Marin Alsop reveals 10 things in a conductor’s brain during a symphony concert

26 May 2022, 17:18 | Updated: 26 May 2022, 17:27

Marin Alsop's conductor brain
Marin Alsop's conductor brain. Picture: Classic FM

By Kyle Macdonald

Classical music conductors have a lot going on – score, baton and beyond. Here’s everything that’s going on in the brain of a top symphony conductor...

Great conductors take to the stage and incredible music flows. From them, through the players of the orchestra the full drama and beauty of symphonic music appears. It all happens seemingly effortlessly, directly from their fingertips.

To be a top conductor requires years of training, rehearsal and meticulous study. From learning technique, to studying the scores, and understanding the manifold elements of the orchestra.

But when they step onto a podium in a packed concert hall to perform a symphony of Brahms or Beethoven, what exactly is going on brain? What are they thinking as they direct the contours of the music?

We wanted to find out, so we went to one of the very best: star conductor Marin Alsop. She is chief conductor of the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra and Conductor Emeritus of Classic FM's Orchestra in the South of England, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

We caught up with Marin backstage at London’s Southbank Centre, shortly before she took to the stage to perform with another Classic FM orchestra, our Orchestra on Tour, the Philharmonia Orchestra.

Marin Alsop reveals 10 things in a conductor’s brain during a symphony concert

We asked her about all the things she’s thinking about while conducting a symphony orchestra concert. Watch above for an insight into her brilliant mid-Brahms musical brain...

It’s a fascinating list from Marin, from tempo and pulse, to the architecture of the music and the personality of the orchestra. It really makes you appreciate everything that’s going on behind the baton.

All good to keep in mind next time you find yourself air-conducting along to your favourite symphony!