HIPsters

HIPsters? No, not what you’re thinking, but a word – I’m rather proud(?) of it – that I’ve coined myself. HIPsters are people who favour Historically Informed Performance (aka ‘authentic’ performance or period performance). Notice the inverted commas around the word ‘authentic’. They’re there because, as critics of the term point out, before the invention of the wax cylinder, […]

What’s the score?

Of course it’s pretty vital that a conductor has an overall sense of a work. A composer’s (sometimes!) carefully constructed opus – a climax here, rest points there – can easily be wrecked by maladroit stick waving and/or misplaced peaks or troughs. So, if there’s no handy composer around to ask (they’re pretty often dead); and, while […]

Dying to conduct?

The history of conducting is full of fascinating events and anecdotes. But, strangely – given their sometimes rather(??) fraught relationship with orchestras – not many people have died of injuries sustained while conducting; I can only think of one,  Jean-Baptiste Lully (that’s him below) In Lully’s time (he was the court musician/dancing master to the Sun King, […]

An upbeat analysis?

At their best, conductors are like magicians. With a wave of a wand they can entrance and enchant audiences of thousands and stir profound emotions in even the most po-faced of listeners. Unfortunately the personality cult prevalent among the jet-setting conducting fraternity – though it’s now (very!) slowly also becoming a sorority – has led to […]

A major difference

A fanfare for the major triad: It’s everywhere. Apart from being the principal building block of most music, its (sometimes) dulcet tones are used in shops, stations, airports and elsewhere to alert us to announcements of impending joy or (more frequently) gloom. It has a sibling but, unlike the bright, stable major, minor is darker […]

Lachrimæ

In a league table of composers who have made a career out of exquisite misery (several names come to mind!), John Dowland must, surely, come somewhere near the top. w Flow, my tears, fall from your springs! Exiled for ever, let me mourn; Where night’s black bird her sad infamy sings, There let me live […]