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Conducting is the art of directing a musical performance, such as an orchestral or choral concert. It has been defined as "the art of directing the simultaneous performance of several players or singers by the use of gesture."The primary duties of the conductor are to interpret the score in a way which reflects the specific indications in that score, set the tempo, ensure correct entries by ensemble members, and "shape" the phrasing where appropriate. Conductors communicate with their musicians primarily through hand gestures, usually with the aid of a baton, and may use other gestures or signals such as eye contact. A conductor usually supplements their direction with verbal instructions to their musicians in rehearsal.
Music is an art form and cultural activity whose medium is sound organized in time. General definitions of music include common elements such as pitch, rhythm, dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture. Different styles or types of music may emphasize, de-emphasize or omit some of these elements. Music is performed with a vast range of instruments and vocal techniques ranging from singing to rapping; there are solely instrumental pieces, solely vocal pieces and pieces that combine singing and instruments. The word derives from Greek μουσική . See glossary of musical terminology.
An orchestra is a large instrumental ensemble typical of classical music, which combines instruments from different families, including bowed string instruments such as the violin, viola, cello, and double bass, brass instruments such as the horn, trumpet, trombone and tuba, woodwinds such as the flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon, and percussion instruments such as the timpani, bass drum, triangle, snare drum, cymbals, and mallet percussion instruments each grouped in sections. Other instruments such as the piano and celesta may sometimes appear in a fifth keyboard section or may stand alone, as may the concert harp and, for performances of some modern compositions, electronic instruments.
A choir is a musical ensemble of singers. Choral music, in turn, is the music written specifically for such an ensemble to perform. Choirs may perform music from the classical music repertoire, which spans from the medieval era to the present, or popular music repertoire. Most choirs are led by a conductor, who leads the performances with arm and face gestures.
The conductor typically stands on a raised podium with a large music stand for the full score, which contains the musical notation for all the instruments or voices. Since the mid-19th century, most conductors have not played an instrument when conducting, although in earlier periods of classical music history, leading an ensemble while playing an instrument was common. In Baroque music from the 1600s to the 1750s, the group would typically be led by the harpsichordist or first violinist (see concertmaster), an approach that in modern times has been revived by several music directors for music from this period. Conducting while playing a piano or synthesizer may also be done with musical theatre pit orchestras. Communication is typically non-verbal during a performance (this is strictly the case in art music, but in jazz big bands or large pop ensembles, there may be occasional spoken instructions, such as a "count in"). However, in rehearsals, frequent interruptions allow the conductor to give verbal directions as to how the music should be played or sung.
Music notation or musical notation is any system used to visually represent aurally perceived music played with instruments or sung by the human voice through the use of written, printed, or otherwise-produced symbols.
Classical music is art music produced or rooted in the traditions of Western culture, including both liturgical (religious) and secular music. While a more precise term is also used to refer to the period from 1750 to 1820, this article is about the broad span of time from before the 6th century AD to the present day, which includes the Classical period and various other periods. The central norms of this tradition became codified between 1550 and 1900, which is known as the common-practice period.
Baroque music is a period or style of Western art music composed from approximately 1600 to 1750. This era followed the Renaissance music era, and was followed in turn by the Classical era. Baroque music forms a major portion of the "classical music" canon, and is now widely studied, performed, and listened to. Key composers of the Baroque era include Johann Sebastian Bach, Antonio Vivaldi, George Frideric Handel, Claudio Monteverdi, Domenico Scarlatti, Alessandro Scarlatti, Henry Purcell, Georg Philipp Telemann, Jean-Baptiste Lully, Jean-Philippe Rameau, Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Arcangelo Corelli, Tomaso Albinoni, François Couperin, Giuseppe Tartini, Heinrich Schütz, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, Dieterich Buxtehude, and Johann Pachelbel.
Conductors act as guides to the orchestras or choirs they conduct. They choose the works to be performed and study their scores, to which they may make certain adjustments (such as in tempo, articulation, phrasing, repetitions of sections), work out their interpretation, and relay their vision to the performers. They may also attend to organizational matters, such as scheduling rehearsals,planning a concert season, hearing auditions and selecting members, and promoting their ensemble in the media. Orchestras, choirs, concert bands and other sizable musical ensembles such as big bands are usually led by conductors.
Sheet music is a handwritten or printed form of music notation that uses modern musical symbols to indicate the pitches (melodies), rhythms or chords of a song or instrumental musical piece. Like its analogs – printed books or pamphlets in English, Arabic or other languages – the medium of sheet music typically is paper, although the access to musical notation since the 1980s has included the presentation of musical notation on computer screens and the development of scorewriter computer programs that can notate a song or piece electronically, and, in some cases, "play back" the notated music using a synthesizer or virtual instruments.
