Friday, October 11, 2013

Reflecting on the dissertation, Part 2

I did not complete my dissertation in the spring.  No excuses, it just didn't happen.  I put very little effort into it over the summer.  I could blame the dozen or so concert performances of which I was a part, as conductor or player, but--again--those would be excuses.  Thus, when I found myself again on the margins of the profession (as I was for two years: 2010-2012--pitiful that I did no work then either) I actually set out to complete it.

It's not as though the work hadn't been "cooking" in my brain for quite some time; no, quite the opposite.  I would scratch out some notes or sources on the computer--or the old fashioned way: on a legal pad--and then put things aside.  It was not until the summer performances were finished that I finally started in earnest, and by October 1--two weeks ahead of the graduate school's deadline--I had submitted at least a working draft to the members of my committee.  Now, some 10 days later I've received no comments.  Must be no news is good news.

I know that I can write, and have been fortunate enough to have some fine teachers who taught me to write well.  Of course, my high school Latin classes (my deepest thanks to Magistra Depue) along with a (much later) German reading class, were contributors to my acquired skills.  When one studies a language so steeped in proper grammar (of course grammar in vital in English expression) it becomes engrained.  I find myself correcting my own grammar even in emails or facebook messages, and yes, MS Word, sometimes I do mean to write in the passive voice!

Yet, the most important advice I received in this sprint to the finish is found in A Manual for Writers, 8th edition, by Kate Turabian and the team that has taken over her important work since her passing in 1987.  The writers note in the "overview" to part one "Research and Writing, from Planning to Production," "from the outset, you should try to write every day." I took this to heart, trying to assure myself that I could at least get five pages finished every day.  One week, I encountered nothing but setbacks.  As I tried to defend in writing my choice of methodology (of score study), I kept wandering off on a tangent.  As a result, Tuesday's work ended up in the trash file; same thing on Wednesday.  Finally, I simply had to make the conscious decision to just say what I did and how I did not and not compare my methodology to Munch, Furtwangler, Mitropoulos, or the giants in conducting's pantheon.

One always has to remember that the best dissertation is a completed one.  Now we'll see how the committee feels....


Kenneth Woods, in his latest blog post, challenged his readers to write about women on the podium.  AND, we need to go beyond the obvious--conductor of the Baltimore Symphony--(Marin Alsop for the uninitiated).  I would weed JoAnn Falletta from the list as well, for certainly she has established a world-class career for herself as well (Virginia Symphony--since 1991; Buffalo Philharmonic--since 1998; the Ulster Orchestra in the UK, AND she is part of the team that has brought orchestral music back to Hawaii).

No, Mr. Woods is challenging us to look beyond the "big names," although it is quite sad that I can name only two.  Meanwhile, I must write of two women whom I have had the pleasure of meeting personally:

Tania Miller, recently celebrated her tenth season with the Victoria (Canada) Symphony Orchestra.  I met Tania when we were both considerably younger: at a (then) ASOL Conducting Symposium held in Ann Arbor.  Although she was one of the younger conductor's present, one could easily see that she was destined for greater things.  She matriculated from the University of Michigan (therefore she has to be great!), but that's not what drew me to this conductor.  Like many (and it's not just women; I could probably place Carl St. Clair in the list), she has stunningly expressive hands and, I'll be honest, I'm jealous.  Of course, great hands do not necessarily a great conductor make; I have seen my share of conductors who possessed such physical gifts but didn't have the brainpower to match.

I had to travel all the way to the Czech Republic to meet Roberta Carpenter, currently the conductor of Wisconsin's Oconomowoc Symphony.  She lives less than three hours from me and yet, I have not seen her in nearly 15 years--inexcusable!  Roberta is a very reflective conductor, a thoughtful conductor, a kind soul on the podium.  She, like Tania, brings distinction to our profession.  I can offer fewer exclamations of praise.

I hope that this is only my first foray into Maestro Woods's challenge.  In fact, I already have ideas for continuing "chapters."  But for now, it's back to supper and a little score study.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Berlin outspends.....just about everyone.

