things about the way the orchestra existed - like the money side of it, for instance. How much were they paid? It was really a question of bringing life back into everybody. It seemed to me that it needed to start with the sound.

The business of, since you mention it, egos is important to me, because in a way I was encouraging them to find their egos. That doesn't mean to say necessarily it was something negative but that it was their own reason for becoming musicians. Why are you a musician if you're content to sit back there and just tickle the notes and not play with the full passion and commitment? Because I said, that's what moves people.

We can all listen to a CD, but we know nowadays that it's possible to create CDs with buttons and all sorts of clever things. But nobody can create live performance unless it's the people themselves. There's no hiding. I said, why did we become musicians? To create an atmosphere of communication between us and the audience, that the audience feel that we're doing it for them. They're not voyeurs at some strange ritual.

David
Yes. Did you find you had to, if you like, nurture particular individuals within the orchestra? Because obviously there's the leader. There's head of sections. Or was it, as you say, just making music, trying to develop the sound? Because some leaders sometimes, as you say, just get, if you like, stuck in. They're just passionate about the craft, whatever the craft is in whatever field of life. Others say, well, I need - there's a critical few people who are either absolutely pivotal to the sound in this case or they could be the naysayers. Did you pick particular people to nurture or was it more let's create a great sound, let's [invest in] new repertoire and so forth?

Mark
Well, not all conductors are the same. I'm interested in the long haul, David. I'm interested in the long view. You put some burgundy down and you know you mustn't touch it. You've got to keep your hands off it. I'm interested to develop something over a long period of time. They didn't know that. They didn't know what was inside me.

Of course, I was interested in individuals. I'm interested in every member of the orchestra, because the way they are and the way they communicate with themselves and then with each other affects the way they communicate with me and the public. Yes, I was interested in the contribution of certain individual people, because an orchestra has certain voices that are more leading voices than the run of the mill. The rank and file, as we call them, of the string sections and the people down the line in the sections need to know that the senior voices are something that they can admire and respond to.

I think it's important to stress that one of the first people who ever talked to me about going to Manchester to do this job was the leader, Lyn Fletcher. She and I had worked together for quite a few years when she was one of Simon Rattle's leaders in Birmingham. She needed some fresh pastures. The chance to lead the Hallé was one she took enthusiastically several years before I came.

She knew the orchestra very well and she knew me very well. That has been a very significant part of my ability to change things in Manchester, because the leader is the person who needs to be able to read the conductor, to understand what he wants and how he goes about it and to build a relationship of trust and creativity together. We've got to the stage - well, we've been at it for several years - where if I make a mistake, she makes it with me, really.

David
In the journey, you talked about the long view. I guess in some ways, there must be tensions along the way around - and I may put this more crudely than I should but, if you like, the creative and the commercial. If you like, certain works that will fill concert halls versus perhaps some of the more modern works that may be, in some cases, more technically demanding in some cases, but actually the audiences don't come, at least initially.

As you were trying to build the sound, bring the emotion down to the orchestra in the way you've just described, how did you balance some of these challenges or trade-offs between, if you like, the creative and the commercial in the repertoire?

Mark
The need to develop the orchestra and give it confidence and prowess can only be achieved through the choice of the right repertoire, so my thoughts to begin with were what do I need to do with them to develop our relationship? Now this may have been pieces that I didn't know but that they should play.

You need to think, of course, will the programmes that we prepare appeal to the public? Every season is the result of building a balance between the familiar and the unfamiliar. You can't play the famous works all the time, because people will stop coming because they will say they've heard them. The tradition within orchestras is that you need to leave it for at least three years before you do it again.

I wanted the orchestra - and I said this to them very early on - to become the best orchestra in the world for playing English music. I thought it was perfectly possible that we could be this and become this, because my predecessor, Kent Nagano, he did a lot for English music. But his heart and his own talent was in other areas of the repertoire, which was fine. But it gave me the opportunity to take back something that Barbirolli did, 30 years earlier, so memorably.