An audition is a sample performance by an actor, singer, musician, dancer or other performer. It typically involves the performer displaying their talent through a previously memorized and rehearsed solo piece or by performing a work or piece given to the performer at the audition or shortly before. In some cases, such as with a model or acrobat, the individual may be asked to demonstrate a range of professional skills. Actors may be asked to present a monologue. Singers will perform a song in a popular music context or an aria in a Classical context. A dancer will present a routine in a specific style, such as ballet, tap dance or hip-hop, or show his or her ability to quickly learn a choreographed dance piece.
A concert band, also called wind ensemble, symphonic band, wind symphony, wind orchestra, wind band, symphonic winds, symphony band, or symphonic wind ensemble, is a performing ensemble consisting of members of the woodwind, brass, and percussion families of instruments, and occasionally including the double bass or bass guitar. On rare occasions, additional non-traditional instruments may be added to such ensembles such as piano, harp, synthesizer, or electric guitar.
The principal conductor of an orchestra or opera company is sometimes referred to as a music director or chief conductor, or by the German words Kapellmeister or Dirigent. Conductors of choirs or choruses are sometimes referred to as choral director,chorus master, or choirmaster, particularly for choirs associated with an orchestra. Conductors of concert bands, military bands, marching bands and other bands may hold the title of band director, bandmaster, or drum major. Respected senior conductors are sometimes referred to by the Italian word, maestro , which translates as "master" or "teacher".
Opera is a form of theatre in which music has a leading role and the parts are taken by singers, but is distinct from musical theater. Such a "work" is typically a collaboration between a composer and a librettist and incorporates a number of the performing arts, such as acting, scenery, costume, and sometimes dance or ballet. The performance is typically given in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble, which since the early 19th century has been led by a conductor.
A music director, musical director, or director of music is the person responsible for the musical aspects of a performance, production, or organization, for example the artistic director and usually chief conductor of an orchestra or concert band, the director of music of a film, the director of music at a radio station, the person in charge of musical activities or the head of the music department in a school, the coordinator of the musical ensembles in a university, college, or institution, the head bandmaster of a military band, the head organist and choirmaster of a church, or an organist and master of the choristers.
Kapellmeister is a German word designating a person in charge of music-making. The word is a compound, consisting of the roots Kapelle and Meister ("master"). The word was originally used to refer to somebody in charge of music in a chapel. However, the term has evolved considerably in its meaning in response to changes in the musical profession.
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An early form of conducting is cheironomy, the use of hand gestures to indicate melodic shape. This has been practiced at least as far back as the Middle Ages. In the Christian church, the person giving these symbols held a staff to signify his role, and it seems that as music became rhythmically more complex, the staff was moved up and down to indicate the beat, acting as an early form of baton.[ citation needed ]
Cheironomy is a form of music conducting, typically with choral music and choral groups (choirs), where the use of hand gestures directs musical performance. In the modern artform, conductors tend to hoist batons for indicating melodic curves and ornaments.
A melody, also tune, voice, or line, is a linear succession of musical tones that the listener perceives as a single entity. In its most literal sense, a melody is a combination of pitch and rhythm, while more figuratively, the term can include successions of other musical elements such as tonal color. It may be considered the foreground to the background accompaniment. A line or part need not be a foreground melody.
In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages lasted from the 5th to the 15th century. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and merged into the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery. The Middle Ages is the middle period of the three traditional divisions of Western history: classical antiquity, the medieval period, and the modern period. The medieval period is itself subdivided into the Early, High, and Late Middle Ages.
In the 17th century, other devices to indicate the passing of time came into use. Rolled sheets of paper, smaller sticks and unadorned hands are all shown in pictures from this period. The large staff was responsible for the death of Jean-Baptiste Lully, who injured his foot with one while conducting a Te Deum for the king's recovery from illness. The wound became gangrenous and Lully refused amputation, whereupon the gangrene spread to his leg and he died two months later.
Jean-Baptiste Lully was an Italian-born French composer, instrumentalist, and dancer who spent most of his life working in the court of Louis XIV of France. He is considered a master of the French Baroque style. Lully disavowed any Italian influence in French music of the period. He became a French subject in 1661.
The Te Deum is a Latin Christian hymn composed in the 4th century. It is one of the core hymns of the Ambrosian hymnal, which spread throughout the Latin Church with the Milanese Rite in the 6th to 8th centuries, and is sometimes known as "the Ambrosian Hymn", even though authorship by Saint Ambrose is unlikely.
Louis XIV, known as Louis the Great or the Sun King, was a monarch of the House of Bourbon who reigned as King of France from 14 May 1643 until his death in 1715. His reign of 72 years and 110 days is the longest recorded of any monarch of a sovereign country in European history. In the age of absolutism in Europe, Louis XIV's France was a leader in the growing centralisation of power.
