Saturday, October 19, 2013

Symphonic Reflections

Tonight was my local symphony orchestra's concert featuring the conductor candidate I wrote about the other day.

Some things I noticed this evening -

~*~ I found myself watching the conductor's left hand. It was so very expressive. One minute it was flourishing and encouraging the strings. The next his fist might be raised rhythmically for the power of the brass. Then it might be pointing at specific soloists cuing their solos.

I don't know about you, but my left hand is stupid. I am right hand dominant and am happy that when I conduct the meter pattern that it is a mindless task as my focus is on the cues and expressivity of my left hand. 

Many young left-handed conductors fight having to show the beat pattern with their right hands - their non-dominant hand.  I tell them they are lucky as they already have such control of their left hand.  For me, it is definite work.

~*~ I watched the conductor's face and saw joy and smiles as he encouraged the players to play their best.

I enjoyed the concert more because I could see he was enjoying it.

I've often wished they would put a camera on the conductor and project his image on a large screen.  I've been on the other side of the conductor. Many audience members may not have been. It give a different sense of enjoyment to hear the music and see the players and conductor.

~*~ For the first time since I've been attending symphony concerts the soloist played an encore before the intermission.

Hearing a blues piece - played by a (French) horn - at a symphony orchestra concert

Is a rarity.

~*~ I believe the conductor write the program notes for the printed program.  This gives the listener some insight into the works being performed.

Often there is a pre-concert discussion of the works to be played.

Tonight was the first time the conductor talked about the final piece during "Half Time" as he called it. Few people left for intermission.  Some might have wished they could, but since 75% of the audience remained in their seats some who would've have left perhaps thought it impolite to do so.

He talked about Tchaikovsky's Symphony #4 talking for the most part, imitating the sounds the orchestra would make, and even singing the folk tune (Birch Tree) that the fourth movement is based upon.

He was very dramatic in his "Chat"

~*~ I watched the soloist when he wasn't playing. It was interesting to see his stage presence during moments of rest and how he interacted with what the orchestra was playing.

~*~ The timpani player was new. At least I did not recognize him. He was not your normal timpani player. He mouthed along as he played - while that was amusing it wasn't the most noticeable thing about his.

You see, the timpanist had a rather long ponytail hanging down HIS back. As a told a student, you don't often see ponytails on the male members of a symphony orchestra.

~*~ This concert featured the wind sections more than normal. There was power in the brass.  (I could tell the conductor was a brass player.) Delicacy in the woodwinds.

Every section seemed to have a solo part at some point in the program.

It is not every concert where each instrument is featured during a concert.

~*~ I realized tonight how diverse the orchestra players are. I saw at least 3 distinguishable ethnic groups represented - and several of each. There seemed to be equal men and women. There were older and younger players.

It is not common for orchestras to have such diversities.

Diversity, in this case is a very good thing.

~*~ The podium was not a square podium as one normally sees. The podium was in a T-shape.

The conductor commented about how he and the players were wondering if he would fall off of it. I can see why.

I overheard him at the reception mentioning that he usually doesn't fall off the back of the podium, but that because his conducting is so expressive he always had a stand in front of him, regardless of whether he is using scores or not, because he might step off (fall off) the front of the podium.

~*~ Someone congratulated the conductor at the reception saying he'd done a fantastic job. His response was, "That was all the orchestra. I just stand there and wave my arms."

Humility in a conductor is rare.

It impressed me that I saw that.

I have tried to be the same way with my own performances. When people would compliment me I would always say, "Thank you! The students did work hard and did put on a great program, didn't they?."

I have told my future music teachers that they should remember to do this.

It's not about the person standing there waving his/her arms.
It's not really about the performers.
It IS about the music.

And tonight was a great showing of it being about the music.

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