Norman Lebrecht notes in today's Slipped Disc blog that the city of Berlin provides just under a billion Euros in arts subsidies, surprising (due to recent cuts) the entire British government.

One billion Euros...not chump change.  At today's rates, that $1.3 billion and change USD.  In comparison, it's important (or maybe just disheartening) to note the following:

U.S. government subsidy to the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities:  $146 million.
   There are three major areas I have focused on for reduction in spending. These are in many cases reductions which become larger and larger over time. So first there are programs I would eliminate. Obamacare being one of them but also various subsidy programs -- the Amtrak subsidy, the PBS subsidy, the subsidy for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities. Some of these things, like those endowment efforts and PBS I very much appreciate and like what they do in many cases, but I just think they have to strand on their own rather than receiving money borrowed from other countries, as our government does on their behalf.  
2012 Presidential candidate Mitt Romney

U.S. government spending on defense:  (2013):  $682 billion, which does not include emergency and supplemental spending to support U.S. war efforts overseas.  As of June 2011, the costs of U.S. incursions into Iraq and Afghanistan totaled approximately $3.7 trillion!

German defense spending: 45.8 billion USD.  For the record, the United States outspends the entire European Union, China and Russia combined for a total of $2141 per capita.  

One can only imagine a fraction of those totals being placed toward "peaceful" endeavors: education, arts, humanities, all with the goal of saving humanity.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Return of the Huey's! (Number three)

During the late spring/summer of 2011, I wrote:

The "Huey awards" are totally arbitrary, based upon my own criteria which include possible thematic content, inclusion of both contemporary and American composers and overall creativity and originality.  The latter would imply programs that step out of the Overture - Concerto - Symphony box.  Also of important note is the presentation of works outside the standard repertory; i.e. why offer yet another performance of Dvorak 7 (or 8 or 9) or Shostakovich 5--regardless of my own love for those works--when there are hundreds of neglected works that may be favored by audiences (and surely the players).  Do we need yet another performance of Beethoven 5 instead of say, the Bizet Symphonie?  Or what about the Franck--long a staple of the repertoire that now seems to be rarely played?  I could make a long list of neglected works and that's just the works of the "masters."

It is incumbent upon the modern day symphony to be a proponent of the music of our time BECAUSE that is the heritage of the medium.  It was not until the mid to late nineteenth century that works of the past started to form any kind of "repertory."  In the time of Mozart and Haydn, people were "discovering" the works of Bach and Handel as if they'd been composed in another millennium, rather than some one hundred years previous.  In Mozart's time (and Beethoven's and many other's) the music presented on a concert program had to be new.  There were no "interpreters" of the music of the past; most performers were led by the composers themselves.  But, somewhere along the way (the early twentieth century and the rise of serialism?) the audience became disconnected from the music of its time.  If we are to remain viable, we must espouse the changing milieu in which we live.

That very first year there was actually no winner.  Not a single eastern Iowa orchestra could rise to a fairly simple set of criteria.  Last year's winner was an easy selection:

The true winner of the 2012-13 "Huey" Award for creative orchestral program (again remember it's the sum total) must be the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony. The orchestra established a new business model this spring, naming Music Director Jason Weinberger to a position as CEO. While this may seem a daring move (and a daunting one for the Music Director), Weinberger has already proven that he has the chops to take the reins of an orchestra that had experienced at least ten years of conducting crises and turn it into a fine instrument, performing in the finest concert hall in the state.

Starting with an all-Bach program in April, the WCFSO includes new or little-known works on nearly every program, including:

September: Gabriel Kahane: Crane Palimpsest (2012) with Gabriel Kahane, vocalist along with selections from Purcell's Fairy Queen.

October: works by Ingolf Dahl: Quodlibet on American Folk Tunes and Folk Dances and Zoltán Kodály: Variations on a Hungarian Folksong, ‘The Peacock’.

November, in collaboration with the Cedar Valley Chamber Music Festival: works by Walter Piston, John Harbison, Morton Gould, Peter Schickele (not in his nom de plume PDQ Bach), and Samuel Barber. 

