Conducting Dilemma

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by MRSH, Feb 6, 2010.

  1. MRSH

    MRSH Supporting Member

    Here's a question for you (particularly conductors):-

    If you were conducting two bands at the same contest in the same section on the same test piece would you put the same interpretation on the piece with both bands?
  2. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    Yes, no question.
  3. Bayerd

    Bayerd Active Member


    Depends on the standard of the 2 bands I think. The better the band, the more you can do what you want with them. A poorer band might limit what you can do with them and you may alter your strategy to give yourself the best chance of getting as high up as possible.

    The above answer is from the sportsman's point of view. A musician would probably answer as Andy has above.....
  4. _si

    _si Member

    I would have thought that a conductor would want to make the best performance possible by his players. So he may be able to 'fine tune' a test piece to suit the strengths and weaknesses of the 2 bands.
    This would all be dependent on those strengths and weaknesses obviously.
  5. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    No, ideally a conductor should want to give their best possible realisation of the composer's intentions, and if that wins the contest, then fine and dandy.

    Mind you maybe that's why I've never won any as a conductor.:rolleyes:

    Contesting - art or sport? We've been down that road many times before...:biggrin:
  6. yoda

    yoda Member

    It would be actually impossible to put the "same interpretations" on two performances by two different bands. Yes you could get close, but there would have to be differences. You may think they were the same, but they wouldn't be.

    Whenever I have heard this scenario, both bands have actually produced quite markedly different readings, for all the reasons stated by the above contributors.

    I find it difficult to get two performances the same out of the same band, let alone two different bands :) Try doing different takes on a recording session then wait for the producer to tell you that the take for an edit is at a slightly different speed from the main run through ;-)

    good luck tho, You are, in my opinion, very brave, and I hope any cans of worms reading, stay firmly in their cans :)
  7. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    You're quite right, of course, no two performances are ever quite the same, but the intention should be that they are, in an ideal world. The OP asked about interpretations, not performances. You can conduct the same score five times without changing your interpretation and get five different performances from the band.
  8. yoda

    yoda Member

    Of course, you are correct indeed :) and I would agree with you that the intention should be the same.

    I too, first and foremost aim to put my interpretation of the composers wishes, out into the ether. I have been fortunate and lucky enough have won a few contests in my time (and lost more that I have won), but I agree that a satisfying performance is always better than trying to second guess what you think an adjudicator might like, and adjusting your reading to that.
  9. Frontman

    Frontman Member

    What a good question.
    My opinion would be to get the best performance from each band which suits the strengths of each band individually. What works with one may not work with the other.
    I must admit this it is something I have come across on a regular basis. Each band will react differently and therefore as a conductor you have to work with the bands strengths.
    If one band can play well at tempo and the other one struggles but can play slightly slower with accuracy so be it.

    As adjudicators keep telling us Tempi's are not set in stone.

    Well that's my ten penneth worth.
  10. _si

    _si Member

    See? someone agrees with me :clap:
  11. andywooler

    andywooler Supporting Member

    nail - head Mr. Ashworth!
  12. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

    I'm also with Mr. Ashworth here.

    In fact, I rarely set out to prepare a test piece with a fixed idea of the interpretation in my head. In my experience the interpretation "evolves" during the preparation period, partially based on trial and error, and partially, as others have said, depending on the strengths and weaknesses of the band. Therefore it would follow, to my mind at least, that in the case proposed by the OP, the two performances would inevitably evolve differently. Any attempt to force one to match the other would be asking for trouble, in my view.
  13. jezza23361

    jezza23361 Member

    I have only ever done it once - and don't intend to do it again - as luck would have it we drew consecutively (2 and 3) out of 22 bands. One band was much better than the other and I was able to conduct it exactly as I wanted to with the better band. I had to make allowances in tempo for the lack of technique of the weaker.

  14. Band_Beefcake

    Band_Beefcake Member

    I have to concur with Mr. Ashworth, have the same basic ideas but you must play to the strengths of the individuals you have in front of you.
    Never easy through, good luck
  15. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    There's also another consideration, which can be of course caused in part by different strengths and weaknesses amongst the player/s. There's always more than one way to skin a cat, i.e. there should always be room for more than one interpretation. Whether those interpretations are 'right' depends on the indivdual's personal preference in the case or either a listener or adjudicator.

    Commenting on an award winning recording of Mozart symphonies with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Sir Charles Mackerras stated that he always liked to conduct from the score of pieces he's conducted for decades because he was always finding new 'insights' in them. Also, the composer's intentions could change over a period of time as his/her musical experiences widen (or narrow? :)).

    In the case of interpretations, whilst they of course ARE governed by player abilities, particularly with an amateur ensemble, that choice is down to the conductor.

    I bet you're wishing you had never asked that question.... :) Either way, good luck!
  16. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    Absolutely true; Edward Gregson once commented on precisely that*. I worked on a couple of recordings of Mozart operas with Mackerras and he made it clear that his interpretation had evolved following some time spent in Vienna and Prague studying "source material" - original scores, etc.

    However here we're not talking about evolving your understanding of a piece of music over the course of a few years - we're talking about simultaneously conducting the same piece of music with two different ensembles, possibly of differing ability. That "differing ability" is the only reason you should have a different reading of a score for each ensemble, imo, and even then there's only really tempi and levels of dynamic contrast that should be affected. Maybe I'm being idealistic, being so young ;), but I generally try to have the way a piece should go thrashed out in my head before I stand in front of a band and make a fool of myself - there may then have to be compromises if the band can't quite do it the way you want, but they shouldn't have to be massive ones.

    There's also the practical consideration of remembering which interpretation you're using for which band, I would have thought. If you've got two distinct interpretations of how a piece should go in your head, remembering which one you're using with which band must get a bit confusing, especially in the week before when you may well be taking one band or the other every night.

    *He conducted Of Men and Mountains with the NYBBW a few months after recording it with Desford and commented that his opinion on how it should go had changed in those few months.
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2010
  17. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    I would have to agree with this view. If it's a contest, it's the limitations of the band or individual players that has the greatest effect for the end product. Interpretation by the MD may well go down on the list of priorities if the basics are not controlled.
  18. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    As many adjudicators and conductors I have spoken to have often told me, basics are the key. To quote one who shall remain anonymous "...A band can put as much music and emotion into a performance as they like, but if they ain't in tune and they ain't together then they ain't likely to go home with the cup."

    In the context of a contest, I'd certainly try and put as similar a slant as possible on the two performances (because if it's what you believe is right for the score, then go with it) but the over-riding consideration would have to be the individual and collective abilities of the players around the stand.

    OK, if your two hypothetical bands are dkye/fodens/corys standard that won't be much of a worry! But in all likelihood there'll be some difference in certain areas of the band.
  19. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    I remember Nigel Taken taking both Aveley and City of Oxford at the London areas - one year (I forget which) I listened to both bands and was taken aback by the extremely different interpretations given between them.
  20. ophicliede

    ophicliede Member

    When I look at a testpiece and study the score prior to rehearsing the band I formulate my ideas and gather as much information regarding the music. I would then rehearse with my clear thoughts about the piece and if I felt that there were small changes to be made would do so. I would not have two interpretations of the same piece of music. If the bands had different strengths and weaknesses I would still interprete the same way, it just means working harder with the weaker band. Sorting out the basic fundamentals such as dynamics, intonation, balance, phrasing etc., are different from the musicality of the music.

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