For me, Elgar was at the front of this. Elgar is a very special composer, much, much more to me now after these 20 years than it was when I came. I've always loved his music, but there were some pieces that I hadn't done so much. I thought we should lay our - what do we say - lay out our store. My first concert as Music Director, we did the First Symphony of Elgar. That is a work that traditionally is very associated with the Hallé, because it gave the world premiere of it. But it was starting right in the centre of what I wanted to achieve at that time.

The music of Elgar, you see, is written really splendidly for a large Romantic symphony orchestra. He was a self-taught man. He was, in a sense, allied to the German tradition. By that, I mean he loved Wagner. He was very moved by Wagner. There was more than a whiff of Brahms in some of his early music. The connection is into Europe rather than into the Germanic lands, I mean, rather than into France or Italy. That enabled me, working on Elgar's music, to use his great scores to show the orchestra what we should be aspiring to.

So much of transformation, it seems to me, is about where is the bar? What are we actually achieving? Is it good enough? Is the bar where it should be? That's the role of the leader, artistically but also in administrative sense as well. My colleague and friend, John Summers, had to say, where is the bar?

All right. We started. I tried to show them that I didn't feel that they were aspiring enough, that the subtlety of their playing could be much more finely nuanced, that we could find many more colours and consequently more emotional life. Music can express all sorts of different things. As you can imagine, David, there are 110 ways to play the thought I love you. You can do it in anger. You can do it in tenderness. You can whisper it. You can shout it. My work with the orchestra was really opening their imaginations to how far we could go and not accepting routine. This is crucial.

David
That's really interesting. I see a lot of leaders in different walks of life who are very capable individuals, very driven, but actually a lot of their life is driven by a routine. They're finessing something where the bar is set at a certain level. Talking about that, at the same level as opposed to pushing the boundaries or being more ambitious, how do you lift your own bar? Thinking about you personally, how do you maintain your own zest, curiosity, passions? Whether it's working with the same orchestra like the Hallé or when you guest conduct other orchestras, how do you keep pushing the bar up?

Mark
There are many, many responses to that. The first primary one is with me talking to me and how I study and how I prepare myself for these different projects. The simple answer to your question is keep brave, because in making music there has to be a sense of risk. There has to be a sense of taking a leap into the unknown. One of the things that has always appealed to me about having my own musical organisation - and I felt this very much in the '80s when I was the Music Director of the English National Opera down in London - I wanted to use the opportunity to develop myself as much as the orchestra. But of course, the two things should be in harmony.

The other answer to your question is by conducting music that I'd never conducted, taking pieces that I was nervous of, taking pieces that I wasn't sure that I'd be any good at or I thought I wasn't ready for. But at that stage, 20 years ago, I realised that I should tell myself that I was ready for anything. I was ready for any challenge that came my way provided I could build a relationship of trust. Now trust is a huge thing about transformation, isn't it?

David
It is.

Mark
Trust and belief in everybody's talent and belief in yourself.

David
That being the starting point.

Mark
That's the starting point.

David
Talk to me a bit about the power of silence - because it's something I know you've talked about, you're passionate about - and how important that is for your own, I guess, energy and your own ambition when you're trying to perform. As a conductor, you are putting yourself out there. You are taking risks.

Mark
You're naked. You have to be prepared to be naked in public. You have to be prepared to make a fool of yourself, to try something to see whether or not you can get the flavour in the music that you think it needs. You can only do that if you're in a situation of trust and support, that everything doesn't depend on the next concert, okay. You have to be risky. The players needed to know that.

One of the things that I still say to them sometimes - and they know me now and they get used to my silly foibles, but I would say, particularly in those early days, okay, it sounds great. Play it again. Just show off, i.e., don't worry about whether or not it's right and accurate. Worry about how to bring it off with panache.

It's one of the interesting things that we have a reputation as a nation of being emotionally cool and always on the back foot, not on the front foot in relation to the Latin countries where there is no word for self-consciousness in the Italian dictionary. They just go forward and say what they want to say and fight about it later. We're more cautious. We don't show ourselves.

