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Maestros and Their Music: The Art and Alchemy of Conducting

af John Mauceri

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
454459,576 (4.14)6
John Mauceri brings a lifetime of experience to bear in an unprecedented, hugely informative, consistently entertaining exploration of his profession, rich with anecdotes from decades of working alongside the greatest names of the music world. With candor and humor, Mauceri makes clear that conducting is itself a composition- of legacy and tradition, techniques handed down from master to apprentice--and more than a trace of ineffable magic. He reveals how conductors approach a piece of music (a calculated combination of personal interpretation, imagination, and insight into the composer's intent); what it takes to communicate solely through gesture, with sometimes hundreds of performers at once; and the occasionally glamorous, often challenging life of the itinerant maestro. Mauceri, who worked closely with Leonard Bernstein for eighteen years, studied with Leopold Stokowski, and was on the faculty of Yale University for fifteen years, is the perfect guide to the allure and theater, passion and drudgery, rivalries and relationships of the conducting life.… (mere)
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A wonderfully informative and entertaining guide to the world of orchestral conducting, for all of us who aren't conductors and are curious. Chapters include:

1. A Short History of Conducting
2. The Technique of Conducting
3. How Do You Learn an Orchestral Score?
4. How Do You Learn to be a Conductor?
5. What Makes One Conductor's Performance Different from Another's?
6. Relationships with: Music, Musicians, the Audience, Critics, Owner/Management
7. Who's in Charge?
8. The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Maestro
9. Recordings vs. Performances

Mauceri was a protege of Bernstein's, for whom he conducted many world premiers. He's spent over 50 years leading symphonic, operatic and balletic orchestras, and he's a natural storyteller and, like Bernstein, can make the musical world interesting and easy to understand. Here he leans on his many engagements around the world and his friendships with musicians, composers and other conductors to explain the mystery of just what it is the conductor brings to the process of classical performance. In addition to the traditional oeuvre, this includes very modern and new works, film scores, and the revival (or revisal) of well-known pieces.

To me, the most interesting topics were the techniques of conducting, the learning of scores, the place of critics, and the relationships between various conductors. For instance, I never knew that conductors are trained to use the right hand to conduct tempos and the left to signify just about everything else: intensity, volume, emotion, whatever. Now I can't watch a performance without checking this out. Just try patting your head with one hand while doing a variety of other meaningful gestures with your left. Learning scores is also somewhat of a miracle to me. I've often told an organist friend that I'm jealous and amazed at his ability to read music vertically, with multiple finger and foot positions for each beat or part of a beat. (I'm firmly in the one-note-at-a-time crowd, useful for French horn and choral work). Take a look at an orchestral score, which has much more going on at any one moment in time than any keyboard score, and it's clear how incredibly complicated it is to follow. To actually learn it, to know what is happening with each instrument or voice within each beat, is an almost unbelievably complex undertaking, yet this is required of any conductor expecting to lead even semi-professional groups. To conduct a group like the Berlin Philharmonic or Met Opera, you'd better know every single note and be sure of why you want each note played by each instrument to sound in a certain way. And this is one of the reasons Mauceri has little positive to say about critics, who rarely know the music well or care what the history of its performance may have been. They make their remarks often without any idea of what the conductor is trying to do, or even what the composer originally intended, never mind a deep understanding of the music itself.

The author's stories of other conductors are priceless. Appointments, interpretations, and critical reviews: they're all fodder for long-distance rivalries between the high-strung musicians who take on the challenge of conducting for a living. Having read some on the histories of Furtwangler and von Karajan during the Nazi years, I was very, very interested to hear Mauceri's views. von Karajan, well known as a member of the Nazi party (if only as an expedient move) and a willing performer for the German rulers, detested Bernstein, and vice versa. Mauceri repeats Bernstein's comment to him after he reluctantly attended a luncheon at von Karajan's home: von Karajan was, Bernstein said, his first Nazi. Chilling, isn't it? Just imagine how Bernstein must have felt in von Karajan's presence. Furtwangler, on the other hand, remained in Germany for most of the war in order to save German musical culture and musicians. He argued publicly and in-person with Hitler and his aides, refused to make the Nazi salute even in Hitler's presence, and fought ferociously to keep Jewish musicians in the Berlin Philharmonic. When he was threatened with being sent to a concentration camp, he told them to go ahead, that at least he'd be in good company. He was too popular, though, for them to do much more than threaten him and remove him from the positions he held. He finally left Germany two days before an arrest became imminent in 1945.

The book fills a gap the average classical music lover may not realize is there, and I'm finding it's enriching the many orchestral performances I watch. Well-worth reading for the information, the stories, and the understanding it will bring to watching or listening to music. ( )
  auntmarge64 | Apr 27, 2020 |
A wonderful series of essays on conducting. It’s part observation, part autobiography, and part insider's gossip. I've read several books by conductors and it's interesting that they rarely discuss individual musicians in the orchestras they lead. They'll talk about directors and managers but rarely about oboists or bassists. ( )
  le.vert.galant | Nov 19, 2019 |
Tell-all look at the life of a conductor, as told by a famous conductor. I found it fascinating, especially when he went into how the same piece of music can be interpreted so differently. ( )
  jasoncomely | Aug 29, 2019 |
Excellent behind-the-scenes look into the world of the classical music conductor. I found the beginning a bit difficult, uncertain as to whom Maestro Mauceri imagined as his audience for his book -- some of it seems almost too simplistic for those readers already 'into' classical music, while other passages seem aimed at the specialist and the formally trained. But the book gradually unfolds its beauties. I left the book with a keener appreciation for the complicated nature of the conductor's work (it involves so much more than standing in front of a group of musicians and waving a baton -- or one's hands). I really enjoyed some of the sections related to specific problems with specific compositions for their insights into the real work a conductor must do, even with allegedly 'established' works. Maestro Mauceri also leavens his book with many vignettes of famous conductors and dollops of humor. Very insightful! ( )
  David_of_PA | Jul 14, 2018 |
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John Mauceri brings a lifetime of experience to bear in an unprecedented, hugely informative, consistently entertaining exploration of his profession, rich with anecdotes from decades of working alongside the greatest names of the music world. With candor and humor, Mauceri makes clear that conducting is itself a composition- of legacy and tradition, techniques handed down from master to apprentice--and more than a trace of ineffable magic. He reveals how conductors approach a piece of music (a calculated combination of personal interpretation, imagination, and insight into the composer's intent); what it takes to communicate solely through gesture, with sometimes hundreds of performers at once; and the occasionally glamorous, often challenging life of the itinerant maestro. Mauceri, who worked closely with Leonard Bernstein for eighteen years, studied with Leopold Stokowski, and was on the faculty of Yale University for fifteen years, is the perfect guide to the allure and theater, passion and drudgery, rivalries and relationships of the conducting life.

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