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Thread: The Art of Conducting

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    Default The Art of Conducting

    These days when conductors are called "bullies" we can look back to the past and famous 'tyrants' of the podium. Here is a great conductor who was called "a dictator, through and through...but very human with it" (Fassbaender). The quality is poor with this vision because Kleiber hated to be filmed, but it gives you an insight into his precise conducting technique and there is actually rehearsal vision of this which shows him as anything but a "dictator". I note his precise baton technique, and he's using a score - rare for this magnificent conductor:


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    Kleiber was by all accounts a great conductor - but as far as I'm concerned, this video shows that one need not have a precise, clear, clean technique to become great. There's something else, close to ESP. Conductors with precise techniques: Lorin Maazel, Erich Leinsdorf, Adrian Boult, Zubin Mehta, Richard Strauss,Pierre Monteux, Eugene Ormandy. All that arm waving and gesticulating may impress the audience, but for players it's just annoying. You eventually stop watching. Boult, who had the most clean, efficient baton technique imaginable referred to people like Kleiber as one of the "sweaty ones". Kleiber is expressive and easier to follow than some. But some with lousy stick technique could achieve great results: Bernstein, Solti, Klemperer, and worst of all, Furtwangler. It seems that the proper use of a baton is a lost art. Very few conductors know how to use it correctly and their beat is in the arms - not the baton tip. Then there's the "grecian urn" mode, which Kleiber uses - both arms in motion that are mirror images. Watch some videos of Boult - that's how to use a baton.

    But yes, Kleiber is extremely expressive - face, body language, all of it - the man is living the music. It's a shame he didn't record more.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mbhaub View Post
    Kleiber was by all accounts a great conductor - but as far as I'm concerned, this video shows that one need not have a precise, clear, clean technique to become great. There's something else, close to ESP. Conductors with precise techniques: Lorin Maazel, Erich Leinsdorf, Adrian Boult, Zubin Mehta, Richard Strauss,Pierre Monteux, Eugene Ormandy. All that arm waving and gesticulating may impress the audience, but for players it's just annoying. You eventually stop watching. Boult, who had the most clean, efficient baton technique imaginable referred to people like Kleiber as one of the "sweaty ones". Kleiber is expressive and easier to follow than some. But some with lousy stick technique could achieve great results: Bernstein, Solti, Klemperer, and worst of all, Furtwangler. It seems that the proper use of a baton is a lost art. Very few conductors know how to use it correctly and their beat is in the arms - not the baton tip. Then there's the "grecian urn" mode, which Kleiber uses - both arms in motion that are mirror images. Watch some videos of Boult - that's how to use a baton.

    But yes, Kleiber is extremely expressive - face, body language, all of it - the man is living the music. It's a shame he didn't record more.
    I absolutely enjoyed and appreciated your comments; thanks so much for these. I'll chase up Boult. Was it Carlos or Eric to whom he was referring? Very interested to hear what you say about players tiring of ostentatious conducting. One German musician interviewed for "Traces to Nowhere" - a film biography of Carlos Kleiber - said that you couldn't have "candy" every day (Kleiber) and that after three performances of "Der Rosenkavalier" in a week he could have "killed him with a tomahawk"!!!

    As with Tennstedt, Kleiber was very enthusiastic for the orchestra to receive its audience recognition.

    Here is Kleiber (again, terrible vision) conducting "Tristan und Isolde". Hiding cameras in the orchestra pit were often the only way we got to really see anything. He was like an elusive creature of nature which only came out in certain light and conditions!! Described by friend Otto Schenk as "a great gift for us". I have Kleiber's version of 'Tristan' with the Dresden Staatskapelle on CD and it's STUNNING. In this poor quality vision the "Liebestod" is a REVELATION!! He's using a score, too, and I wish he'd remained seated on that stool!!!!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbdSmDmkcIc
    Last edited by Christabel; May-14-2018 at 06:35.

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    I was referring to Carlos. Erich made some terrific recordings, and there is some footage of him conducting, but not enough really make a judgement. Carlos seemed to have the magic touch for everything he conducted, but unfortunately, his repertoire was severely limited. And like Celibidache avoided recordings and films. Our loss. I'm glad he didn't stay on that stool. I despise conductors who sit - it annoys the hell out of me. Lazy, over-paid....I'd better not say it. There are many young conductors who spend too much time watching video of people like Stokowski, Bernstein, Dudamel, and then try to emulate their wild, flailing method of conducting. It's horrible. They should watch Reiner, Boult, Haitink, Maazel, Mravinsky and learn that you don't need to act like a buffoon; you're there to help the orchestra, not to grandstand to the audience. Audiences are funny though, they think the sweaty ones are better than the calm and collected. They don't base their judgement from listening, but from watching.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mbhaub View Post
    I was referring to Carlos. Erich made some terrific recordings, and there is some footage of him conducting, but not enough really make a judgement. Carlos seemed to have the magic touch for everything he conducted, but unfortunately, his repertoire was severely limited. And like Celibidache avoided recordings and films. Our loss. I'm glad he didn't stay on that stool. I despise conductors who sit - it annoys the hell out of me. Lazy, over-paid....I'd better not say it. There are many young conductors who spend too much time watching video of people like Stokowski, Bernstein, Dudamel, and then try to emulate their wild, flailing method of conducting. It's horrible. They should watch Reiner, Boult, Haitink, Maazel, Mravinsky and learn that you don't need to act like a buffoon; you're there to help the orchestra, not to grandstand to the audience. Audiences are funny though, they think the sweaty ones are better than the calm and collected. They don't base their judgement from listening, but from watching.
    I meant by the "stool" comment that he went out of shot and we couldn't see his face - only his chest and arms. And audiences base their judgments on many things apart from 'grandstanding'. Many music-lovers are interested in the sound, performance and interpretation and you cannot fool the real cognoscenti. They know what they want and how they want it. There are severe tests for musicians with art music audiences who are really in the 'know' and most musicians aspire to that level of scrutiny, passion, commitment and criticism. Why else would Kleiber have run away if he wasn't afraid of living up to audience expectations - and also his own? I think you have simplified a very complex phenomenon.

