cover image Absolutely on Music: Conversations

Absolutely on Music: Conversations

Haruki Murakami, with Seiji Ozawa, trans. from the Japanese by Jay Rubin. Knopf, $26.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-385-35434-9

These chats between novelist Murakami and Ozawa, former conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, contain intriguing insights about the nature of music. Over a two-year period (2010–2011), Murakami and Ozawa sat down to listen to and reflect upon matters as diverse as various recordings of Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto, Brahms’s First Symphony, the music of Gustav Mahler, and the joys of conducting with Leonard Bernstein, whom Ozawa worked under in the 1960s. Ozawa reflects on the role of the conductor: “One of the distinguishing features of the conductor’s profession: the work itself changes you; the one thing a conductor has to do is to get sounds out of the orchestra; I read the score and create a piece of music in my mind, after which I work with the orchestra members to turn that into actual sounds, and that process gives rise to all kinds of things.” In response to Murakami’s question about the emotions a Japanese conductor feels when conducting the music of Gustav Mahler, an Austrian Jew, Ozawa reflects that when an Easterner performs music written by a Westerner, it can have its own special meaning. Ozawa admits that he doesn’t approach conducting with preconceived ideas about how a score should sound or be played: “I don’t have anything to say until I’ve got a musician right in front of me.” The tone of the book is deliberate and contemplative. In some ways, these conversations are High Fidelity for classical music fans. [em](Nov.) [/em]