February: more works by Barber and Harbison, including the latter's 2006 Concerto for Bass Viol.

March, along with the Northern Iowa Youth Orchestra, Iowa composer Jonathan Chenette's Rural Symphony (2000).

That is certainly a hard act to follow (n.b.: it should be stated that I write the program notes for the WCFSO but I have made every attempt to avoid bias in my selections).

I've knocked the Des Moines Symphony out of the running simply because of their dumb concert titles (The Moldau and Dvorak really makes one want to run to the Civic Center--by the way, it's Vltava, not the Moldau).

Starting with a kind of "non-award" for possibly the strangest set of works crammed into one concert is this "Dance and Romance" concert offered by the Dubuque Symphony.  (Why, in heaven's name, do February concerts have to be equated with love?  Why not Presidents?)

Mendelssohn: Wedding March
Cimarosa: Overture to the Secret Marriage
Elgar: Salut d'amour (Love's Greeting)
Gluck: Dance of the Blessed Spirits
Ravel: Pavane for a Dead Princess:  Dance?  Romance?  I see neither in this work so-titled because the composer simply liked the way the title sounded (in the original French). 
Vaughn (sic) Williams: Tuba Concerto:  An outstanding work, true--probably the greatest in the tuba repertoire (if that is really saying much.  But still, where's the romance?  In the second movement?  I'm trying to imagine "Tubby" dancing or singing a love song.)
Schubert: Symphony No. 9 "Unfinished" Huh?
Faure: Pavane Again, huh?
Mascagni: Intermezzo from Cavalleria rusticana:  Ok, this one ends with the tenor dying offstage.  Isn't it romantic?
Albeniz/Arnold: Tango in D

And, just in case no one noticed, all the composers are long dead.  In fact, the DSO is offering exactly one work by a living composer, Jennifer Higdon's seven minute Fanfare Ritmico, included on their "American in Paris" concert.  Yeah, I don't see the connection either.  The remainder of the DSO season is filled with excerpts from great works (Jesu, Joy..., How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place), and the usual smattering of the tried and true(?): Beethoven 6, Appalachian Spring (full orchestra I presume), Shostakovich Festive Overture, Pictures at an Exhibition, and more.  One living composer, a handful of dead (but extremely popular) Americans and the season adds up to a very safe potpourri of popular "hits."

The Quad City Symphony makes a dramatic improvement from it's "all dead men" season of 2012-
13, but there still seems a ways to go.  Three of the performances include living composers (surprise! one of whom is Jennifer Higdon) and two premieres, by Michael Torke and Minnesota native-Augustana College professor Jacob Bancks.  That being said (and lauded for that matter), much of the remainder of the programming is mundane, with "big works" including a Brahms piano concerto, Rachmaninoff 2nd symphony, Mendelssohn 4, and another Brahms, the second symphony.  Of special note will be the rarely heard (at least in these parts) Third Symphony of Gustav Mahler.

Orchestra Iowa is improved only somewhat from previous seasons.  This is the orchestra (formerly the Cedar Rapids Symphony) that proclaimed itself by the new moniker and wrestled Ballet Quad Cities away from that area's orchestra.  Their first concert includes a work by someone I know, Illinois College's Timothy Kramer.  But music by living composers stops right in its tracks and we're "treated" to programs with the likes of the Rachmaninoff Second (must be popular this year) and Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto.  What say we retire the latter in loving memory of one of its greatest interpreters, Van Cliburn?

But once again, CEO/Maestro Jason Weinberger and the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony have demonstrated what has become to be an excepted out-of-the-box philosophy regarding orchestral programing with a combination of old (and not necessarily well-known) and new, and a very moderate dose of tried and true, in order to keep long-standing patrons coming back to hear new things as well.  While the orchestra's season begins with an all-Dvorak program, that one takes place in a new concert venue (the RiverLoop AmpiTheatre) on the banks of the Cedar River in Waterloo, bringing the orchestra closer to its long-time home at West High School's Kersenbrock Auditorium.

