Issue: January-March 2012
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20 Years ago in Bandworld
Conducting for a Soloist (concluded)

by Ray Devilbiss
Vol 7 ,3, p.34 (January - February 1992)

Musical Suggestions

1. Well before the first rehearsal, conductors should enter into a thorough discussion of the solo with student soloists involved; its tradition, style, tempo, rubato, the existence of important melodic lines in accompaniment, dynamics, climaxes, and so on. Student soloists definitely need to receive this kind of pertinent information regarding their solos.

2. Although conductors may previously have advised student soloists on matters concerning interpretation, they should not impose this interpretation on them during public performances. Student soloists have the same right as guest artists to be free to express themselves musically.

3. Conductors must be certain a soloist is ready to begin before giving the downbeat.

4. Conductors must not beat time during a cadenza by the soloist.

5. Since introduction, interludes and coda are essential parts of the whole, it is important that they are played with crisp authority by the ensemble. Moreover, this style of performance tends to give soloists more confidence.

6. The ensemble must always play beneath solo part, unless melodic lines in accompaniment are more important for the moment.

7. To secure proper balance, conductors must be prepared to reduce number of players on a part when necessary, and, through editing individual parts, remove excessive doubling of voices in the accompaniment.

8. Conductors should keep visual contact with soloists at all times, in order to observe signals from the latter which may lead to shaping interpretation in ways different from those prevailing at final rehearsal.

9. Whether forte or piano, conductors must rehearse the ending in a way to make it climatic.

10. There must be a clear understanding between conductors and soloists about setting tempi for various sections of a solo; theme and variations, changes in mood or style, and the like. While this is usually a conductor’s provenance, during public performance guest artists often wish to reserve these decisions for themselves.

11. Although the audience should always be able to hear a soloist over the accompaniment, an exception to that rule can be made for tutti ff’s during final measures, when power and excitement attendant to tutti ensemble sonority take precedence over balance between soloist and ensemble.

Soloists appreciate conductors who can take charge of an accompaniment, yet still allow a soloist room for flexibility in the interpretation. Indeed, nothing is more satisfying to soloists than to feel at ease with accompanying ensembles. While it is important that baton technique is firm, precise and authoritative, and that good intonation, balance, dynamics and correct tempi prevail in ensemble accompaniment, it is even more important for conductors to be sensitive to every nuance introduced by soloists during public performance, whether or not the solo was interpreted that way during final rehearsals. When empathy between conductor and soloist is absent, conducting an accompaniment can be a most difficult task. The extent of empathy between conductors and soloists is the basic foundation for any rapport which will then exist between soloists and conductors. This oneness of artistic spirit between the two is not only the final answer, but also the sole key toward securing an artistic performance in which every person concerned is able to take part, members of the ensemble no less than conductor and soloist.

 

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