Magazine January 27, 2020, Issue

Mahatma Jansons

Mariss Jansons rehearses the Vienna Philharmonic in its New Year’s concert, 2011. (Dieter Nagl / AFP via Getty Images)

Years ago, the pianist Jerome Rose taught me an expression: “You play who you are.” It immediately struck me as true. In subsequent years, I have seen it — heard it — confirmed, over and over. You play who you are; sing who you are; conduct who you are.

Of course, we can take this concept too far. You are supposed to play (or sing or conduct) who the composer is, not who you are. You are supposed to slip into his skin and represent him. Moreover, the music may be prayerful, devilish, amusing, or something else — and that is

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