The orchestra's season-opening gala performance begins with an infamous work (containing hundreds more cannon bursts than Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture) Beethoven's often-maligned Wellington's Victory.  I suppose it's worth hearing once.  The contemporary American minimalist school is represented with works by John Adams (Century Rolls) and Steve Reich (New York Counterpoint, featuring Weinberger on the clarinet).  The inclusion of these works almost forgives the conductor's inclusion of the never-ending Bolero as a finale.

The November concert is particularly poignant as it focuses on Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass, the 1938 pogrom against Jewish populations in Nazi Germany and Austria.  Over 1000 synagogues were burned to the ground along with over 7000 Jewish-owned business in one of the most horrific events of the holocaust.  To memorialize this event, Weinberger has chosen contemporary works by Yehuda Yannay and Stephen Paulus, as well as Prokofiev's Overture on Hebrew Themes and the Chamber Symphony by Dmitri Shostakovich.

The orchestra takes Mozart "off-campus" to the Brown Derby Saloon in February, while a March concert pays tribute to the viola, with no fewer than three contemporary solo works presented by soloist Nadia Sirota.  April is a busy month, with a world premiere for oboe and orchestra teaming up with Mahler's First Symphony; a youth concert; and what the orchestra bills as an "Imaginary Symphony" (the 85th Anniversary preview), with movements from Tchaikovsky's Sixth, Shostakovich's Eleventh, the second movement of Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade and the close of Stravinsky's Firebird.

For variety, commitment to the music of our time, and simply much more interesting programing choices, the 2013 Huey Award is (once again) presented to the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The greatest divas...

According to that infamous source, Wikipedia, a diva (/ˈdiːvə/; Italian: [ˈdiːva]) is a celebrated female singer; a woman of outstanding talent in the world of opera, and by extension in theatre, cinema and popular music. The meaning of diva is closely related to that of prima donna.

The Urban Dictionary really cuts to the chase:  (1) female version of a hustler; (2) a bitchy woman that must have her way exactly, or no way at all. often rude and belittles people, believes that everyone is beneath her and thinks that she is so much more loved than what she really is. Selfish, spoiled, and overly dramatic.

Pop music has appropriated the phrase, resulting in some of the negative traits above.  There exists a top ten list of pop divas, generated by the entertainment section of  These artists include:

1.  Mariah Carey
2.  Cher
3.  Celine Dion
4.  Aretha Franklin (she would probably rank no. 1 on my list)
5.  Whitney Houston
6.  Janet Jackson (really now?)
7.  Madonna
8.  Diana Ross (with no help from the Supremes?)
9.  Barbra Streisand (again, I'd rank her higher)
10.  Donna Summer

In the opera world, although there are definitely traits from the latter definition found in the former, for the sake of our discussion, we'll stick with the prima donnas (of whom I have to hope will leave a more lasting impression upon the history of music.

The Bilerico Project, with a guest post by Michael Knaapen, offers the Ten Greatest Opera Divas in reverse order, making for much more drama!

"Bubbles" with the muppets. Opera can be cool!
10.  Beverly Sills:  "Not only was her voice beautiful and refined, but she used an understated performance technique to get us rooting for her, to bring us along."

9.  Diana Damrau:  "Another high-flyer, this dynamic dame gives us hope for the future. Her voice knows no bounds - she can sing to the rafters, open the ceiling, launch into the stratosphere - and we love her for it."

8.  Anne Sofie von Otter:  "Surprised? Well, don't be. One of those rare operatic mezzos with the depth and breadth to do it all, Von Otter is also one of the most unique, majestic interpreters of art song (opera's little brother)"

7.  Mado Robin:  "What can I say? I love freaks, and this petite French ingenue was a bit of a freak. She could sing - not just whistle, but really sing, with spin and beauty and everything - higher than just about anybody."

6.  Cecelia Bartoli:  "She's an interpretive genius, conveys a love of singing while she's doing it, and
Cecelia: something about those Italian women...
sings high and low. Bartoli also spins through ludicrously dense and rapid fioratura like it ain't no thang, and we love a girl who tears through coloratura."

