October 27: Mahler and Mourinho

Reading a biography of Mahler it strikes me that the person he most reminds me of is Jose Mourinho. Both are constantly on the move. Porto to Chelsea; Chelsea to Inter; Inter to Real and then back to Chelsea, for the Happy One. And Mahler was the same. The Prague Opera; the Budapest Opera; the Vienna Court Opera. A mixture of conscious intriguing plus hot-headed inability to keep their mouths shut sent these two special ones careering from one institution to the next. Both football coach and orchestra conductor (which is what Mahler’s main money-making activity was) are engaged on similar activities (I actually saw Fabio Capello at a Mahler concert a few years ago); they set the tone for orchestra or squad and represent the formation but don’t actually make the play themselves. Elias Canetti in his study of Crowds and Power says you can understand all you need to know about power by observing an orchestra conductor at work. He stands while the orchestra sits; he has the entire score in front of him where the orchestra members have component parts. His hands command and rebuke. And this infantile fascination with the law-giver, the oracle, has invaded the football pitch. Cameras now document every gesture, twitch and glance of the Special One. The term Special One clearly comes from Jose’s infelicitous translation from the Romance languages notion of ‘special’ which is more ‘particular’ in the sense of ‘different’, but its ongoing journalistic currency is significant.

There is an unpleasant line that runs Mahler – Furtwangler – Karajan. Hitler would be a branch off that line. One man (rarely a woman) is made to embody a collective aspiration, with a quasi-mystical power. Historically, the Germans have best embodied the tendency, though you could do another little Italian branch with Mussolini and Di Cannio. Hodgson is a kind of Chamberlain. Of course, what we must always say is that in the end it is the orchestra that plays the music, the players that score the goals and individuals (albeit in uniforms) that pull the triggers.

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