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The Lord of the Rings Symphony - The London Philharmonic Orchestra - Royal Festival Hall - May 23 2004


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That's interesting StrongBad, because I read somewhere that when he took over for the Pops, a lot of the musicians were actually worried about his conducting ability, but quickly gave him their respect once he actually got there and working.

Maybe it was talking about rehersal strategies and playing advice, or something like that?

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Claudio Abbado is conducting Mahler's 6th with the Berlin Philharmonic  this week.

They have Rattle now, and yet Abbado conducts the Mahler? :wave:

Marian - not an Abbado fan.

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Although I have never played under Williams I know a few people who have, and they had nothing but positive comments for his conducting. Mind you, I think they were just thrilled to be playing ET, Star Wars, Raiders etc! As for baton-wobbling, a conductor does what he can to get the orchestra to respond. Williams, like all conductors, has his quirks. Mimicking a violinist to indicate vibrato is one of them! As long as the conductor has set up a clear and steady beat, he should then be free to express himself to the orchestra in whichever way he feels necessary. In fact the conductors who just beat solid time are generally the weakest. No matter how well-rehearsed the orchestra is, the players always appreciate cues, eye contact, and expression indications from the maestro. Even the great Beecham who hardly ever moved an inch during perormances, conducting mainly from the wrist, knew the value of eye contact and facial expression.

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Well, I'm a Karajan fan....he usually conducted with his eyes closed. :wave:

Marian - who also likes Rattle, who often has extreme (in a good way) facial expressions.

;) Shock Treatment (Jerry Goldsmith)

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yes...those are very important...and I'm sure he has eye contact when he needs it. but his beat is just not steady at all. That's the problem. The flicking shakiness...the huge pattern...all too frantic...and his beat placement is just all over the place.

Personally, I prefer no beat pattern at all except where needed...just being able to express what you feel YOUR rendition of a piece should be...otherwise...why do different recordings...ya know? If all Beethoven 9ths sounded the same...what's the point?

Williams just works WAY too hard while conducting...he's far too big...and because of that, he is inconsistant with his beat.

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Um...I may be asking for a lashing...but....Williams' conducting is not that great at all.

Not even really all that good.

True, he is a powerful presence...but I've learned a lot about conducting over the years...and you can tell the orchestra doesn't follow Williams...he follows the orchestra.  In most of the quiet parts of concert pieces, he is waving his arms around like a madman...keeping beat...conductors do NOT have to keep beat all the time...and they surely shouldn't be waving their arms like crazy ever!  

Plus, there is a little frantic flick move that Williams does which is a huge no-no...he does this thing where he shakes his baton during the movement of a beat...which would confuse the HELL out of an ensemble that was actually following him.  His beat pattern is near indestinguishable.  

Yes...he is very powerful...and his conducting abilities do not reflect my opinions of his music at all...but he is clearly a composer put in a conducting role.  He has had no real training in conducting, and it is clear to see.  And I can guarentee you that while Williams concerts are going on...the orchestra is watching the music...and listening to themselves...not watching the maestro.  Sorry to burst anybody's bubbles.  But it's true.  He's not the worst conductor to ever get the chance to stand in front of a wonderful group...he's just not good.

This is interesting. How does this affect the final result - does it make it inferior? Would the scores sound better under a different baton?

-Ross, who hasn't forgotten about the Chamber of Secrets album...

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Perhaps, Ross.

It's hard to say. During studio recordings, the orchestra really HAS to watch Williams. I'm sure he is in controll enough then. But then again, who is really leading the orchestra at that point? Williams isn't creating his own music, he is following a monitor. So really, Williams is just an important middle man.

But if you take a concert arrangement, or a classical piece, there is almost no doubt that you'd be hearing a much different (and most possibly) better version under a director like Bernstein, or even Ozawa...who is also very hard to follow at times. Because the orchestra is just leading themselves during concerts (except when the monitors come into play once again) it is really hard to say. It all depends on who is in front of them. The job of the conductor is NOT to keep beat...like many say. He only has to do it at certain points. The job of the conductor is to influence the group. Bring to them a new form of the piece they have played hundreds of times. It's the conductor's interpretation of a piece that makes it new, and makes it interesting...and the way the conductor shows their ideas without having to stop a lot during rehearsals. I conductor should be able to communicate complex ideas through simple visuals that we all instinctually understand.

So I'd have to say...no. In recordings, Williams gets the job done just fine. But that is also because the monitor is the real conductor. Williams MUST follow that, or else the soundtrack doesn't work. But put in a concert situation, Williams is a bit TOO used to following a monitor, and making sure things sync up. Hence the ENORMOUS movements of his arms.