5.  Birgit Nilsson:  "Everything about this woman was big: big head, big personality, big voice. But her outsize voice made room for a universe of nuance in every performance."

4.  Joyce DiDonato:  "Another grande dame of today, DiDonato embodies everything we love about opera - its outsize character, its grandeur, its emotional depth, its elegance - with the matching set of brains, body, and voice."

3.  Leontyne Price:  "is the kind of old-school diva that we love to love. When her jaw swung open and she graced you with the most crystalline mellifluousness, you were utterly transported, not into a story, but into sheer musical bliss.ceis the kind of old-school diva that we love to love. When her jaw swung open and she graced you with the most crystalline mellifluousness, you were utterly transported, not into a story, but into sheer musical bliss."

Callas: to me, almost a caricature of herself...

2.  Maria Callas:  "Opera was her life, and her life was an opera - a true diva! And when La Divina was at her best, she could sing circles around anybody else."

1. Edita Gruberová:  "is a force of nature: strong as a hurricane, deft as a zephyr. Her coloratura is unmatched, her acting a joy, and her artistic genius without parallel."

There seem to be more than a few missing, although that is often the result of a self-imposed "top ten."  Still, is there not room for some "honorable mentions"? which must include:

Joan Sutherland (who, to me, defines the word "diva")
Fredericka von Stade
Renata Scotto
Renata Tebaldi
Montserrat Caballé
Elizabeth Schwarzkopf

AND Marilyn Horne, Renee Fleming (I'll admit it; I'm in love with her!), Kirsten Flagstad.....

Missing in Action: my "beloved" Renee each his/her own.

Coming soon....the long-awaited 2013 Huey's!!!!!

Monday, June 10, 2013

The greatest opera of them all?


Returning from a lengthy hiatus, I will be offering a number of "top" lists, culminating with the (drum roll please) the 3rd annual "Huey's"!

But back to business.  Anthony Craig, on the Grammophone blog, offers his top ten list of the greatest operas of them all.  (I cannot disagree with #1.)

1. Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro
2. Verdi: Falstaff
3. Verdi: Otello
4. Richard Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier
5. Puccini: Madama Butterfly
6. Britten: A Midsummer Night’s Dream
7. Wagner: Die Meistersinger
8. Delius: A Village Romeo and Juliet
9. Rameau: Hippolyte et Aricie
10. Verdi: Simon Boccanegra

Three Verdi's and not an American in sight.  We certainly have some work to do.

The Guardian came up with their own list, but it came in at 50-strong and only in chronological order (bloody chickens!)

Stephen McLeod's Listmania offering of Amazon's 10 Best Opera CDs has a Callas Lucia on top with (according to the author) "The greatest achievement in the history of recorded music" (the Solti Ring) coming in third.

Next up:  the divas--with a few surprises.....

Friday, April 5, 2013

Honoring wind music's greatest generation

In 1998, NBC journalist Tom Brokaw wrote of those who have lived through the era of the Second World War, those he called the greatest generation. "At the end of the twentieth century the contributions of this generation would be in bold print in any review of this turbulent and earth-altering time. It may be historically premature to judge the greatness of a whole generation, but indisputably, there are common traits that cannot be denied. It is a generation that, by and large, made no demands of homage from those who followed and prospered economically, politically, and culturally because of its sacrifices. It is a generation of towering achievement and modest demeanor, a legacy of their formative years when they were participants in and witness to sacrifices of the highest order. They know how many of the best of their generation didn't make it to their early twenties, how many brilliant scientists, teachers, spiritual and business leaders, politicians and artists were lost in the ravages of the greatest war the world has seen."

If I am allowed to editorialize, the wind band movement has its own greatest generation, those composer who actually are closely aligned with Brokaw's assessment. These are composers whose achievements, had they not chosen to focus on works for the wind band, might be better known. Still, we owe each of them a debt of gratitude for sharing their time, talents, and compositions with us.

The upcoming concert of the Quad City Wind Ensemble pays homage to these significant contributors to our medium.

