Bass Blog

Michael Hovnanian plays bass in an orchestra located in a large midwestern city.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Turn it down!

Once again, the European Union law restricting the amount of musician exposure to ‘noise’ made the news. This time the front page of the Sunday New York Times featured the article, No Fortissimo? Symphony Told to Keep It Down.

You’ve got to hand it to those Europeans for getting on top of the issue. I’m not holding my breath for anything like that to ever make its way to this side of the Atlantic though.

The most curious thing about the article for me came at the end of the second paragraph where it stated the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra deemed playing more softly ‘unworkable’. It struck me that in all my years I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered a conductor who tried turning down the volume of the whole orchestra. Conductors often balance this or that, telling some instruments they are too loud or others they are not loud enough, but I’m wracking my brain to remember a conductor stopping a fortissimo passage and telling everyone to play more softly. They do it all the time on the quiet end of the spectrum.

We did have a crotchety guest conductor years ago who, instead of thanking the orchestra or at least wishing us well at the end of the final rehearsal for a Bruckner Symphony, said something to the effect of “The entire thing is too loud for my taste.” Needless to say that was the last time he conducted here.

Maybe it is unworkable after all.

2 comments:

MK said...

That didn't happen to be a certain late German conductor who recorded the complete Bruckner symphonies several times over?

Brad said...

Wand? He sure left behind some great Bruckner recordings. As for the "noise" issue, wouldn't earplugs do the trick?