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This is one of the most common questions that I have been asked over many years. If anyone else has had difficulty in giving an adequate/eloquent response may I humbly suggest the answer is here - see the link.

If anyone asks in the future you could save this link to pass on - it saves a heck of a lot of explanation.

https://youtu.be/2L85eTSWrmg

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Yes this might help some people to understand but not all.

would your band have followed this direction?

https://youtu.be/nkOiKy6sXfM

Saul,

there’s interpretation and there’s interpretation (to my mind at least) but, for heaven’s sake, this is THE Georg Solti - a total genius. It’s ludicrous to be so simplistic as to suggest ‘he interprets the music’ is adequate to express the art of conducting. I can only think you haven’t watched the video - sheer, unmitigated brilliance is on show here and it would leave nobody in any doubt just what skills are possessed by someone of his ability.

There’s wagging a little white stick like a metronome at one end of the spectrum and there’s knowing the music upside down, inside out and back to front - during this extended rehearsal Solti doesn’t look at the score once.

My whole point in this post is to offer up a tool that shows exactly what art there is to conducting - words fail me!

stephen

Saul Dzorelashvili said:

Primarily he interprets the music.

Though I wonder if a non musician who asks this question is really going to watch an hour video. Besides it only shows a part of what the conductor does.

You reportedly ‘conduct’ occasionally - I can’t believe you think not everyone’s understanding would be enhanced through watching Solti at work - why the negativity for goodness sake?

We are so fortunate in having on record this wonderful example of the art of conducting - it’s worth it’s weight in emeralds to the power of ten.

For once I’m virtually speechless in the face of such a ludicrous lack of understanding.....God help us all!

I’m so shocked I most certainly won’t be watching your YouTube clip because I can’t believe you have anything mildly educational or informative to say on the subject.



Kevin riley said:

Yes this might help some people to understand but not all.

would your band have followed this direction?

https://youtu.be/nkOiKy6sXfM

Bob, If anyone really wants to know what a conductor does they would happily watch a two hour long video...if they don’t have that staying power then they can’t really want to know.

Of course the video doesn’t show everything a conductor does but I defy you or anyone to come up with a better demonstration.

stephen

Bob Porter said:

Though I wonder if a non musician who asks this question is really going to watch an hour video. Besides it only shows a part of what the conductor does.

I am sorry that my opinion does not agree with your particular thoughts on the subject Stephen but we are entitled to our own thoughts on any musical subject.

Maybe this thread could be used to show the different ways a particular piece of music is approached by different people.

Actually I hold him in high esteem!  



Stephen Lines said:

You reportedly ‘conduct’ occasionally - I can’t believe you think not everyone’s understanding would be enhanced through watching Solti at work - why the negativity for goodness sake?

We are so fortunate in having on record this wonderful example of the art of conducting - it’s worth it’s weight in emeralds to the power of ten.

For once I’m virtually speechless in the face of such a ludicrous lack of understanding.....God help us all!

I’m so shocked I most certainly won’t be watching your YouTube clip because I can’t believe you have anything mildly educational or informative to say on the subject.



Kevin riley said:

Yes this might help some people to understand but not all.

would your band have followed this direction?

https://youtu.be/nkOiKy6sXfM

In light of the fiercely passionate responses, I dare not stir the pot.  I'll only suggest that Solti doesn't represent the majority of conductors, many of whom occupy the podium and wave the baton without a fraction of Solti's competence, awareness, and skill.  Just as all composers and performers aren't created equal, neither are conductors.  As for the layman's understanding of what conductors do, they put on a show and give visual cues to audiences that often don't know what's actually happening in the music.  Case in point: 3 lawyers sponsored a symphony performance of my string orchestra piece, Classical Follies.  At a gala party following the performance, I asked one of the three lawyers (patrons of the arts as they'd like to be called) what she enjoyed most about the evening's performance.  Her reply was, "Gosh, sitting in the front row was so great.  I could see the conductor's face the whole time, with his head bopping up and down, and eyebrows dancing.  It was a spectacular sight to behold."  I thanked her for her delightful insight and moved on.

As for Solti, I still remember viewing a documentary special hosted by Dudley Moore (God, did I love him as both an actor and pianist/composer!)  Solti was in fine form, taking Dudley on a tour of the orchestra in all its glory!


Cheers,
Dave

Stephen,

Relax. No one could conduct like Solti. I watched the video. It's a great one.

It is no mystery that he didn't look at the score. You and I both know that even though he hadn't been in front of them for seven years, the musicians were well prepared for what he might want from them. 

This video is for serious students and professionals. Not your average concert goer, who might or might not be awake during a concert. I have sat in the vicinity of many folks snoring in a concert hall. 