Howard Hanson, longtime faculty member of the Eastman School, is the earliest member of this
Howard Hanson
lineage and he penned several works for band, the most well known of which is Chorale and Alleluia. Our program opens with Hanson's Centennial March, written for the 100th anniversary of his home state's (Nebraska) admittance into the union. We are pleased to resurrect this long out-of-print work.

Clifton Williams
It was Howard Hanson who led Clifton Williams to write for the wind band rather than the orchestra, counseling Williams that he would get larger audiences and a larger range of organizations to perform his music in doing so. We offer Williams final work, written literally on his deathbed, Caccia and Chorale.

Lawrence Weiner is the least known of Hanson's disciples, having written only a handful of works; in actuality, I know of only two, including his lovely Air for Band. As lyrical as Frank Erickson's composition of the same name, it is more interesting harmonically. I have recently discovered that this little gem has been released by TRN Music. I hope it finds a place in the band repertoire.

Next comes the part of the lineage that sprang forth as students of Williams. Francis McBeth studied with Williams at the University of Texas, earning his master's degree in 1957. He would also spend time with his compositional "grandfather" at the Eastman School. McBeth felt that his work Through Countless Halls of Air, composed for the US Air Force Band, firmly encapsulated his style and was, therefore his favorite piece. This is virtuosic music of the highest order with challenges for each player in the ensemble.

The death of John Barnes Chance--accidentally electrocuted before his 40th birthday--was among the
John Barnes Chance
most tragic losses to the band world. It seems as though everything he wrote for winds is landmark and possibly none more so than Incantation and Dance, amazingly enough his very first piece for the medium.

Arkansas native Steven Bryant studied with McBeth at Ouachita Baptist University before moving onto the Julliard School. He is part of a growing number of contemporary composers aligning with Hanson's vision that the wind band medium is probably more viable and the orchestra. First Light, a hauntingly beautiful depiction of the sunrise over an Italian village, is among his most evocative works.

The program also includes the winner of the Charles B. DCamp Scholarship, Caitlin Thom, a student at Pleasant Valley High School. She rose to the top over the largest number of entrants in recent memory and will be presenting the thrilling third movement of Eric Ewazen's Marimba Concerto.

But to close the performance, we come full circle to Francis McBeth's transcription of Howard Hanson's famous Symphony No. 2, "Romantic." This work has become known as the "Interlochen Theme" as it closes all summer concerts at the famed music school.

Full circle: McBeth salutes Hanson

For more information on this and other activities of the Quad City Wind Ensemble, visit us on Facebook or our web page:

Thursday, January 17, 2013


Bill Eddins, who maintains the Sticks and Drones blog, has offered a fairly extensive list of do's and don't's for those of us in the music industry. Not only does he take aim at Boards and Administrators, but also at musicians and conductors (which he intentionally separates).

The complete list can be found here, but I offer a few of my favorites (with my own comments in bold):

Particularly contemporary for the NJ Symphony: do NOT hire a resume-padding pedophile as your orchestra President. This cannot end well.

Aimed surely at the Minnesota Orchestra: do NOT embark on multi-million dollar renovations of your hall while simultaneously complaining about how much ‘the help’ are paid.

For all of us: do NOT allow your Music Director to program Overture/Concerto/Symphony for an entire season. Fire that person.

do NOT hire a Music Director based on one set of concerts. Ever. The only thing worse than making a rush choice is making a bad rush choice. Take your time. You are turning the reins of your orchestra over to someone who needs to be able to go from Bach to (God forbid) Bieber and everything inbetween. And fergodsakes, please make sure that person is at least old enough to shave. (an interesting thought).

To musicians: do NOT be one of those people who show up, sit in the back of the section with a sour look on your face, and complain all day about your job. No, for the vast majority of us this music thing is not an easy life but it beats the hell out of working deep sewer. People pay us to make music. We are running the greatest scam in the history of the world.

do NOT put anyone into your orchestra who cannot play Mozart. Period.

