Conductors: What's the trickiest piece you've had to direct?

Dave Payn

Active Member
Having only conducted at lower section level (phew! ;-)), I won't have come across the more recent test pieces at top level, but this one's for all conductors whether you've conducted the cream of the crop or not. So what's the piece (doesn't have to be a test piece) that's given you the most nightmares regarding beating time, interpretation etc. Funnily enough, what I consider the most difficult piece I've had to conduct occurred in my contest conducting 'debut' in 1998! Though there are pieces like Bourgeois' Serenade that are initially hard to get to grips with, the phrasing actually helps after a few goes (for me). Nope, the most tricky piece I've conducted is what I'm currently listening to on my headphones.... An Epic Symphony! One of the most difficult works I've worked on, certainly for indicating where the next beat's coming from in the slow tempos (in both the first and second movement) and shaping the phrases therein whilst trying to indicate the beats adequately. Still gives me the willies thinking about it!

What's your conducting Nemesis?

Okiedokie of Oz

Active Member
For me it's The Elvira Madigan theme for Brass band. The triplets want one speed, the soloists another, and you just get physically confudged!!

Laserbeam bass

Active Member
Sparke, Jubilee Overture or Bourgeois, Serenade.

Not that I have conducted either but I have seen quite a few conductors screw them up at various points in my banding career.
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Most difficult piece I ever conducted wasn't a band piece It was the monumental Rite of Spring, particularly the 5/8 3/8 1/8 bars towards the end. I didn't know adrenaline was brown and runny! Glad I didn't have the Simon Rattle moment when a mobile went off just at the end of the first bar of the opening bassoon solo (Proms last year). He stopped the performance, turned and glared at the culprit then carried on. No second chances onstage they say? Bet bassoon player was over the moon

Will the Sec

Active Member
Any piece where you get a blind spot and then get het up about it.

To quote from a Fulham rehearsal of The Shipbuilders in 2001, after some twenty minutes trying to progress the third movement, "Oh for crying out loud!!!! Conduct the 1/2 bar as a third beat to the 2/2 bar before it or we'll be here all night!"

(Very sanitised, that version, I can tell you.) :)


trickiest piece

Trickiest to conduct and to rehearse by far - Montage at the Northern area in 1998, the one consolation - first prize....
To a much lesser extent - Frontier in 1992 for the time signatures
I also found Cambridge Variations tough going at Cambridge in 1992 - hottest conditions ever!

John Roberts


Active Member
Diversions by Derek Bourgeois must be a nightmare to conduct , different time change every bar is different.
Even the late Great Trevor Warmsley refused to conduct Point of Ayr on it at the 1989 British Open.
Brilliant Piece though.

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