Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Silent Instrument - II

A question came up in rehearsal about how long a particular note should be held in melody. Louis' answer?

"Don't worry about the ending of the note. If the articulation has the right quality for the shape of the line, the length will take care of itself."

It's true. Players can get all fetishy about note lengths, an internal fussiness which adds little to the musical impact of a passage. Louis redirected our attention to the qualities necessary for making music, not for playing our instruments. He uses this approach throughout the rehearsals.

When issues of intonation come up, his first response is to address balance, blend, timbre, and vibrato, putting pitch into a larger musical context. I especially appreciate his interaction with the timpani player. Timpanists are often simply asked to use "harder sticks" by conductors who want a dryer sound, thereby telling the musician how to play and cutting him from the creative process. Louis prefers the interaction and he trusts his musicians. There was a passage in Beethoven 5 that alternated timpani notes with bass pizzicato. Louis asked the timpani player to more closely match the tone and articulation of the string pizz. They tried several things until the best sticks and strokes were found.

Leading always with a musical goal, technical questions are raised to a level of deeper engagement.

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