There is no way to overstate the importance of the role of the baton..
The baton amplifies and makes more visible even the slightest arm movement, and at the same time increases the expressiveness and the precision of our gestures making them clear for musicians sitting far away, especially in the concert hall or in the semi-darkness of the orchestra pit.
In our imagination it symbolizes power, command. Many students feel exalted when they have it in their hand , even if they do not really know how to hold it correctly. However, we are going to examine its professional aspect and not its psychological implications.
The conductor must feel at ease while using it as if it were a continuation of his arm, a fourth part.
This object we are holding in our hand makes it possible to express new shades of expression, but it can also be a hindrance to their realization. Actually, a hand holding something automatically becomes less expressive and more rigid.
This is the reason why you have to be very careful when you are holding the baton. If you manage to keep the different shades of expressions which a free hand can show, all right, but if the baton becomes a hindrance, consider doing without it
Ilya Musin codified three ways of holding a baton.
Each of them has to be used in different contexts. Obviously, with experience and practice, the student, depending on the musical setting, will be able to go from one position to another naturally, without even having to think how he is holding it.
Let us examine minutely the second position
You hold the baton with your thumb and index finger, the middle finger slightly closed but loose, the thumb slightly forward. The end lightly touches the palm of the hand but is not blocked, different from the previous position. The baton point downwards.
This position greatly amplifies the gestures of the hand because the baton becomes its extension. Even a slight inclination lifts the point of the baton 25- 30 cm.
Consequently, any small gesture of the hand becomes visible. The importance of this position consists in making the gestures of the hand more visible and making them independent of the rest of the arm…
It is also very suitable for the circular gestures typical of triplets or ternary time.
The point of the baton pointing downwards can be used to communicate a sensation of weight, of dragging along, of vibrant melodies .
Instead, with the end of the baton pointing upwards, you can suggest lightness and smoothness….
Moreover, a variation of the second position consists in placing the index finger on the baton and not beside it, so as to indicate something in particular. You may use this variation when you are picking out a small group of players , or to guide one individual player during a particularly quiet poetic moment.
Next annual course in Italy, Palermo/Rome November’18 – June’19 in collaboration with Opera in Rome Symphony Orchestra