first go

Surely, you might say, it’s an advantage to be one of the last conductors to appear in the round, if only because the orchestra will have already played the music several times.

And so they will be able to concentrate more on being musical and focus more on the conductor’s movements. That might be so. It also might mean they have seen it once too often. So how to keep it fresh?

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different styles

Discussing how things were going, as they packed up for their lunch break, a group of the Guildhall orchestra players were agreeing with each other that their playing was getting better as the morning progressed.

That’s certainly true and of course not altogether surprising. It doesn’t necessarily follow that their playing would also change from conductor to conductor, that they would be responsive to the varying styles.

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The hazards of conducting

‘Just play what you see,’ said Lennox Mackenzie to the orchestra before the competition proper began.

They did just that at the opening of Mozart 39, one of those slow introductions that a conductor has to decide whether to conduct using four slow beats to a bar or eight faster ones. Most importantly of all, they need to tell the orchestra which they decide on! If it’s not clear, some players will see one, some the other and you can imagine the noise that results.

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time to talk

“I don’t want to talk, I want to communicate with this,” says Mihhail Gerts at one point during his 15 minutes with the Guildhall orchestra, waving his baton.

Words that orchestral musicians are always glad to hear (and a reason why conducting students tend to have it drummed into them to keep rehearsals moving), but today there’s another reason to keep words to a minimum.

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It’s a cold, bright December morning here in London and we’re in the music hall at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama preparing for the 2014 Donatella Flick LSO Conducting Competition. There’s an orchestra warming up and groups of people standing around, also warming up (I did say it was cold).

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