In instrumental music throughout the 18th century, a member of the ensemble usually acted as the conductor. This was sometimes the concertmaster, who could use his bow as a baton, or a lutenist who would move the neck of his instrument in time with the beat. It was common to conduct from the harpsichord in pieces that had a basso continuo part. In opera performances, there were sometimes two conductors, with the keyboard player in charge of the singers and the principal violinist or leader was in charge of the orchestra.[ citation needed ]
On Fri, 30 Sep 1791 in Vienna, Mozart's opera Die Zauberflöte ( The Magic Flute ) premiered at the Theater auf der Wieden, with Mozart himself conducting the orchestra, according to documents and publicity posters from that time.
In 1798, Joseph Haydn conducted the premiere of Creation with his hands and a baton while "Kapellmeister Weigl [sat] at the fortepiano."
By the early 19th century (ca. 1820), it became the norm to have a dedicated conductor, who did not also play an instrument during the performance. While some orchestras protested the introduction of the conductor, since they were used to having a concertmaster or keyboard player act as leader, eventually the role of a conductor was established. The size of the usual orchestra expanded during this period, and the use of a baton became more common, as it was easier to see than bare hands or rolled-up paper. Among the earliest notable conductors were Louis Spohr, Carl Maria von Weber, Louis-Antoine Jullien and Felix Mendelssohn, all of whom were also composers. Mendelssohn is claimed to have been the first conductor to utilize a wooden baton to keep time, a practice still generally in use in the 2010s. Prominent conductors who did not or do not use a baton include Pierre Boulez, Kurt Masur, James Conlon, Yuri Temirkanov,Leopold Stokowski, Vasily Safonov, Eugene Ormandy (for a period), and Dimitri Mitropoulos.
The composers Hector Berlioz and Richard Wagner attained greatness as conductors, and they wrote two of the earliest essays dedicated to the subject. Berlioz is considered the first virtuoso conductor. Wagner was largely responsible for shaping the conductor's role as one who imposes his own view of a piece onto the performance rather than one who is just responsible for ensuring entries are made at the right time and that there is a unified beat. Predecessors who focused on conducting include François Habeneck, who founded the Orchestre de la Société des concerts du Conservatoire in 1828, though Berlioz was later to be alarmed at Habeneck's loose standards of rehearsal. Pianist and composer Franz Liszt was also a conductor.
Wagner's one-time champion Hans von Bülow (1830–1894) was particularly celebrated as a conductor, although he also maintained his initial career as a pianist, an instrument on which he was regarded as among the greatest performers (he was a prized piano student of Franz Liszt, whose daughter Cosima he married – although she was to abandon him for Wagner. Liszt was a major figure in the history of conducting, who attained remarkable performances).
Bülow raised the technical standards of conducting to an unprecedented level through such innovations as separate, detailed rehearsals of different sections of the orchestra ("sectional rehearsal"). In his posts as head of (sequentially) the Bavarian State Opera, Meiningen Court Orchestra, and Berlin Philharmonic he brought a level of nuance and subtlety to orchestral performance previously heard only in solo instrumental playing, and in doing so made a profound impression on young artists like Richard Strauss, who at the age of 20 served as his assistant, and Felix Weingartner, who came to disapprove of his interpretations but was deeply impressed by his orchestral standards. Composer Gustav Mahler was also a noted conductor.
Technical standards were brought to new levels by the next generation of conductors, including Arthur Nikisch (1855–1922), who succeeded Bülow as music director of the Berlin Philharmonic in 1895. Nikisch had previously served as head of the Leipzig Opera, Boston Symphony Orchestra, and Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, and was to serve as music director of the London Symphony Orchestra. Nikisch premiered important works by Anton Bruckner and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, who greatly admired his work; Johannes Brahms, after hearing him conduct his Fourth Symphony, said it was "quite exemplary, it's impossible to hear it any better."
Nikisch took the London Symphony Orchestra on tour through the United States in April 1912, the first American tour by a European orchestra. He also made one of the earliest recordings of a complete symphony: the Beethoven Fifth with the Berlin Philharmonic in November 1913. Nikisch was also the first conductor to have his art captured on film – alas, silently. The film confirms reports that he made particularly mesmerizing use of eye contact and expression to communicate with an orchestra; such later conductors as Fritz Reiner stated that this aspect of his technique had a strong influence on their own.
