Does orchestral conducting technique exist?

Ennio Nicotra 16/05/2016


Orchestral conducting technique has been the subject of numerous discussions for several years.

There are many different schools on this subject: some are very dedicated to anecdotes, others to the spirituality of music and to listening and watching the conductors of the past, because they’re convinced that they must shape the new class of interpreters, and other trends are channelled towards the founder of the school’s vision and woe betide moving away from those interpretations. Not to mention other philosophical systems which even deny the existence of a technique altogether, creating more important things but always remaining mysterious and unenunciated, relegating the artistry of the conductor almost exclusively to their personal charisma, to the empathy that they can reach with an orchestra, to the professionalism of the musicians themselves. In fact, all of this goodness of intent neglects the student’s intimate need to be put in conditions to be able to conduct and create sound with a group of instrumentalists in a correct and expressive way. All of this means that the student is often disillusioned and abandons their path rather early without having obtained the desired results.

These schools, in fact, prefer not to take into due consideration the hypothesis that the student can, through correct use of the arms, interact with the orchestra and even claim that the technical component is a trivial aspect, is not crucial and that it has no particular influence on the performance. They believe, indeed, that the same student, with practice and experience, should develop a personal technique.

Actually the technique must be developed with special attention and care.

But what, after all, is conducting technique?

Observing the technique of playing musical instruments, we realize that it’s about learning how to perform in a very precise a series of movements, each of which corresponds to a specific sound reaction.Once a musician can master it, he/she appropriately uses it to manifest, through the instrument, a precise musical thought.Whilst conducting, we no longer think about the technical component, just like, as we speak, we do not think about the movement the tongue, lips and mouth must make.The conductor uses in the same manner, certain gestures, but they may be performed in different ways and, typically, each of them corresponds to a different reaction from the orchestra, and this fact has a great importance.

Nowadays, a student who is going to study orchestral conducting must grapple with a subject with somewhat nebulous and unclear boundaries, and often does not know what models to reproduce.Often students, having no references from a technical point of view, take the famous conductors as models and try to regurgitate their gestures, and, unfortunately, their flaws and errors as well.

In reality we are faced with a form of universal language to which we must devote particular care and attention.

The genius of Ilya Musin lies in having codified the rules that underlie this language.

The technique of conducting in fact, has rules that must be studied, assimilated and applied to achieve maximum fusion of inner movements and external clarity, to elevate performance to the highest peaks, as well as engaging, exciting and satisfying not only the listener, but also the musicians themselves.The gesture of the conductor is the defining element of supervision and control that guides the musicians to make the sound of many instruments into the sound of a single instrument: the orchestra, in fact.

You must think deeply about the fact that the arms are the only link between you and the orchestra during the performance and therefore, it is essential to be aware of this means to make the most of the possibilities that it offers.In summary, the conductor has to know what sound reactions he/she will get from the orchestra as a result of his/her actions.This is essential to seek to influence the consciousness of those who play, and so achieve a greater control of the orchestral mass whilst at the same time giving the musicians the feeling of playing at ease and in complete freedom.

In this site I will share with you what I have learned in my years of study and work alongside Ilya Musin.

Ennio Nicotra

Next Workshop in  Palermo (Sicily) 17-21 July 2017!  Intensive week with piano duo  in Villa del Pigno – Istituto dei ciechi Florio e Salamone.

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