Orchestral conducting technique: Is using a piano duo a good way to study orchestral conducting?

Even today, some people ask what use is studying orchestral conducting using a piano duo.

In some forums, where they don’t know how to use them, they unsuspectingly give out certificates without any merit. In other institutions, fortunately very few, pianists are not used; the student sings or whistles alone. In some others, there is only one pianist … but we’ll draw a veil over that and continue with our discussion.


In reality, the presence of a teacher who knows where to look and how and when to intervene, makes the piano duo a valuable tool in making the student understand the effectiveness of his conducting and the reactions that could result from his gestures.

In front of an orchestra with a limited podium time, in the presence of strangers who may after a while, start to get impatient and talk to each other, there quickly becomes less concentration and less possibility to analyse the cause of certain problems in detail.

Using the piano duo, also has the advantage of creating a calm and homely atmosphere, which gives the student the tranquility he needs at this stage.

For these reasons, a student who has worked hard in piano classes will in subsequent sessions with orchestra, find considerable ease in the course of of work and orchestration.

This is the method of study adopted for decades in the class of Ilya Musin at the Conservatory of St. Petersburg, from which came the greatest Russian conductors of the century, among others, Barshai, Temirkanov, Gergiev, Bychkov ….

In the following video is the analysis of a passage known for its difficulty ..

Listen to the pianists very carefully; you will notice that at first, they can not play the chords simultaneously. Whistling alone, or with only one pianist, this problem would never come to the surface.

Next annual course in Italy, Palermo/Rome November’18 – June’19 in collaboration with  Opera in Rome Symphony Orchestra

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