Conductors of the generations after Nikisch often left extensive recorded evidence of their arts. Two particularly influential and widely recorded figures are often treated, somewhat inaccurately, as interpretive antipodes. They were the Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini (1867–1957) and the German conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler (1886–1954). Toscanini played in orchestras under Giuseppe Verdi and made his debut conducting Aida in 1886, filling in at the last minute for an indisposed conductor. He is to this day regarded by such authorities as James Levine as the greatest of all Verdi conductors. But Toscanini's repertory was wide, and it was in his interpretations of the German symphonists Beethoven and Brahms that he was particularly renowned and influential, favoring stricter and faster tempi than a conductor like Bülow or, before him, Wagner. Still, his style shows more inflection than his reputation may suggest, and he was particularly gifted at revealing detail and getting orchestras to play in a singing manner.
Furtwängler, whom many regard as the greatest interpreter of Wagner (although Toscanini was also admired in this composer) and Bruckner, conducted Beethoven and Brahms with a good deal of inflection of tempo – but generally in a manner that revealed the structure and direction of the music particularly clearly. He was an accomplished composer as well as performer, and a disciple of the theorist Heinrich Schenker, who emphasized concern for underlying long-range harmonic tensions and resolutions in a piece, a strength of Furtwängler's conducting. Along with his interest in the large-scale, Furtwängler also shaped the details of the piece in a particularly compelling and expressive manner.
The two men had very different techniques: Toscanini's was Italianate, with a long, large baton and clear beats (often not using his left hand); Furtwängler beat time with less apparent precision, because he wanted a more rounded sound (although it is a myth that his technique was vague; many musicians have attested that he was easy to follow in his own way). In any event, their examples illustrate a larger point about conducting technique in the first half of the 20th century: it was not standardized. Great and influential conductors of the middle 20th century like Leopold Stokowski (1882–1977), Otto Klemperer (1885–1973), Herbert von Karajan (1908–1989) and Leonard Bernstein (1918–1990) – incidentally, the first American conductor to attain greatness and international fame – had widely varied techniques.
Karajan and Bernstein formed another apparent antipode in the 1960s–80s, Karajan as music director of the Berlin Philharmonic (1955–89) and Bernstein as, for part of that period, music director of the New York Philharmonic (1957–69), and later frequent guest conductor in Europe. Karajan's technique was highly controlled, and eventually he conducted with his eyes often closed; Bernstein's technique was demonstrative, with highly expressive facial gestures and hand and body movements. Karajan could conduct for hours without moving his feet, while Bernstein was known at times to leap into the air at a great climax. As the music director of the Berlin Philharmonic, Karajan cultivated warm, blended beauty of tone, which has sometimes been criticized as too uniformly applied; by contrast, in Bernstein's only appearance with the Berlin Philharmonic in 1979 – performing Mahler's Symphony No. 9 – he tried to get the orchestra to produce an "ugly" tone in a certain passage in which he believed it suited the expressive meaning of the music (the first horn player refused, and finally agreed to let an understudy play instead of himself).
Both Karajan and Bernstein made extensive use of advances in media to convey their art, but in tellingly different ways. Bernstein hosted major prime-time national television series to educate and reach out to children and the public at large about classical music; Karajan made a series of films late in his life, but in them, he did not talk. Both made numerous recordings, but their attitudes toward recording differed: Karajan frequently made new studio recordings to take advantage of advances in recording technique, which fascinated him – he played a role in setting the specifications of the compact disc – but Bernstein, in his post-New York days, came to insist on (for the most part) live concert recordings, believing that music-making did not come to life in a studio without an audience.
In the last third of the 20th century, conducting technique – particularly with the right hand and the baton – became increasingly standardized. Conductors like Willem Mengelberg in Amsterdam until the end of World War II had had extensive rehearsal time to mold orchestras very precisely, and thus could have idiosyncratic techniques; modern conductors, who spend less time with any given orchestra, must get results with much less rehearsal time. A more standardized technique allows communication to be much more rapid. Nonetheless, conductors' techniques still show a great deal of variety, particularly with the use of the left hand, facial and eye expression, and body language.
Women conductors were almost unheard of in the ranks of leading orchestral conductors through most of the 19th and 20th centuries, but today, artists like Hortense von Gelmini, Marin Alsop and Simone Young are to be seen conducting leading orchestras. Alsop was appointed music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in 2007 – the first woman ever appointed to head a major US orchestra – and also of the Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo in 2012, and Alsop was the first woman to conduct on the last night of The Proms. Young scored similar firsts when she became head of the Hamburg State Opera and Philharmoniker Hamburg in 2005; she is also the first woman conductor to record the Ring Cycle of Richard Wagner. The Guardian called conducting "one of the last glass ceilings in the music industry". A 2013 article stated that in France, out of 574 concerts only 17 were conducted by women and no women conducted at the National Opéra in Paris. "Bachtrack reported that, in a list of the world's 150 top conductors that year, only five were women."
