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Posted February 8, 2004
Musical Complexity: Metaphor for Life's Experiences
The Student Conductor is as complex as the Brahms' Second Symphony. There is much about conducting that the student, Cooper Barrow, knows, but is afraid to realize in performance. The story is a trip thorough his understanding of the symphony and the down and dirty world of professional conducting. It is also a metaphor for his struggles with understanding his own demons, and the demons of others who are still haunted by their past. Cooper Barrow's past seems benign when compared to the complex and mysterious histories of his teacher, Herr Ziegler, and the beautiful oboist Petra Vogel. The tight story can be read in one setting, but I found myself rereading, often outloud, passages that were masterfully crafted and joyfully fitted for the plot. However, the reader must be prepared for the ambigious ending. Just as the music of Brahms can often be ambigious and open to many interpretations and levels of understanding, so is the ending. I reread it several times with the end result that I was as confused as ever. It finally occurred to me that the ambiguity was perfect for the story; as in music, life has few endings that are nice and tidy. The naive American caught in a changing landscape of post-cold war Germany finds that his perspective about music, life, love, and the past is forever altered. If you know music, especially if you are a professional or student musician, you will find that much of the story accurately reflects the isolated agonies and joys of learning and performing music...and living life.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.