The “10,000-hour rule” recently made its way back into popular discourse courtesy of author Malcolm Gladwell, who cites it in his book Outliers: The Story of Success as an essential factor in mastering a cognitively complex skill — playing chess, playing the violin, performing neurosurgery, etcetera. Scientists (and Gladwell) assert that mastery of such a skill is unlikely until one has practiced it for ten thousand hours, which breaks down to twenty hours a week for ten years. Fair enough. More boggling than merely contemplating that level of commitment and dedication, however, is to witness these ten thousand hours in action — certainly during live performance of classical music.
Greek violinist Leonidas Kavakos put his hours on display during a scorching Carnegie Hall performance of Sibelius’s Violin Concerto with the Minnesota Orchestra in early May. In the final movement, the chin rest on Kavakos’s violin came loose. The violinist kept his cool and his bow but swapped instruments during a tacet passage with concertmaster Jorja Fleezanis, who attempted to repair the Falmouth Stradivari on the fly — while Kavakos finished off the concerto on a new fiddle. He did so literally without missing a beat, waving off Fleezanis’s offer of a trade-back after she appeared to have achieved a workaround. Had I been listening on the radio instead of seated in the hall, I would have had difficulty detecting the cheat.
While ten thousand hours of practice and study are handy for pulling off such maneuvers, they prove far more valuable in freeing the greater part of a musician’s energy to artistic and interpretive concerns. This is the chief benefit of technical mastery — to be unfettered by the technical. Such an enlightened state is what permits pianist Louis Lortie to step from the piano to the conductor’s podium on short notice (page 49) or pianist Jenny Lin to breeze through a Shostakovich fugue as though drinking water (page 72), leaving her free to focus solely on the arc of a phrase, characterization, a through line.
This is our summer film issue. If only watching six thousand or so movies granted Americans technical expertise in filmmaking, I daresay the golden age of Hollywood would return posthaste. As it stands, we can at least look back fondly at the golden age of film scores, tracking the evolution of the form through the journey of one of its masters, composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold (page 26), and through RCA’s classic film series (page 53).
In this issue we listen in to composers Mason Bates, John Corigliano, Elliot Goldenthal and Nico Muhly, conductors Daniel Hege and Alondra de la Parra, musicians Anthony Roth Costanzo, Richard Goode, Thomas Hampson, Louis Lortie, Philippe Quint, Christophe Rousset, and writer Donna Leon. We also visit Cooperstown, Quebec City, St. Louis and Venice, offer recommendations on record, in print, on screen and in home audio, and remember maestro Georg Solti.
Editor in Chief