Well, if you're playing all this music from different nations, if you're doing Tchaikovsky's music where the emotion is absolutely full frontal right on the sleeve and beyond, you have to know how to do that as an orchestra. Then when you're doing the most introspective music of Elgar, whoever it might be, of Schumann, you need to be able to go back and subtly caress the sound and not be too outward about it. I would say, well, go on then, show off. Prove that we can just bring it off without a care in the world.

David
It's fascinating, fascinating. When you've taken a risk, put yourself out there, you've been naked and something hasn't quite worked, how do you replenish yourself? How do you get back up the next day, the next moment where something hasn't gone quite so well?

Mark
Well, as you develop as a conductor in your experience, you develop a knowledge and a feeling for how to prepare a performance. Having said that, there are always pieces and moments in a piece where, however well it's rehearsed and however well it went at the dress rehearsal, it's very hard to bring it off in performance.

In performance, this tiny little thing, this gland called adrenaline produces miniscule amounts of a substance which changes the energy in performance. The presence of the public does that, but adrenaline really does it. It's a question of how to achieve the best results with the adrenaline, not despite it, with it. Adrenaline is something that everybody needs to recognise.

It's traditional among performers of all sorts that adrenaline needs help, which is why people turn to a glass of wine or a pint of beer before having to do it, to calm their nerves. That's something which has absolutely no interest to me, but it's important to understand what performers go through. Running your own orchestra, you learn what it is for them to get up and do it night after night. The more familiar and routine things become, it shouldn't blind you to the pressure of performance, which is or can be enormous depending on the music.

If it doesn't work in a performance, my - and I've said this to them. I said this very early on. My view is put it behind you, on to the next one. The most important thing is not to let it accumulate [in tension].

David
Just like drags you down, drags you back. You can't express yourself for the next piece if you're mentally thinking of the past.

Mark
Exactly, if you're berating yourself. I try to instil this culture that if it didn't go perfectly, don't think about it. Cast it behind you so that you give yourself the possibility to fail. It's very important, that.

David
You travel all around the world. You perform in amazing places. I know places are very important to you in terms of the environment you're in. You've talked about that in other - where do you get your inspiration from? Who are the people, whether it's in music or other walks of life, that have inspired you personally in your own journey, in your own career?

Mark
Well, when you're very young and you're an apprentice at this thing - you're not even a journeyman - you look and listen and watch or you should do. Going to other people's rehearsals and watching other people perform and seeing how rehearsal is different from the performance, it's quite an important part of it. When I was young, I worked a lot in the Lyric Theatre, in the Opera House. I got my experience as a young - and my first pay packets, my first pay packet working at Glyndebourne Festival Opera, £22 plus the honour of working for Glyndebourne.

You learn watching other people, how they do it and how they don't do it and how people negotiate difficulties or go around them and don't confront them. I did a lot of this. I was very interested in the way things worked, not just in musical terms but in administrative terms. I was fascinated to see how opera companies functioned and when they function well, why?

Always it's because of the right person being in the right job and the right - always, without exception, not somebody who is good at putting over the accepted way of doing things but somebody whose commitment and ability to communicate with human beings was valued more than the detail of everyday life. If you have the right person leading an organisation who knows what he can do and what he can't do, then he will by definition have the ability to appoint people who can do what he can't do.

David
That's when you were an apprentice if you like, going around experiencing, watching, observing from the music to the administration. How do you keep doing it now? Because some of the most impressive leaders I've come across, whatever age, whatever stage of their career but not an apprentice - it could be mid-career - they are still curious. They're looking around, looking for the idea. How do you do that in your - you have a very busy schedule. You have lots of commitments. How do you find the time to stay curious if you like?

Mark
I believe maintaining curiosity is a fundamental in keeping young in heart as you get older. I think curiosity, asking questions, trying new things, never assuming you've got the best answer is absolutely crucial. Now for a conductor, for a performing musician, that is a prerequisite for keeping your music-making fresh. One can tell, as a listener, pretty quickly when somebody isn't asking questions about the way the music should go. You can tell very quickly if they are, that there's something that makes you listen, something that keeps your ears listening as a member of the public. This is certainly true for the players in an orchestra.

