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<<  -- 2 --  Kelly Ferjutz    WHAT MAKES A CONDUCTOR?


Jeannine Wagar has been conducting for most of her life, and set out just over sixteen years ago to probe the psyche of orchestra conductors to find out what makes them tick. She wrote to more than fifty of them, but due to travel and other constraints, actually ended up by interviewing fifteen of these fascinating creatures; two ladies and thirteen gentlemen. Of these, two are now deceased (Margaret Hillis due to normal causes, and the brilliant Latin Eduardo Mata in a plane crash) and one -- Catherine Comet -- seems to have retired. The other twelve are all flourishing and you may even have heard one of them in concert last week!

Originally, Ms Wagar planned to ask each conductor the same questions, but quickly discovered that wasn't very workable. A question or two got things rolling, and then she just sat back and listened, while taking notes, of course. The results are astonishing and fascinating. Not surprisingly, many of them grumble slightly about the additional and sometimes onerous duties of the Music Director of an American orchestra, as opposed to those of a European based Intendant. Some of them grudgingly go along with the fund-raising efforts required, others rush into it with open arms, enjoying the human contact.

They discuss frankly and openly rehearsal techniques, and how this might differ from concert performances; the connection between composing and conducting; metronome markings in Beethoven's symphonies: new music; choosing repertoire; balancing sound when home and away; to memorize or not; advising young conductors and myriad other topics. Wisely, Ms Wagar did not insist on keeping to her original questions, but rather let the conductor's words wander where they might.

There's a photo of each, plus a biography and discography, in addition to the questions and answers. I've always been enamored of Christoph von Dohnányi, Kurt Masur and André Previn, for various reasons. Nothing in this book has changed my mind one little bit, although I hadn't realized what a wonderful sense of humor is housed in Mr Previn. I was also captivated by the educational insights provided by Charles Dutoit. For a serious conducting student, this book is easily worth the price, if only for the words of wisdom imparted by Mr Dutoit.

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Copyright © 19 March 2006 Kelly Ferjutz, Cleveland USA


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