We often play with techniques designed to make a bid or proposal learning review as constructive as possible – rather than turning it into an ‘inquest’ or ‘finger-pointing’ session. Feedback has to be drawn out in a way that’s constructive, celebrating what’s gone well (and highlighting tactics that can be re-used), as well as exploring ideas for improvement next time around.
I was reminded of this the other day, reading the recently Guardian obituary of Vernon Handley, whom I used to watch as he conducted the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra when I was growing up in the city. Handley, known to friends as ‘Tod’, was renowned for his somewhat blunt style. This was no more apparent than after he’d conducted the Last Night of the Proms in 1985, at a time when Robert Ponsonby was head of music for the BBC:
Tod had to accompany Shura Cherkassky in the Gershwin Piano Concerto. Cherkassky was famous for his brilliant virtuoso playing, but also for going his own way, capriciously ignoring what had been decided at rehearsals.
After the performance, Ponsonby politely asked the pianist and conductor what they would like to perform in any future Prom. Shura said: “What about doing the Rubinstein [Anton Rubinstein's Fourth Piano Concerto in D minor]?”, to which Tod replied: “Oh, for my part, I hoped we might do a good performance of the Gershwin.