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Wittry is nothing if not thorough: by page ten we are being exhorted to learn the Cyrillic alphabet and retranslate every vocal text we deal with. That could come as a bit of a shock to Anglophones, who tend to be notoriously bad at other languages. But Wittry is only pointing out the obvious -- if a conductor doesn't know what all the symbols in a score mean, it bodes ill for their credibility in front of an orchestra. She rightly points up the overarching function of the conductor being bound up in leadership, then explores that idea at numerous levels, covering not just being in front of the band, but dealing with boards, managements, musicians, the public, sponsors, unions -- no stone is left unturned.
Particularly impressive is her section on programming, and the systematic way she outlines the process. Along the way she has many valuable things to say about the difference in program types -- subscription, pops, educational, outreach etc. When someone can offer advice for pops programs like 'Many shows will call for a lead trumpet player who has a great high register and truly understands jazz improvisation' and 'A good drummer is worth every penny. They can save your show', you know you are not dealing with just a theorist.
One might have the suspicion that a lot of this would read like a management handbook, and yes, some of it does, but always related to the real world of orchestral music and oriented to the person, not the management theory. As daunting as it all may seem, young conductors could save themselves a lot of angst by considering what Wittry has to say -- certainly a lot of problems could be pre-empted by a smart person taking a lot of this on board.
Copyright © 27 May 2007
Paul Sarcich, London UK