Conducting Mozart – part 2

The Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra seems to get better each year thanks to the outstanding leadership of Sidney Rothstein, music director, and Sabina Slavin, president. I included some information about Saturday night’s concert (10-26-2002) in “my favorite concerts” list but I couldn’t begin to do justice in describing it. See a complete review by Courtenay CaublĂ© from the The Ridgefield Press. As noted in Mr. CaublĂ©’s review, I will be guest conductor at the December 7th concert. Preparing for this has been quite an education.

Since my first conducting lesson, I have been doing my best to learn the first movement of Mozart’s Symphony No. 25 in G minor. Learning to play the clarinet in fifth grade forty-five years ago helps a lot since I can read music. Or, so I thought! A conductor’s score is quite different. The orchestration for the symphony is two oboes, two bassoons, four horns, and strings — violin, viola, cello, and bass. Instead of reading one line of music at a time, which you would do reading music for one instrument, the conductor must read eight lines at a time. How they do it is a mystery to me. I decided that the best thing for me to do is to just learn the music by heart and not use a score, which undoutedly would get me confused and not paying attention to the musicians which I hope to lead.

I asked Sidney where the various musicians will be sitting. I know the seating layout of an orchestra generally but I wasn’t sure precisely where the oboes and bassoons were. Sidney to the rescue once again — his drawing to answer my question is shown next. My education continues!

There are many recordings of Mozart symphonies — hundreds. It was initially surprising to me to hear how different various recordings of the same piece can be. Since Mozart isn’t around to describe exactly how he wanted a piece to be heard, it is up to the great conductors to add their interpretation. With regard to Symphony No. 25 I have noticed large variance in the tempo and also the relative emphasis of the various instruments. I had been listening to a recording by Neville Mariner but after hearing the Otto Klemperer recording I immediately adopted that as my model. It is a much quicker tempo and it brings out the best of horns and bass section. I hope with enough practice that I will get a small fraction of the way toward what is possible.