first go

Surely, you might say, it’s an advantage to be one of the last conductors to appear in the round, if only because the orchestra will have already played the music several times.

And so they will be able to concentrate more on being musical and focus more on the conductor’s movements. That might be so. It also might mean they have seen it once too often. So how to keep it fresh?

Joseph Bastian probably didn’t know it at the time, but although he was number 14 on the list (the running order was drawn out of an actual hat, belonging to competition administrator Jessica Brennan, at the start of the day) he was the first to be given the very fast finale of the Mozart symphony to conduct. And the first to get to conduct the very end of the Bartok, a tricky half minute or so of music that changes speed every other bar, or so it seems. But it probably didn’t take him long to realise.

The orchestra seized on the chance to play something new, but in their eagerness the playing was suddenly less secure. And if by any chance the conductor had been lulled into thinking the quality of the music-making had been largely down to him, it would have been a little reminder that others (not least the quick-learning players themselves) had had a hand in it too.