My orchestra, for instance, loves to work with other conductors. They really look forward to it. If they do music that they've done with me a lot, they need to know why are they playing it with someone else? What does this person think about the piece that they're not used to when they do it with me? Because there are so many different ways to play and interpret a piece of music. If a conductor - which has happened over these years - comes and doesn't show them and just says, oh, you're marvellous, I'll see you tomorrow, lets them off early as a way to try and get in their good books, it's no good. It's no good.

David
Just looking ahead, you've got such a rich sort of - [set] of things you do in life, right. You have lots of stimulus, amazing people around you. Two aspects of that, if you were to look at your time again, is there anything you'd change? But looking forward - I try and be a very positive person - what's next? What else is going to push the bar for you, looking the next few months, the years ahead? What would you change and what would you do going forward?

Mark
Well, we all make terrible mistakes. We all make terrible mistakes. We all make a plan of action, go for it and it doesn't work. I mean this in a managerial way as much as in a pastoral way as much as a musical way. There have been things that I've done that I - engagements that I've accepted that I shouldn't have accepted. There have been relationships with orchestras that haven't gone well and then others that have gone wonderfully well. Oh, yes. It's very difficult to talk about, put your finger on. There was one American orchestra which I - it was sort of fine. But I haven't been back there, because it didn't work somehow. They probably thought so too and so they haven't invited me.

What I would change, well, it's difficult, because when we've had a bit of experience, the thought of going back to our 30s or our late 20s and being better at things because we've learnt what it would be to do it - the way one treats human beings, the time one gives to people, being so energetic and determined that you're insensitive to other things around you. That's something that as the years go by, you let things in. You become sensitive to things.

The biggest thing in all this is relaxation as a performer, is to never think that you have achieved the ultimate in relaxation. I knew very early on that I needed to do this, because in London at English National Opera, I asked an old boy in the orchestra once, why this particular conductor? Why does he make such a beautiful sound with you all, much better than anyone else? He said, well, Mark, I think it's because he's so relaxed that that lets us relax, lets us. We're all much more relaxed when we're with him and so we can think about making a beautiful sound. That's something that you can believe with your understanding, but to put it into action, it requires experience. It requires maturity.

David
Yes, maturity and skill and, to a degree, self-confidence because a number of leaders, because they're so passionate about whatever the cause is, private sector, public sector and they're so driven, they - and they may feel they have a certain time in the organisation, a number of years they have to make their impact. They may be thinking about legacy. They drive the organisation so hard actually that they want people to give their best, but actually sometimes they may suffocate or actually...

It's very interesting to say, on the one hand, you can be ambitious, set the bar really high, be brave, but one of the best ways to do that is actually to relax and allow people to express themselves, which some people think is a trade-off but actually they're complementary, right.

Mark
Yes. Humility in the face of the music, humility in the face of your colleagues, that you show them as soon as you can that you're human, but you're in charge of setting the bar. You're in charge of making choices which is part of - the biggest part of being a conductor is to make choices that nobody in the orchestra can make, is allowed to make. I have to decide how fast or slow the tempi go, for instance. They know that, so they have to follow my tempi. They may not like it, but they know that that's the only way we will play together.

But being able to say that it was your fault, I think that's incredibly important to an orchestra. You need to say it immediately. If you don't do something right or the fact it doesn't go well is down to you - you did something that made it bad - acknowledge it and say, let me just try this again, I don't think I did that very well, and that everybody knows you're prepared to admit when you're wrong. I think that's very, very important, because it gives them the confidence that it wasn't them, yes. Some of the players may be thinking what - did I not do that well? He's taking responsibility for it.

David
It creates a sort of - someone called, I think, Amy Edmondson in Harvard talks about psychological safety. There's something about a safety there where if you can disclose whether you've done something right or wrong, actually it means that people can, if you like, be comfortable in - if they need to learn to change, to do something different, they can do so as opposed to being on tenterhooks if you like.

Mark
The word here I think that is hovering in the air is breath, okay. In all forms of human communication actually but, of course, particularly in performance art, in acting, in declaiming, in speaking, in reading but in music-making above all, the music has to breathe. What we mean by that is that the people playing it are allowing their breath and their control of their breath to influence the way the music comes out. Now I think this is true about all leadership.

