Whilst being privileged to take my son up to the top of The Empire State building in NYC the other day, I was watching the late afternoon sun sparkle on the water looking downtown toward the Statue of Liberty. I was struck by the observation that, in that fleeting moment, all the elements were lining up for a fabulous photo; one simply having to wait for that moment when the effects of light and water intermingled to give the optimal photographic result.
Synonymously, it reminds me of the methodology of rehearsing orchestras to elicit the best performance. Making performances is little different to en plein air painting wherein the canvas objects are subject to shifting light densities. Timing when to put the artist’s brush to the canvas is key to the artform – and what an artform! For orchestral conductors, the deft touch needed to paint using the inestimable skill of orchestral players to achieve the perfect result is very difficult indeed. Too often, as conductors, we fail subsequently asking the orchestra musicians to come back tomorrow whilst we practise our artistic insights over again.
My favorite conducting experiences this year have been with the Australian Discovery Orchestra for live-stream concerts. My least favorite experiences – conducting university orchestras of varying abilities in the USA. Someone questioned me recently why I found these student-level orchestras an unenviable proposition to work with, assuming my answer would in all likelihood be about the respective orchestras’ technical shortcomings. But that isn’t the problem. Continue Reading →