He was a paradoxical man. On one hand he possessed very wide interests: he had an interest in many styles of music, he loved language, literature and art and could become fascinated by the most unexpected of things. (At one stage he developed an interest in aircraft engines and how they were designed and sold separately from the rest of the aircraft.) On the other hand, he limited his conducting to a relatively small area of musical repertoire and ensured that he prepared and rehearsed it meticulously before performance.
The key to Kleiber’s success was his ability to manage his paradoxical nature. He possessed a mental lens that enabled him to gather up and magnify the small beams of insights he gained from his many interests and then concentrate them upon a small area of focus.
He wanted his orchestra to create a sudden unexpected loudness so he used a subtle conducting technique used by the jazz musician Duke Ellington. He wanted an orchestra to play more expansively so he used the metaphor of a romantic landscape painting to explain and emphasise his point.
The small insights he gleaned from the richness of his wide knowledge and experience combined with the rigour of his musical craft to produce performances that many people attending his concerts found nothing short of incendiary.
By widening our sphere of interests and developing our very own ‘Kleiber’s Lens’, we too can enhance our performance within our chosen disciplines. We can do this by:
- Asking questions and being curious.
- Taking up a new hobby and reading widely.
- Talking to new and different people.
- Going on new journeys and exploring new places.
- Asking ourselves what new and intriguing things have happened to us recently.
- Recording what we have found interesting and intriguing and highlighting any insights we have gained as a result (however small they may seem to us initially).
- Clearly defining the challenges we need to focus upon and willingly exploring them in detail.
- Being open minded and looking for connections, however tenuous, between those things that have interested and intrigued us and our current challenges and problems.
- Being determined and meticulous in finding ways to exploit these connections so that they can enhance our ability to address the problems we face.