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Carried away or carrying on?


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Author Topic: Carried away or carrying on?  (Read 560 times)
guest2
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« on: May 29, 2009, 01:17:14 pm »

After watching Barenboim conduct the Vienna orchestra, I have a couple of questions for the conductors among our membership:

1) At one point he put his hands down close to his knees, then moved them out sideways, then back so that his arms crossed again in front of his knees, and then out sideways again, and so on four or five times. My question is, is this a recognised conducting movement or signal, and if so, what does it signify? It looked more like a movement from some comedic dance, and probably has a name of which I am unaware - the "shilly-shally" or something of the kind.

2) At another point the violins play a very long note during a strong ritardando, towards the end of which comes a gruppetto grouplet or turn. My question here is, how do all the players of the section know the right moment to begin the turn so that they play it together? The conductor gave no special signal that I could see. Perhaps there is an arrangement that the two players in the first desk play it at normal volume, and the others either wait until they hear that beginning, or else play the start of their turn very quietly. I do not think "musical instinct" alone would suffice to bring them all in at precisely the same time would it?
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IanP
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« Reply #1 on: May 29, 2009, 03:59:11 pm »

Could we be informed which work(s) Barenboim was conducting on this occasion?
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Tony Watson
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« Reply #2 on: May 29, 2009, 05:17:36 pm »

I can't answer your questions, Gerard, but I know someone who used to play in an orchestra under Sir Alexander Gibson. He would sometimes conduct with both elbows sticking out and the hands facing each other in front of his chest. Both arms would move up and down in short, rather quick, movements. Someone asked him where the beat was supposed to come, as the movements were so small and rapid. He wouldn't answer.
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Cal
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« Reply #3 on: May 29, 2009, 06:20:41 pm »

That reminds me of a time long ago when I was young . I was in a youth orchestra and the tutor , who was an orchestral string player told us of Furtwangler who had a reportedly rather waggly beat. He said that the orchestra played when the shudder reached the second to last button on his waistcoat !!

I have to say Gerard that your first example reminds me of a chicken, perhaps the players are to do some sort of crescendo ? the second example I would suggest would be an intuitive reaction helped by decisive body movements of the leader.

I had a friend in the Halle orchestra who I met after a concert and I said 'I liked the conductor, what did you think of him?' to which she replied , 'Oh I never look at the conductor, we just play together ' !!!!

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guest2
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« Reply #4 on: May 29, 2009, 10:09:28 pm »

Could we be informed which work(s) Barenboim was conducting on this occasion?

It was the New Year concert - which consists mostly of familiar Strauss waltzes (I have been catching up on my taped programmes). It could be come to think of it that the knees affair during the Strauss was intended as a kind of quiet joke, because there was also a lot of sub-comic "business" with the last movement of Haydn's Farewell, and at one point the hall was even invaded by a lot of little fairies dancing about.
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IanP
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« Reply #5 on: May 29, 2009, 10:48:50 pm »

When I've watched the New Year concert, or otherwise seen the Vienna Phil playing Strauss, it's become pretty obvious that the orchestra can play this music utterly standing on their head, and many of the usual forms of time-keeping are not at all necessary - so the conductor can indulge in all sorts of gestures to communicate a certain mood (I've seen this with Harnoncourt and Mehta in particular). To judge these things in general, though, I think one would have to compare how the conductor acted when this orchestra were playing other (preferably less familiar to them) repertoire? Just a thought...
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Tony Watson
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« Reply #6 on: June 09, 2009, 12:17:14 am »

This arose out of a conversation in the pub.

Someone said to me that it is very difficutl to be a conductor because, amongst other things, you have to be able to beat four with one arm and three at the same time with the other in certain types of music.

I find this difficult to believe. I know that a pianist has to be able to play three notes against four sometimes, but I can never imagine a situation in which the conductor would tell one half of the orchestra to follow his left arm while the other half follow his right arm.

"How would you conduct the Rite of Spring?" I was then asked. I replied (getting a little facetious by this time) that I would just waft my arms around in the air in a non-descript way, as some conductors seem to do.
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autoharp
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« Reply #7 on: June 09, 2009, 07:52:11 am »

It's not a usual conducting technique, but Nicolas Slominsky certainly did it when conducting certain Ives pieces, most probably Putnam's Camp from 3 places in New England which contains a passage for two parts of the orchestra playing in different tempi.
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