Orchestral conducting technique:The Pauses


Ilya Musin in his book “Technika dirizhirovanja” (St. Petersburg 1967) gives us a clear and simple explanation of the pauses and their casuistry.
We could enumerate an infinite number of cases but, in fact, there are six main types, which in their turn may be divided into two big groups:
1) Pauses followed by a downbeat
2) Pauses followed by an upbeat
Inside each group we can differentiate as follows:
a) A pause followed by a rest (with a close, with a new attack)
b) A pause with caesura (with a close, with no stop)
c) A pause and the music starts again (with no close, with no caesura, with no stop)
Closing a pause is not a problem, just as it is not for keeping on a chord or a rest.
In pauses the problem might be in showing what comes next, how to go on.

This is and always will be a matter of incomprehension.

So it is better to explain very clearly to the orchestra how you intend to indicate the end of a pause and how to start off again after a pause.
What conductors should avoid doing during the pauses!
Surely many know that the execution of a pause is divided into three phases:
1) stop, 2) close, 3) music starts again. Phases 2 and 3 have different resolution, depending whether among them there is a rest, a caesura, or music starts again with no close, no caesura, no stop.
It’s easy to understand that to show a pause you must simply stop your arm where it is indicated in the score. But the thing that might cause some difficulties in the directors, some of them good musicians but not in possession of an equally clear technique, is its close (phase 2) and the continuation (phase 3).
The closing gesture, as simple as it may appear requires a slight preparation, it must have a certain amplitude to be visible to all, it should not be sharp so that the players have the time to sense and realize, and finally it needs to be resolute in its final part. The consequential (phase 3), must be done simultaneously with the breath (inhale) – basically it’s a simple downbeat (or upbeat)-;

(the same passage in concert)

in fact, without the breath, the only arm that descends vertically does not allow to predict the time at which it stops its descent and, therefore, the precise determination of the moment in which the players will start playing again and this, in the orchestra, may create some disorientation and uncertainty.

In our case – despite the players are playing notes at will to realize all that the conductor shows, in the short space of a few seconds, noting with particular attention, you can watch the whole chain of errors described above: pause, abrupt and sudden close without preparation, vertical gesture down without breath, no reaction of the orchestra, general laugh.