Thought Trafficking

Visual learners.
October 4, 2009, 11:06 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Roasted Pears


I wasn’t quite able to focus the second picture as I wanted to. I could have tried harder, but I was sleepy.

I had forgotten what fall was like here, had forgotten that I hadn’t spent fall here since 2003. That is six years, but it seems so familiar. The only unfamiliarity is that I am always cold, now. This will pass.

Symphony last night, the highlight of which was Kabalevsky’s second cello concerto. The concerto, while itself a Thing On It’s Own, was augmented exponentially by William Eddins’ conducting. He jumped, swayed, leaned, petted and smashed. It was amazing, and at points I felt as though he has strings attached to each of his body parts, and was coaxing the sound out of the orchestra. He also conducted Brahms’ second symphony from memory. I reiterate: without a score. I’m a sucker for that kind of thing. Sure people may think that you are showing off, but as far as I am concerned, you have earned the right to show that off. Mom commented that the whole orchestra was right with him, completely responsive and sounding just smashing.

On the way home, I tried to explain to Mom where the fine line between genuine feeling and out-and-out showboating lies. To me, Eddins and Boulez are epitomes (in my limited experience) of conducting at its best. Eddins has a footstomp for one kind of accent and a wave of the arm to describe each crescendo he desires. Boulez twitches his pinky and (I can only assume) blinks twice to achieve the same effect. In both cases, it works. Big or subtle, the orchestra responded to the feeling that they had for the music.

When I think of negative ostentation, I think of seeing Elgar’s cello concerto performed last December, with Kait. We exited the building giggling, because while Mr. Friesen had performed the concerto effectively, he hadn’t missed an opportunity to flourish his bangs out of his eyes and practice his “ocean breath” (if you don’t do yoga, ask someone who does). It was… uncomfortable, to be honest. As the daughter of a music teacher who has taught piano herself and never hesitated to cut her students’ nails, that kind of thing does not fly with me. If it is in your face, get rid of it. If it is impeding your ability to play your instrument/see the music, if it is making you fidget in a way that distracts from your performance, it is gone. That’s what mothers and music teachers are for – efficacy. Oh, and teaching you music.

There is a difference between performing the music and performing yourself. Each can be appropriate, in different situations. Boulez’s statue-like conducting is, to me, a performance, but of the music. Lack of motion can communicate just as much as a dance.  But I am not Wagner, and cello concertos are not music-drama or gesamtkunstwerk. Cut your damn hair.

What was I saying?


2 Comments so far
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Conducting from memory is one of the most badass things a human being can do.

Comment by Jon

Yes – and I keep meaning to email you today to say that when you do come to Alberta, we have to see William Eddins conduct. In fact, even better if you come one of the times that he plays a piano concerto AND conducts at the same time. I saw him do it a few years ago, and my life hasn’t been the same since.

Comment by Larisa

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