John Summers, who runs the Hallé with me, is a very, very unusual man. He's terrible on detail, but he's brilliant about letting people be their best, yes. What he has is an incredible - and this is part of the whole transformation in Manchester. He has an ability to assess people's personality and character very intuitively and simply, quietly, yes. He's able to appoint people, because he's thinking of a team.

If you've got a couple of tearaways over here, there's no point in him appointing three more tearaways, because you'll just have civil war. You've got to balance the group of people. They need to feel that he's letting them do their job, not that he's looking over their shoulder and criticising every move they make.

David
He's not micro-managing.

Mark
Okay. Well, this is true, the conductor too. They need to feel that I want to let them play. This is very hard to do. Everybody always talks about this when an orchestra or musician says, oh, I really love that conductor. I always feel he lets us play. That sits on a young conductor like the pressure that he can never lift off, because what does it mean? Of course, I let them play, but there's sometimes when I have to impose because the music demands or the orchestral discipline demands that I'm very clear and positive and leading here. This is fascinating. The combination with business and conducting is immense.

The future, to go on conducting pieces that I've never conducted, to go back to pieces that I thought I didn't like and try and do them better. I've only once conducted a symphony by the great Austrian symphonist, Anton Bruckner. I should say twice, because we did the performance in St Paul's Cathedral. The echo is so big that everybody heard the piece twice. But he's a composer of whom I now am greatly interested in, because I conducted so much Wagner. The relationship between Bruckner and Wagner is enormous.

But also, too, to think about the future, to think about what I need or want at this stage in my life and what the organisation should need and want. Nothing is forever and so I've been thinking about when should I leave? Should I leave the Hallé in a coffin? Should I leave it tomorrow or when the contract runs out? These are very big questions. It affects my whole attitude towards the next part of my life. I'm 71 now and I feel about 43.

David
Wonderful.

Mark
I have no intention of stopping. I can't, because it's what I'm here to do, to be is a musician. I could never have done anything else actually. I think all the time about how these sorts of thoughts affect my music-making. When you've conducted a piece with the same group of players for 20 years and you pick it up - as I will very soon - and rehearse it again, what are you trying to say in this music that you couldn't have said before?

David
I have to say, I feel genuinely moved and inspired by this conversation. I won't even try and attempt to summarise all the themes, but I guess the - well, you've talked around connections between individuals, giving more of themselves, whether they're in an orchestra or they're in a business. As you say, using the power of relaxation for people to feel comfortable to express themselves. But at the same time, being both ambitious and striving to set the bar even higher and do amazing things whilst being humble enough and have enough humanity, enough, if you like, to be kind when things perhaps don't go the right way, to learn and to always keep moving forward. It's a combination of excellence, of striving to do better but actually creating, if you like, the conditions in your body, in your physiology, in your psychology to perform. I have to say it's been an absolute privilege speaking with you, Mark.

Mark
One of the things, David, that I often say to the orchestra is, no, no, no, do it again. It was better yesterday. They play a passage. I really hone it and make them do it absolutely right. Then you leave it, like a chilli on the backburner. You put in a bit more - and stir it and leave it to cook, yes. Well, it's the same with musical performance. You leave it. You don't press it and press it and press it. But then you come back to it the next day, perhaps two days later and it's usually better. But when it's not, that's one way of saying, where is the bar, isn't it? Oh, no, it was better before. We did better, that last project. I think that's good, isn't it? It's helpful. It gives people an awareness of what is expected of them. Most people want that.

David
Most people want to grow. They want to be fulfilled.

Mark
Right, but they don't want to be responsible. They want other people to lead. Most people don't want to be leaders. They want to criticise their leaders, of course, which orchestral musicians do vituperatively. That's fine. You have to accept that. You're in the saddle. But setting the bar high and enjoying it when it goes well and sharing that with them makes it really worthwhile.

David
Wonderful. Thanks again, Mark. That was another edition of Transformation Talks.

Contact us

David Lancefield

David Lancefield

Partner, Strategy&, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7712 140560

Follow us