Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Who's the Boss? Conflicts Between Judges and Litigators (Metaphorically Speaking)

In one storied incident, in April 1962, the conductor Leonard Bernstein appeared on stage before a performance of the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor by the New York Philharmonic. The soloist was the pianist Glenn Gould. During rehearsals, Gould had argued for tempi much broader than normal, which did not reflect Bernstein's concept of the music. Bernstein gave a brief address to the audience stating:

"Don't be frightened; Mr. Gould is here (audience laughter). He will appear in a moment. I'm not—um—as you know in the habit of speaking on any concert except the Thursday-night previews, but a curious situation has arisen, which merits, I think, a word or two. You are about to hear a rather, shall we say, unorthodox performance of the Brahms D Minor Concerto, a performance distinctly different from any I've ever heard, or even dreamt of for that matter, in its remarkably broad tempi and its frequent departures from Brahms' dynamic indications. I cannot say I am in total agreement with Mr. Gould's conception, and this raises the interesting question: "What am I doing conducting it?" (mild laughter from the audience). I'm conducting it because Mr. Gould is so valid and serious an artist that I must take seriously anything he conceives in good faith, and his conception is interesting enough that I feel you should hear it, too.

But the age old question still remains: "In a concerto, who is the boss (audience laughter)—the soloist or the conductor?" (Audience laughter grows louder). The answer is, of course, sometimes the one and sometimes the other, depending on the people involved. But almost always, the two manage to get together by persuasion or charm or even threats (audience laughs) to achieve a unified performance. I have only once before in my life had to submit to a soloist's wholly new and incompatible concept and that was the last time I accompanied Mr. Gould (audience laughs loudly). But, but this time, the discrepancies between our views are so great that I feel I must make this small disclaimer. Then why, to repeat the question, am I conducting it? Why do I not make a minor scandal—get a substitute soloist, or let an assistant conduct it?

Because I am fascinated, glad to have the chance for a new look at this much-played work; because, what's more, there are moments in Mr. Gould's performance that emerge with astonishing freshness and conviction. Thirdly, because we can all learn something from this extraordinary artist who is a thinking performer, and finally because there is in music what Dimitri Mitropoulos used to call "the sportive element" (mild audience laughter) —that factor of curiosity, adventure, experiment—and I can assure you that it has been an adventure this week (audience laughter) collaborating with Mr. Gould on this Brahms concerto, and it's in this spirit of adventure that we now present it to you."


Gary Freedman said...

The Glenn Gould of the Law

Floyd Abrams (born July 9, 1936) is an American attorney at Cahill Gordon & Reindel. He is an expert on constitutional law, and many arguments in the briefs he has written before the United States Supreme Court have been adopted as United States Constitutional interpretative law as it relates to the First Amendment and free speech. He is the William J. Brennan Jr. Visiting Professor at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. Abrams argued for The New York Times and Judith Miller in the CIA leak grand jury investigation. Abrams joined Cahill Gordon & Reindel in 1963, and became a partner in 1970.

Abrams appearance before the Supreme Court as an advocate of the First Amendment has put him in a class of prominent and still-working legal scholars who have shaped American understanding of their fundamental rights under the United States Constitution. In his 2005 book Speaking Freely, he outlines his knowledge of and perspective on these influential cases. Abrams said these cases showcase the work that has been done on free speech in the United States. Fellow Supreme Court attorney Lee Levine, in a book review, wrote that "the modern history of the freedom of the press in this country is intimately associated with the career and work of Floyd Abrams." His career matured in the late 1960s, right after the Supreme Court decided New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964). He has worked on the Pentagon Papers and Branzburg v. Hayes (1972), to Landmark Communications v. Virginia (1978) and Smith v. Daily Mail Publishing Co. (1979), to Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart (1976). He has defended numerous clients, including the Brooklyn Museum of Art from Rudolph Giuliani over the Sensation exhibition, NBC from Wayne Newton, and Al Franken from a trademark lawsuit from Fox News Channel over the use of the phrase "Fair and Balanced" in the title of his book.

Gary Freedman said...

From Letter to Dr. Georgopoulos, dated January 31, 1996:

"Oddly, the patient’s description of the configuration of parties in the courtroom is identical to the configuration of orchestral musicians performing a concerto in a concert hall. See Letter to Dr. Georgopoulos, dated December 27, 1995, discussing the Beethoven violin concerto. At a concert, the conductor stands on a podium (like a judge seated on a bench), while the soloist (like the appearing attorney) stands facing the conductor--the body of orchestral musicians (like a group of attorneys seated in a courtroom) are seated behind the soloist, unseen by the soloist, but watching the soloist and the conductor."