14. August 2008 · 3 comments · Categories: Ramble

It’s rather humorous to watch the “conductors” (called “maestros” on these videos, but I don’t know that they quite qualify for that). The first thing I notice is … TEMPO! Mostly too slow. But of course there is so much more. Problems with elbows and gestures and then there’s some facial stuff going on that makes me wonder if they are trying to be witty.

Oh … and folks, don’t mouth the beats! If you have to count in your head, fine, but you look pretty darn goofy.

David Soul doing Bizet’s “Carmen” (No, not the whole thing. Whew!) Starting is always difficult, isn’t it? Tee hee. “It didn’t seem to me that you were doing much more than you would do in front of your hi-fi at your drawing room,” says Mr. Norrington.

Alex James conducting “The most rock and roll Carmen…”

Katie Derham again with that “Blue Danube” thing. The orchestra sure helped her out near the beginning. “You conduct with three parts of your body — your head, your hands and your hips.” “You’re too sexy for your orchestra.” “A little bit school mistressy.” Hmmm. Mixed messages?

Sue Perkins in “The Blue Danube” certainly looks like she’s enjoying herself. Those circular gestures would start to drive me bonkers, I think. “I thought you were conducting with your knees.” “A bit of the whirlpool going on, actually, here.” Yes.

Peter Snow in a very slow although not completely tempo-constant Romeo & Juliet (Prokofiev)

Bradley Walsh again with the R&J work. Much better tempo at first. Then everything slowed down. “I lost the pattern quite a few times and my mentor told me to just keep pumping away.” Yes. Right. “I found it very charming somehow.” “You did as good as you could possibly do.” (I’m going to remember this last one. Handy!)

Jane Asher in a stiff rendition Grieg’s “Hall of the Mountain King” (but then I’m not that thrilled with that work anyway). And what to do with that unnecessary extra arm/hand? (And “Orchestral musicians don’t get beautiful ladies very often” … or something like that.)

Goldie (not Hawn) in another “Hall of the Mountain King” with a bit more life, and no baton. He uses both arms. Lots of finger movements too. I think the crowd liked him best, and Norrington seemed to like him a lot. Even if he allowed vibrato. (“The worst technique and it works but I don’t know why.” … I’ve seen that with some conductors I’ve worked with. I swear, it’s magic or something!)

It would be interesting to see (and hear) what these “maestros” would get from an orchestra if the orchestra was also seeing a work for the first time. Then less rescuing could go on, but I suspect it would be in shambles.

I wonder.

Anyway, long post. Maybe I should let this be the last blog entry for the day entry, eh? (Fat chance!)


  1. It makes me squeamish just watching some of these people!

  2. I have trouble starting things too. Like the laundry. It takes, like, over an hour to get done, so I have to really force myself to do it and be prepared to sit around and wait for it to finish.

    I also have a hard time starting to learn new scores, especially operas. How do you start? With a CD? With a piano? Do you sing through the parts? Do you start on page 1 marking cues? Do you do a broad structural analysis and then go back for the chords/sets/rows? Or do you do it the other way around? Usually by the time I’ve decided how to approach a new score, rehearsals are in full swing.

    But I have to say, I did learn the conventions of beat preparation, which really helps when you have to start a piece as a conductor, in Day 1 of conducting lessons.

    As for the knee thing, I got that comment recently from a conductor who will go unnamed in mid-February. Since then I’ve observed very closely and even told my own students to watch their knees, and I’ve realized: all conductors hate it, but all conductors do it.

    Another conductor who will go unnamed mentioned to me in late February that when I got up to conduct his (very advanced) orchestra, I would be a complete hinderance to a piece that they could otherwise perform perfectly with the lead of the concertmaster, and my job was not to conduct correctly but rather to “take them to the promised land.” It was true: as soon as I started I heard that they would have played it better if I had just said, “one, two, three, go!” and sat down. I guess I didn’t figure out where the “promised land” was, b/c I’m not working with them right now. 🙂 But the hindrance thing seems to ring true for the above group – who is from ???

    And what to do with that pesky left hand? If you can’t have it amputated, do what my teacher had me do for the first 3 months of lessons: hold a cocktail napkin. It ensures no “claw” comes out, and also if you end up doing something weird with it you notice it more b/c there’s a napkin in your left hand.

    Another teacher had me hold a coffee in my left hand. It brought together my two favorite things to do in life: conduct and consume massive amounts of caffeine at inappropriate times.

  3. Conducting can be such a mystery; some can do nearly nothing and get incredible music. Others can’t. I don’t know why.

    Let’s see … knees … heh … I knew someone I called “Knee-bend [insert first name here]”. That person did the knee-bend thing even when merely speaking, so I suppose it was something that conductor couldn’t stop doing. It was incredibly distrating.

    Left hand? The thing that drives me the most crazy is it’s merely a mirror image of the right. What a waste.

    I’ve worked with great conductors and horrendous conductors. We’ve saved many a bad conductor, actually. And yet they get all the credit in the reviews, wouldn’t ya know? But that’s life!