While Mexico has produced several major international conductors, Alondra de la Parra has become the first Mexican-born woman to attain distinction in the profession. Similarly, conductors of East Asian descent have become more prominent within the contemporary orchestral landscape–notably, Seiji Ozawa, who was thematic director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1973 until 2002 after holding similar posts in San Francisco and Toronto, and Myung-Whun Chung, who has held major posts in Germany and France and now is bringing the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra to international attention. There is still a lack of representation of black artists in the conducting profession, but there have been notable exceptions, such as Henry Lewis, Dean Dixon, James DePreist, Paul Freeman, and Michael Morgan. For more information on black conductors, see Black conductors. According to a 2004 article in The Guardian, "black conductors are rare in the classical music world and even in symphony orchestras it is unusual to see more than one or two black musicians."
Conducting is a means of communicating artistic directions to performers during a performance. Although there are many formal rules on how to conduct correctly, others are subjective, and a wide variety of different conducting styles exist depending upon the training and sophistication of the conductor. The primary responsibilities of the conductor are to unify performers, set the tempo, execute clear preparations and beats, listen critically and shape the sound of the ensemble, and to control the interpretation and pacing of the music. Communication is non-verbal during a performance, however in rehearsal frequent interruptions allow directions as to how the music should be played. During rehearsals, the conductor may stop the playing of a piece to request changes in the phrasing or request a change in the timbre of a certain section. In amateur orchestras, the rehearsals are often stopped to draw the musicians' attentions to performance errors or transposition mistakes.
Conducting requires an understanding of the elements of musical expression (tempo, dynamics, articulation) and the ability to communicate them effectively to an ensemble. The ability to communicate nuances of phrasing and expression through gestures is also beneficial. Conducting gestures are preferably prepared beforehand by the conductor while studying the score, but may sometimes be spontaneous.
A distinction is sometimes made between orchestral conducting and choral conducting. Typically, orchestral conductors use a baton more often than choral conductors. The grip of the baton varies from conductor to conductor.
At the beginning of a piece of music, the conductor raises his hands (or hand if he only uses a single hand) to indicate that the piece is about to begin. This is a signal for the orchestra members to ready their instruments to be played or for the choristers to be ready and watching. The conductor then looks at the different sections of the orchestra (winds, strings, etc.) or choir to ensure that all the orchestra members are ready to play and choir members are ready. In some choral works, the conductor may signal to a pianist or organist to play a note or chord so that the choir members can determine their starting notes. Then the conductor gives one or more preparatory beats to commence the music. The preparatory beat before the orchestra or choir begins is the upbeat. The beat of the music is typically indicated with the conductor's right hand, with or without a baton. The hand traces a shape in the air in every bar (measure) depending on the time signature, indicating each beat with a change from downward to upward motion. [ citation needed ]The images show the most common beat patterns, as seen from the conductor's point of view.
The downbeat indicates the first beat of the bar, and the upbeat indicates the beat before the first note of the piece and the last beat of the bar. The instant at which the beat occurs is called the ictus (plural: ictūs or ictuses), and is usually indicated by a sudden (though not necessarily large) click of the wrist or change in baton direction. In some instances, "ictus" is also used to refer to a horizontal plane in which all the ictuses are physically located, such as the top of a music stand where a baton is tapped at each ictus. The gesture leading up to the ictus is called the "preparation", and the continuous flow of steady beats is called the "takt" (the German word for bar, measure and beat).
If the tempo is slow or slowing, or if the time signature is compound, a conductor will sometimes indicate "subdivisions" of the beats. The conductor can do this by adding a smaller movement in the same direction as the movement for the beat that it belongs to.
Changes to the tempo are indicated by changing the speed of the beat. To carry out and to control a rallentando (slowing down the pace of the music), a conductor may introduce beat subdivisions.
While some conductors use both hands to indicate the beat, with the left hand mirroring the right, formal education discourages such an approach. The second hand can be used for cueing the entrances of individual players or sections, and to aid indications of dynamics, phrasing, expression, and other elements.
During an instrumental solo section (or, in an opera orchestra during a vocalist's unaccompanied solo), some conductors stop counting out all the subdivisions and simply tap the baton down once per bar, to aid performers who are counting bars of rests.
There is a difference between the "textbook" definition of where the ictus of a downbeat occurs and the actual performance practice in professional orchestras. With an abrupt, loud sforzando chord, a professional orchestra will often play slightly after the striking of the ictus point of the baton stroke.
Dynamics are indicated in various ways. The dynamic may be communicated by the size of the conducting movements, larger shapes representing louder sounds. Changes in dynamic may be signalled with the hand that is not being used to indicate the beat: an upward motion (usually palm-up) indicates a crescendo; a downward motion (usually palm-down) indicates a diminuendo. Changing the size of conducting movements frequently results in changes in the character of the music depending upon the circumstances.
