This article was published at the ORCHESTRA Magazine's №1–2 (57–58) january – june, 2020 edition.
There is always mystery around the conductor’s work like he or he would appear to be a real magician at the front of a performing group of musicians. People in the audience watching carefully her/his body movements, dressing, hands, hairstyle than they ate getting more attracted to the person……
Conducting is a little but more complicated than that aspect of it, though. We should remember that musical performances are primarily for the human ears and not for other sensors of us. The phenomenon might be more complex than this simple statement, but the basic figure is that the conductor should/supposed profoundly know the musical score that the composer wrote down for us. As a result of this process she/he creates a personalized concept of the music to be performed that is the musical resource of the rehearsals and the performance.
This mentioned score learning process is also very complicated and complex as simply a method of studying the score varies by person to person. Some calls the process as “preparing” the score meaning putting into the music different marks by pens or pencils or stickers etc… This method might touch the surface only the musical texture that some prefers. Others are listening recorded performances by others to get an acoustical idea of the music, while others sit at the piano and play through layer by layer of the included musical notes resulting a wider or more profound personal picture of the music to be performed.
The goal of the performance might be also part of the requested level of preparation. One might notice an applied difference between a so called “educational” performance and “artistic” performance. Some might question this categorization at all.
After you as conductor, got the musical picture you want to hear you are supposed to find your gestures how to “evoke” that sound from the performing ensemble that can be a group of vocalists or instrumentalist including chamber ensembles, bands and/or symphony orchestra. This process is another challenge of the preparation of conductors.
In 1978, I attended a conducting seminar, where the professor – very famous with long decades of experience – suddenly criticized a young participating conductor by telling him “you are a ballet dancer and not a conductor” – “you are moving for the music and not moving THE music!” Wow, what a statement and how practical and true it is to be considered!
The real “magic” of conducting is the result of the differences between each of us. We all have different genetic codes, ages, experiences, knowledge, cultural backgrounds, education…etc. We might also find different factors of the performed music personally more intriguing – like musical vocabulary (tonal or atonal music), harmonic progression, texture, orchestration, program or absolute music etc…. – than others, resulting a quite different sound picture.
The historical element of the performed music is also critical for a conductor meaning what century the music is coming from? Is it from the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Baroque, the Classical, the Romantic or 20th century music?
The more profoundly you consider these above mentioned factors/elements of conducting the higher level of “artistic” music making might going on renditions.