Playing the lead, or turning the pages?

Having fairly recently started a new job which I was still getting to grips with, I was in a meeting with the guy who had previously done the role for some years, and who had been very good at it.

It reminded me of a favourite story I heard some years ago, I think on a Radio 4’s “My Music”, about the famous Romanian Violinist/Pianist/Composer/Conductor George Enescu.

The multi-talented Enescu was well known as a great violin teacher (teaching Yehudi Menuhin, Arthur Grumiaux, and Ida Haendel amongst others), but for some reason had acquired a rather unpromising pupil. The pupil’s wealthy father paid for a large public recital for his son, and Enescu reluctantly agreed to accompany him on the piano.  Just when the recital was about to begin, the pianist Alfred Cortot arrived, who Enescu had not seen for a while. Cortot was the frequent piano partner of Enescu on the violin and Enescu asked Cortot if he would mind turning the pages for the recital, and they could catch up on old times in the interval.  The audience at the recital couldn’t believe their eyes: is this indeed the famous Cortot who is turning the pages?

A critic rote the following review the next day in the press: “Yesterday’s recital was turned upside down. The gentleman who turned the pages should have played the piano. The gentleman who played the piano should have played the violin. And the gentleman who played the violin might just have managed to turn the pages.”

I guess we may feel a bit like that sometimes – that despite trying to lead and being the focus of attention, we would rather excel in the more low profile task of simply turning the pages.   I wish I could say that the violin pupil went on to exceed the accomplishments of his master, but unfortunately history does not record what happened…