Would you expect an 8 year old who asks this question to watch this video?

It's not lack of understanding, or seriousness. Let's be practical. If someone asks you this question, I should think you would easily be able to answer it. Not, out of the gate, refer them to this video. 

And let's face it, If he directed any two orchestras the same way, he wasn't doing his job. We both know that how we conduct depends on not only the group, but also the situation. Are the musicians pros, college age, are we inside or out, cathedral or gym, night or day. 

BTW, the video Kevin posted is also Solti. It's great that you want folks to watch these things, but to shame them if they don't? Relax. The Solti method isn't mine, or yours. Even if I could copy it, it wouldn't be my interpretation. I have to conduct my way.

There are many youtube videos on what does a conductor do including an excellent Ted Talk that answer the question.  

Dave,

It takes a lot to raise my passions nowadays but, as you have seen from my prior responses, I feel very strongly indeed about this subject. I never have the least objection to others disagreeing with me but I do object to people being feeble minded and shallow. If a response is thought necessary then these people should apply their minds intelligently, not unthinkingly. I offered this post as an example of absolute genius at work - it is utterly gobsmacking, and anyone who cannot grasp that fact needs shooting at dawn every morning for a week. I have made points on CF before that have elicited ill-educated responses from people who should know better - from people who actually have responsibility for conducting and training other musicians and still talk utter nonsense. If people are amateurs and under-educated through no fault of their own but show interest and make serious attempts to express themselves either musically, via prose, or both - I have any amount of patience and goodwill for them - I love people who show interest and are willing to learn - I will spend any amount of time trying to guide and help them, after all we were all young and naïve at one stage in our lives. But when people start throwing Kitson Book One (a very old series of books on harmony) strictures at me when I learnt 50 years ago to overcome and break such basic rules musically (and those contained in books 2 and 3) I tend to become a bit cross. 

Your tale of the lawyers strikes a chord with me - there are many, many people 'out there' who want to consider themselves well-educated and sophisticated but who have absolutely nil understanding of music, art or anything that requires invention and originality - they have learned parrot-fashion (particularly lawyers) from books written by others (I should know, I have a Masters Degree, among others, in Police and Criminal Justice Studies).

I reiterate - Solti was unarguably a genius and we are incredibly fortunate to have this clip of him showing precisely what conducting is about - it's 99% rehearsal skill followed by 1% style of performance - it's the 1% your narrow-minded lawyer was responding to. Like I said, God help us all from such shallowness.

I watched the Solti/Moore documentary - fantastic!

Thanks for showing some understanding here - my rant is over!

Stephen

David Carovillano said:

In light of the fiercely passionate responses, I dare not stir the pot.  I'll only suggest that Solti doesn't represent the majority of conductors, many of whom occupy the podium and wave the baton without a fraction of Solti's competence, awareness, and skill.  Just as all composers and performers aren't created equal, neither are conductors.  As for the layman's understanding of what conductors do, they put on a show and give visual cues to audiences that often don't know what's actually happening in the music.  Case in point: 3 lawyers sponsored a symphony performance of my string orchestra piece, Classical Follies.  At a gala party following the performance, I asked one of the three lawyers (patrons of the arts as they'd like to be called) what she enjoyed most about the evening's performance.  Her reply was, "Gosh, sitting in the front row was so great.  I could see the conductor's face the whole time, with his head bopping up and down, and eyebrows dancing.  It was a spectacular sight to behold."  I thanked her for her delightful insight and moved on.

As for Solti, I still remember viewing a documentary special hosted by Dudley Moore (God, did I love him as both an actor and pianist/composer!)  Solti was in fine form, taking Dudley on a tour of the orchestra in all its glory!


Cheers,
Dave

Stephen,

Really?

This person was asked what she most enjoyed about the concert. She gave an honest answer. It's not the answer you would give. So? Her answer makes her narrow-minded and shallow? We can't dictate how others enjoy anything, or why. It may surprise you to know that there are those who think classical music lovers are snobs. Is it wrong to not care for classical music? There are plenty of well educated, deep thinking people who aren't interested in classical music.

I will just point out that the 99% rehearsal skill part of conducting genius isn't a part of the live performance, so asking someone from the audience what they enjoyed about the concert and expecting them to refer to this backend work is rather nonsensical.

Couldn't agree more Greg, it would be nonsensical. I would however expect a reasonably coherent appreciation of the music rather than 'How lovely it was to watch the conductor's eyebrows twitch' - it's not what we 'highbrows' would do, is it (intentional pun, by the way).

Stephen

Greg Brus said:

I will just point out that the 99% rehearsal skill part of conducting genius isn't a part of the live performance, so asking someone from the audience what they enjoyed about the concert and expecting them to refer to this backend work is rather nonsensical.

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