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    I meant by the "stool" comment that he went out of shot and we couldn't see his face - only his chest and arms. And audiences base their judgments on many things apart from 'grandstanding'. Many music-lovers are interested in the sound, performance and interpretation and you cannot fool the real cognoscenti. They know what they want and how they want it. There are severe tests for musicians with art music audiences who are really in the 'know' and most musicians aspire to that level of scrutiny, passion, commitment and criticism. Why else would Kleiber have run away if he wasn't afraid of living up to audience expectations - and also his own? I think you have over-simplified a very complex phenomenon.

    Here, in "Der Rosenkavalier" in Vienna, he was clearly not worried about what the audience thought, actually talking to the musicians about the poor performance!!

    Last edited by Christabel; May-15-2018 at 02:12.

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    Kleiber also had about five times the number of rehearsals to prepare for a performance as today’s conductors, and he seemed to take advantage of every minute. As a person, “Kleiber was fundamentally an affable man who would go to extraordinary lengths to avoid hurting the feelings of others. But when he felt that stage directors, players or singers were thwarting his wishes out of ill will or sluggishness, he could make their lives miserable.” I find it hard not to take his side because of his extraordinary talent on the podium. Most of those who performed with him praised him to the hilt:

    "His gifts—musical and dramatic insights, analytical abilities, technique, methods of explaining himself—make him the greatest conductor of our day. When I work with him, I feel that he knows why the composer wrote every note, treated every phrase, conceived of every bit of orchestral color in a particular way...If he were to become the permanent conductor of a major orchestra, he could turn it into the greatest ensemble in history." —Plácido Domingo about his friend and colleague Carlos Kleiber, 1983
    Last edited by Larkenfield; May-16-2018 at 21:37.
    Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things. —Ray Bradbury

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    Celibidache, complete Bolero, DRSO 1971

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gy5Ve3338-E
    Last edited by joen_cph; May-16-2018 at 21:34.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Larkenfield View Post
    Kleiber also had about five times the number of rehearsals to prepare for a performance as today’s conductors, and he seemed to take advantage of every minute. As a person, “Kleiber was fundamentally an affable man who would go to extraordinary lengths to avoid hurting the feelings of others. But when he felt that stage directors, players or singers were thwarting his wishes out of ill will or sluggishness, he could make their lives miserable.” I find it hard not to take his side because of his extraordinary talent on the podium. Most of those who performed with him praised him to the hilt:

    "His gifts—musical and dramatic insights, analytical abilities, technique, methods of explaining himself—make him the greatest conductor of our day. When I work with him, I feel that he knows why the composer wrote every note, treated every phrase, conceived of every bit of orchestral color in a particular way...If he were to become the permanent conductor of a major orchestra, he could turn it into the greatest ensemble in history." —Plácido Domingo about his friend and colleague Carlos Kleiber, 1983
    It's lovely to think about all this again. He's so very much missed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by joen_cph View Post
    Celibidache, complete Bolero, DRSO 1971

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gy5Ve3338-E
    Carlos Kleiber wrote a humorous letter to Celibidache after the latter had died. It was published in the Munich press:

    Dear Sergiu!!

    We have read in you the Spiegel. You get on our nerves, but we forgive you. We have no choice anyway; forgiveness is in style Up Here. Potato-sack Karli (Bohm) made some objection, but after Kna (Knappersbusch) and I had a heart-to-heart with him, he stopped whining.

    Wilhelm (Furtwangler) now all of a sudden insists that he has never even heard of you. Papa Josef, Wolfgang Amadeus, Ludwig, Johannes, and Anton all prefer the second violins on the right and claim that your tempi are all wrong. But actually, they don't really give a damn about it. Up Here we are not supposed to care a damn about anything. The Boss does not allow it.

    An old Zen master who lives next door says you got it all wrong about Zen Buddhism. Bruno (Walter) is totally cracked up by your comments. I have the suspicion that he secretly shares your views about me and Karli (Bohm). Maybe you could say something mean about him for a change, otherwise he feels so left out.

    I hate to break it to you, but everybody up here is totally crazy about Herbert (von Karajan). In fact, the other conductors are a little jealous of him. We can't wait to welcome him up here in about 15 or 20 years. Too bad you can't be with us then.

    But people say that where you will go the cuisine is much better, and the orchestras down there never stop rehearsing. They even make little mistakes on purpose, so that you have a chance to correct them for all eternity. I'm sure you will like that, Sergui. Up Here, the angels read the composers' minds. We conductors only have to listen. Only God knows why I'm here.

    Have lots of fun,
    In old friendship,
    Arturo

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