To Conductors: do NOT constantly program overture/concerto/symphony. If you do, you deserve to be fired.

do NOT become Music Director of 5 orchestras simultaneously. One is enough. Pay attention to that one and do your job well. It was good enough for Ormandy, it should be good enough for you.

For the greater good: DO love what you do. If you don’t love it, get out. Please. Music is too beautiful to be taken for granted.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Reflecting on the dissertation, part 1

I am slated to complete my doctoral research, which has been dramatically altered, this semester.  The original project was intended to be the creation of a critical edition of the fourth symphony of Portuguese composer, Joly Braga Santos.  However, events in my personal life as well as the general upheaval in the composer's native land, have proven to make that an impossible task.  Thus, I have changed the project into a conductor's guide to the Variaciones Concertantes of Alberto Ginastera.  Much of the "descriptive material" is completed and now I find myself reflecting on the actual process that goes into the study of any score.

These days it seems as though there are as many texts on conducting as there are conductors.  Still, a limited number of these are considered to be the "Bibles" of the profession.  These include Elizabeth A. H. Green's The Modern Conductor and The Grammar of Conducting by Max Rudolf.  There are few who would discount the impact that both texts have had on subsequent generations of the wielders of the baton, amateur and professional (or those of us who try to straddle both worlds).  Still, while many of these texts are long on technique, most are lacking in more than a cursory presentation of what could be the most important part of the conductor's art:  the actual study of the score.

Green, in its seventh incarnation (released in 2004 by Mark Gibson nine years following Ms. Green's death) devotes a great deal of time, effort (and pages) to technical aspects.  Part I: "Technique" encompasses fully 140 of the approximately 215 pages of text.  Part II, which is entitled "Score Study" actually includes little in the way of significant instruction a comprehensive approach to the score.  Chapters include:

  • Clefs and Transpositions (maybe I'm a dolt, but aren't those a given?)
  • Instrumental Conducting: Orchestra and Band Scores (discusses more the structure of these)
  • Choral Conducting (my pet-peeve, as though the approach to a choral score is any different than any other kind of score.  My motto Conducting is conducting).
  • Applied Musicianship: Orchestra, Band, Chorus (and this mean?)
  • Conductor as Collaborator: Concertos and Operas.
  • Memorizing the score (I certainly wish that there was little emphasis placed upon this "skill."  Some of us have the ability; some of us don't.  I conduct certain pieces in my personal repertoire without looking at the score, but it is always there).  Of course we have Toscanini to blame for this but his insistence on memorization was born out of necessity: his eyesight was so bad that he couldn't read the score on the podium!
The most profound thoughts on score study in Green are actually found in the opening essay by the late Philadelphia Orchestra Conductor, Eugene Ormandy, entitled "The Art of Conducting."  Herein the author separates the "art" into three parts: personal study, rehearsal and performance.  And he approaches these concepts in a concise and cogent two pages.  Besides a knowledge of the relationships of the notes on the page, we are reminded to continually understand works within the context of their time (Ormandy uses the Eroica Symphony as an example. We are told to listen and study objectively, remembering Richard Strauss's dictum, "...You are making music not for your own pleasure but for the joy of your listeners."

An examination of Rudolf, now in its third edition (1994) notes a completely different text than "my father's"--actually my own--Grammar of Conducting.  Whereas the original was, in the words of the author, more of a "primer," the book is now "a general guide and source of pertinent information."  It is now divided into four sections, with a significant amount of material aimed toward study and interpretation.

Part III: "Execution and Performance," focuses on:

  • Score Study and the Preparation of Orchestra materials (no delineation of band music here).
  • Rehearsal Techniques
  • Opera and Choral Works with Orchestra
The entirety of Part IV is devoted to Interpretation and Style and includes:
  • Aspects of interpretation
  • Choice of Tempo
  • Performance Practice 
  • Aspects of Musical Style
Which is the better?  It would seem as though Rudolf has surpassed Mme. Green in the "score study" department, but still, her contributions to our art cannot be discounted.

One thing that I have learned today is that I need to visit the revised Grammar.  There is much more there than in the old.  I may actually learn something.