Dynamics can be fine-tuned using various gestures: showing one's palm to the performers or leaning away from them may demonstrate a decrease in volume. To adjust the overall balance of the various instruments or voices, these signals can be combined or directed toward a particular section or performer.
The indication of entries, when a performer or section should begin playing (perhaps after a long period of rests), is called "cueing". A cue must forecast with certainty the exact moment of the coming ictus, so that all the players or singers affected by the cue can begin playing simultaneously. Cueing is most important for cases where a performer or section has not been playing for a lengthy time. Cueing is also helpful in the case of a pedal point with string players, when a section has been playing the pedal point for a lengthy period; a cue is important to indicate when they should change to a new note. Cueing is achieved by "engaging" the players before their entry (by looking at them) and executing a clear preparation gesture, often directed toward the specific players. An inhalation, which may or may not be a semi-audible "sniff" from the conductor, is a common element in the cueing technique of some conductors. Mere eye contact or a look in the general direction of the players may be sufficient in many instances, as when more than one section of the ensemble enters at the same time. Larger musical events may warrant the use of a larger or more emphatic cue designed to encourage emotion and energy.
Articulation may be indicated by the character of the ictus, ranging from short and sharp for staccato, to long and fluid for legato. Many conductors change the tension of the hands: strained muscles and rigid movements may correspond to marcato, while relaxed hands and soft movements may correspond to legato or espressivo. Phrasing may be indicated by wide overhead arcs or by a smooth hand motion either forwards or side-to-side. A held note is often indicated by a hand held flat with palm up. The end of a note, called a "cutoff" or "release", may be indicated by a circular motion, the closing of the palm, or the pinching of finger and thumb. A release is usually preceded by a preparation and concluded with a complete stillness.
Conductors aim to maintain eye contact with the ensemble as much as possible, encouraging eye contact in return and increasing the dialogue between players/singers and conductor. Facial expressions may also be important to demonstrate the character of the music or to encourage the players.
In some cases, such as where there has been little rehearsal time to prepare a piece, a conductor may discreetly indicate how the bars of music will be beat immediately before the start of the movement by holding up their fingers in front of their chest (so only the performers can see). For example, in a 4
4 piece that the conductor will beat "in two" (two ictus points or beats per bar, as if it were 2
2), the conductor would hold up two fingers in front of his chest.
In most cases, there is a short pause between movements of a symphony, concerto or dance suite. This brief pause gives orchestra or choir members time to turn the pages of their part and ready themselves for the start of the next movement. String players may apply rosin or wipe sweat off their hands with a handkerchief. Reed players may take this time to change to a new reed. In some cases, woodwind or brass players will use the pause to switch to a different instrument (e.g., from trumpet to cornet or from clarinet to E♭ clarinet). If the conductor wishes to immediately begin one movement after another for musical reasons, this is called attacca. The conductor will instruct the orchestra members and choristers to write the term in their parts, so that they will be ready to go immediately to the next movement.
The roles of a conductor vary a great deal between different conducting positions and different ensembles. In some cases, a conductor will also be the musical director of the symphony, choosing the program for the entire season, including concerts by guest conductors, concerto soloists, pop concerts, and so on. A senior conductor may attend some or all of the auditions for new members of the orchestra, to ensure that the candidates have the playing style and tone that the conductor prefers and that candidates meet the highest performance standards. Some choral conductors are hired to prepare a choir for several weeks which will subsequently be directed by another conductor. The choral conductor is usually acknowledged for their preparatory work in the concert program.
Some conductors may have a significant public relations role, giving interviews to the local news channel and appearing on television talk shows to promote the upcoming season or particular concerts. On the other hand, a conductor hired to guest conduct a single concert may only have the responsibility of rehearsing the orchestra for several pieces and conducting one or two concerts. While a handful of conductors have become well-known celebrities, such as Leonard Bernstein, most are only known within the classical music scene.
Classical choral and instrumental conducting have established comprehensive systems of instruction and training. Aspiring conductors can study at colleges, conservatories, and universities. Conservatories, which are the standard musical training system in France and in Quebec (Canada) provide lessons and amateur conducting experience. Universities offer a range of conducting programs, including courses in conducting as part of bachelor's degrees, a small number of Master of Music degrees in conducting, and an even smaller number of Doctor of Musical Arts degrees in conducting.
In addition, there are a variety of other training programs such as classical summer camps and training festivals, which give students the opportunity to conduct a wide range of music. Aspiring conductors need to obtain a broad education about the history of music, including the major periods of classical music and regarding music theory. Many conductors learn to play a keyboard instrument such as the piano or the pipe organ, a skill that helps them to be able to analyze symphonies and try out their interpretations before they have access to an orchestra to conduct. Many conductors get experience playing in an orchestra or singing in a choir, an experience which gives them good insights into how orchestras and choirs are conducted and rehearsed.