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  So I'd have to say...no.  In recordings, Williams gets the job done just fine.  But that is also because the monitor is the real conductor.  Williams MUST follow that, or else the soundtrack doesn't work.  But put in a concert situation, Williams is a bit TOO used to following a monitor, and making sure things sync up.   Hence the ENORMOUS movements of his arms.

Have you seen Solti conduct? Or Toscanini?? Next to these two Williams' arm movements seem positively miniscule! Solti in his youth looked like a crazed spider on the podium!

Also, whilst I can see your point regarding how Williams' works better as a recording conductor than a concert conductor (I completely agree with you here) I feel that you are belittling the skill involved in conducting to a monitor. You completely contradict yourself by saying that on the one hand there is more to conducting than keeping time, but then you go on to say the monitor is "the real conductor" in studio recordings. How does the musicality reach the players? Of course were it a small group of skilled players they would interpret the music themselves. But an orchestra, especially the size of orchestra that Williams commonly uses, requires a skilled frontman when playing music as compex as that found in most of his scores. I think the impressive readings of his music on many soundtracks demonstrates that Williams possesses a skill that simply isn't necessary in the concert hall, the ability to produce a well-rounded and musical performance while sticking strictly to the timings on the movie monitor.

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I am talking about the concert in London 23 May a part of his world tour performing lord of the rings symphony.

I am also wondering how does music sounds great on sonudtracks which he was conducting.maybe they recorded several times until it was good?I dont understand that.maybe he was having a bad day then,but I doubt.

when I was last year in concert of jerry goldsmith with LSO, I didnt even for moment ask myself -is this man conduct ,communicate with orchestra good?is he a fair conductor?I just sit I enjoy the concert.

here I couldn't do that.I was keep looking at him and his performance.I could not concentrate good on music,because of him.

maybe If I wouldn't keep looking at him and I would just relax and listen to the music,maybe the concert would be better.I dont know.

I play in two orchestras and I know what conductor should be like.

those who read,write reviews of his concerts,sure they tell you it's good,perfect.

what else would they say?

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Regarding Shore's conducting and eye, contact, her's an excerpt of what he said during an interview before that concert (emphasis mine):

It had to do with energy. I'm actually right-handed but I do some things with the left. I'd never really thought about it, I just thought I was right (handed). And then if you use a stick, there's a certain technique to using a stick. I could actually use the stick right or left, but I chose to use right. So what happened was I found was an energy balance thing, and I've got this (indecipherable) method of therapy for balancing your body and it's difficult to balance right and left. I found that once I put the baton down I had better balance on the podium in terms of using both parts of my body. So I can work with my left, just as easily as I can with my right once the baton... because the baton separates. Here you can use both sides of your body or you can pass the baton back and forth. Also the body's good, I find, for conducting. There's lots of things about conducting without a stick. The body's expressive. If you focus on the stick it's good because all the energy goes to the stick you see - all the eyes - you're all focussed on the end of this stick. But if you take the stick away then they focus more on your face and you make better eye contact. I feel I have more contact with the orchestra because you're more open. They're looking at your whole body, they're looking at both sides of it and not this beating thing. It was kind of a revelation to me. It gave me the power to... I couldn't do the two hours with a stick - I didn't have the energy for it. That opened up the energy.

Sounds to me like he considers eye contact to be important, and therefore makes it, too.

Marian - :thumbup:

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I think the most important thing is the finished product. Live performance

is VERY different from what you here on a cd. I always like to use Star

Wars as an example because everyone knows it. The main theme

is played by the horns in the middle of the piece but the trumpets

(3 of them) are also playing some background figures. In a live

performance if the trumpets are playing at the prescribed dynamic

you will have a hard time hearing the horns. On a cd you don't have

that problem, actually you hear the horns playing ff and the trumpets

ff but the main line is heard in the horns.

I don't think that anyone here can say that Shore just got lucky in the

LOTR recordings. He had quite a bit to do with the success. Sure the

players are top notch but this is new music that the orchestra has

never played before, and it was almost all on Shore's shoulders

to deliver the concept and feel. Williams is able to do this quite

well too. It would be interesting to see the different rehearsal

technique that Williams would have if he was doing say music

from the terminal and music from Firebird (one of his favs).

Pixie....I played the Mahler 3rd two years ago, it is amazing..the journey

that is taken to get to the last movement is beyond words. In my opinion

the one symphony of Mahler's that clearly encompasses the entire

"world" The last movement of the 2nd approaches this but the 3rd

of course is entirely orchestral...if you wonder where they got the

music for "Ill be seeing you" you only have to open up the score

to the last movement!

I remember when the Boston Pops were playing a Williams concert at

Tanglewood, I had to go back stage to pick up an instrument and went

into the green room where the musicians were hanging out...they looked

like a hurricane just came through...none of them looked like they were

having fun or wanted to play this music.....maybe something to think

about when we talk about the challenges of the conductors on

the podium.



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