13. January 2008 · Comments Off on Conductors and Rehearsal Style · Categories: Links, Ramble

Charles Noble blogs about conductors. It’s a good read. Which isn’t as important as a good reed, but whatever.

I’ve played under a lot of conductors, and of course they vary greatly when it comes to rehearsal styles.

Some talk and talk and talk and I want to say, “C’mon. Let’s play already!” Others don’t talk at all, but glower and grimace and don’t say anything about why and I want to scream, “Well, if you don’t like it, tell us why!” Sometimes, when I have a huge solo, I get absolutely no feedback from the conductor. To some musicains “no news is good news” but to me it means the conductor is so underwhelmed he or she can’t even think of one thing to say. (Yeah, I’m insecure that way. You aren’t surprised are you?) Some run through the major work at the first rehearsal, and I tend to like that approach just because going through it right away fills me in (if it’s a new work) one where the surprises are; studying a work doesn’t necessarily fill us in on everything. For instance, sometimes I don’t know that an entrance is going to be horribly difficult just by looking at a score or listening to the work. I need to feel what it’s like for myself.

I want a conductor to correct intonation. This rarely happens. I want a conductor to require us to play dynamics. We all seem to excel at forte but the much more difficult pianissimo doesn’t seem to happen all that often. I want a conductor who gets us to listen to each other, not just be linked so strongly to his or her baton that we need not worry at all about what is going on around us. I want a conductor who has an internal metronome (with flexibility allowed, of course) so that we aren’t all horribly surprised at the first concert when suddenly everything is twice as fast or, worse yet, twice as slow. It’s also good if the conductor knows the score. Go figure. I want a conductor who gets through all the works so that by the dress we can actually run the concert in concert order! (Some conductors rearrange the dress rehearsal and I really don’t like that; I want to know how my mouth is going to feel by the end, and how a particular solo will feel when played all in the correct order. When we don’t work in concert order I’m not always sure just what I’m in for.) I want a demanding but respectful conductor … who can manage to keep us quiet too! (We are so darn noisy—yours truly included—sometimes I’m rather embarrassed. But I don’t understand why our conductors don’t tell us to shut up. In a nice way, of course.)

I’d also like a conductor to make oboe reeds, but I suppose I can only ask so much.

Some conductors we’ve had are far too gentle and nice. I suspect they want to be asked back; we don’t have a full time conductor, so they all know they could be asked back if they appeal to the audience, management or orchestra. (No, sometimes they don’t appeal to the orchestra and they’ll still be asked back because the audience went nuts over ’em.) Some come back and as they get used to us they do start to show a bit more of their true colors. That’s always … um … interesting!

What I find even more interesting, though, is that no matter what I think about a conductor, there will be colleagues with completely different opinions. Someone I might rank as a “10” will be ranked as a “1” or even “-10” (well, we don’t really rank that way!) by someone else. I used to think the strings just thought differently than the winds, but the disagreements don’t seem to be section related for the most part. We instrumentalists just tend to see things in our own special ways.

Of course my way is the right way. Just so you know.

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