In 2014, orchestra conductors typically hold a master's degree in music and choir conductors in the US typically hold a bachelor's degree in music.Bachelor's degrees (referred to as B.Mus. or B.M) are four-year programs that include conducting lessons, amateur orchestra experience, and a sequence of courses in music history, music theory, and liberal arts courses (e.g., English literature), which give the student a more well-rounded education. Students do not usually specialize in conducting at the B.Mus. stage; instead, they usually develop general music skills such as singing, playing an orchestral instrument, performing in a choir, playing in orchestra, and playing a keyboard instrument such as the piano or the organ.
Another topic that conducting students study is the languages used in Classical music opera. Orchestral conductors are expected to be able to rehearse and lead choirs in works for orchestra and choir. As such, orchestral conductors need to know the major languages used in choral writing (including French, Italian and Latin, among others) and they must understand the correct diction of these languages in a choral singing context. The opposite is also true: a choral conductor will be expected to rehearse and lead a string orchestra or full orchestra when performing works for choir and orchestra. As such, a choral conductor needs to know how to rehearse and lead instrument sections.
Master of music degrees (M.mus.) in conducting consist of private conducting lessons, ensemble experience, coaching, and graduate courses in music history and music theory, along with one or two conducted concerts. A Master's degree in music (referred to as an M.Mus. or M.M.) is often the required minimum credential for people who wish to become a professor of conducting.
Doctor of Musical Arts (referred to as D.M.A., DMA, D.Mus.A. or A.Mus.D) degrees in conducting provide an opportunity for advanced study at the highest artistic and pedagogical level, requiring usually an additional 54+ credit hours beyond a master's degree (which is about 30+ credits beyond a bachelor's degree). For this reason, admission is highly selective. Examinations in music history, music theory, ear training/dictation, and an entrance examination and conducting audition are required. Students perform a number of conducted concerts, including a combination lecture-conducted concert with an accompanying doctoral dissertation, advanced coursework. Students must typically maintain a minimum B average. A DMA in conducting is a terminal degree, and as such, it qualifies the holder to teach in colleges, universities and conservatories. In addition to academic study, another part of the training pathway for many conductors is conducting amateur orchestras, such as youth orchestras, school orchestras and community orchestras.
A small number of conductors become professionals without formal training in conducting. These individuals often have achieved renown as instrumental or vocal performers, and they have often undertaken a great deal of training in their area of expertise (instrumental performance or singing). Another way that a small number of conductors become professionals without formal training in conducting is by learning on the job by conducting amateur orchestras, school orchestras, and community orchestras (or the equivalent choral ensembles).
The average salary of conductors in the US in 2014 was $48,180. A 3% growth rate is forecast for conducting jobs from 2014 to 2024, a slower than average growth rate.
Gustav Heinrich Ernst Martin Wilhelm Furtwängler was a German conductor and composer. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest symphonic and operatic conductors of the 20th century.
Sir Adrian Cedric Boult, CH was an English conductor. Brought up in a prosperous mercantile family, he followed musical studies in England and at Leipzig, Germany, with early conducting work in London for the Royal Opera House and Sergei Diaghilev's ballet company. His first prominent post was conductor of the City of Birmingham Orchestra in 1924. When the British Broadcasting Corporation appointed him director of music in 1930, he established the BBC Symphony Orchestra and became its chief conductor. The orchestra set standards of excellence that were rivalled in Britain only by the London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO), founded two years later.
The Berlin Philharmonic is a German orchestra based in Berlin. It is traditionally ranked in the top handful of orchestras in the world, distinguished amongst peers for its virtuosity and compelling sound. The orchestra’s history has always been tied to its chief conductors, many of whom have been authoritative and controversial characters, such as Wilhelm Furtwängler and Herbert von Karajan.
The London Symphony Orchestra (LSO), founded in 1904, is a British Orchestra and the oldest of London's symphony orchestras. It was set up by a group of players who left Henry Wood's Queen's Hall Orchestra because of a new rule requiring players to give the orchestra their exclusive services. The LSO itself later introduced a similar rule for its members. From the outset the LSO was organised on co-operative lines, with all players sharing the profits at the end of each season. This practice continued for the orchestra's first four decades.
The Philharmonia Orchestra is a British orchestra based in London. It was founded in 1945 by Walter Legge, a classical music record producer for EMI. Among the conductors who worked with the orchestra in its early years were Richard Strauss, Wilhelm Furtwängler and Arturo Toscanini; of the Philharmonia's younger conductors, the most important to its development was Herbert von Karajan, who though never formally chief conductor was closely associated with the orchestra in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The Philharmonia became widely regarded as the finest of London's five symphony orchestras in its first two decades.
Claudio Abbado, Cavaliere di Gran Croce OMRI was an Italian conductor. One of the most celebrated and respected conductors of the 20th century, particularly in the music of Gustav Mahler, he served as music director of the La Scala opera house in Milan, principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, principal guest conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, music director of the Vienna State Opera, founder and director of Lucerne Festival Orchestra, music director of European Union Youth Orchestra and principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra.
Eugene Ormandy was a Hungarian-American conductor and violinist, best known for his association with the Philadelphia Orchestra, as its music director. The maestro's 44-year association with the orchestra is one of the longest enjoyed by any conductor with a single orchestra. Under his baton, the Philadelphia Orchestra had three gold records and won two Grammy Awards.
The concertmaster is the leader of the first violin section in an orchestra and the instrument-playing leader of the orchestra. After the conductor, the concertmaster is the second-most significant leader in an orchestra, symphonic band or other musical ensemble. Another common term in the U.S. is "First Chair." In the U.K., Australia and elsewhere in the English-speaking world, the term commonly used is "leader."
Arthur Nikisch was a Hungarian conductor who performed internationally, holding posts in Boston, London, Leipzig and—most importantly—Berlin. He was considered an outstanding interpreter of the music of Bruckner, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven and Liszt. Johannes Brahms praised Nikisch's performance of his Fourth Symphony as "quite exemplary, it's impossible to hear it any better."
Westminster Choir College is a residential conservatory of music located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States. Westminster Choir College educates men and women at the undergraduate and graduate levels for musical careers in music education, voice performance, piano performance, organ performance, pedagogy, music theory and composition, conducting, sacred music, and arts management; professional training in musical skills with an emphasis on performance is complemented by studies in the liberal arts. All students study with Westminster's voice faculty, the largest voice faculty in the world. The school's proximity to New York City and Philadelphia provides students with easy access to the musical resources of both cities.
Hans Richter was an Austrian–Hungarian orchestral and operatic conductor.
A rehearsal is an activity in the performing arts that occurs as preparation for a performance in music, theatre, dance and related arts, such as opera, musical theatre and film production. It is undertaken as a form of practising, to ensure that all details of the subsequent performance are adequately prepared and coordinated. The term "rehearsal" typically refers to ensemble activities undertaken by a group of people. For example, when a musician is preparing a piano concerto in their music studio, this is called "practicing", but when they practice the concerto with an orchestra, this is called a "rehearsal". The music rehearsal takes place in a music rehearsal space.
Minnesota Youth Symphonies, commonly referred to as MYS, was founded in 1972 by Ralph Winkler. The program has four orchestras composed of students from elementary level through high school, with participation's based on an annual audition. MYS, led by co-artistic directors Manny and Claudette Laureano since 1988, performs at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, as well as other locations, and hosts workshops and classes.
Dr. Brady Allred is an American conductor of choral and orchestral music who currently serves as the Artistic Director and Conductor of the Salt Lake Choral Artists, a regional choir organization with five choirs with a total of approximately 350 singers.
A baton is a stick that is used by conductors primarily to enlarge and enhance the manual and bodily movements associated with directing an ensemble of musicians.
The Alto Rhapsody, Op. 53, is a composition for contralto, male chorus, and orchestra by Johannes Brahms, a setting of verses from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Harzreise im Winter. It was written in 1869, as a wedding gift for Robert and Clara Schumann's daughter, Julie. Brahms scholars have long speculated that the composer may have had romantic feelings for Julie, which he may have integrated into the text and music of the Alto Rhapsody. The text, with its metaphysical portrayal of a misanthropic soul who is urged to find spiritual sustenance and throw off the shackles of his suffering, has powerful parallels in Brahms's life and character.
A Director of Bands is the head figure of a marching or concert form of bands, a person who leads a musical ensemble. The Director, by history and tradition, must know all the concepts of music and must be able to teach all different kinds of instrumental musicians in order to make a performance at a certain dateline before the scheduled performance.
A youth orchestra is an orchestra made of young musicians, typically ranging from pre-teens or teenagers to those in their mid-20s. Because young children do not usually start playing double bass until a later age than those playing the smaller instruments, double bass players in youth orchestras tend to be in the early to mid-20s. The typical youth orchestra involves members from across an entire city, region or state. In some cases, there are national youth orchestras, which consist of the best young musicians in a country, as determined by auditions. More rarely, there may even be international youth orchestras. Youth orchestras are led by an adult conductor who is often a music teacher or orchestral musician. In addition to leading the rehearsals and performances, the conductor teaches orchestral playing techniques, performance practice and music ensemble skills to the children and youth.
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