Bass Blog

Michael Hovnanian formerly played bass with an orchestra located in a large midwestern city.

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

In the beginning...

Bernard Labadie, conductor
Benedetto Lupo, piano
Haydn - Symphony No. 94 (Surprise)
Mozart - Piano Concerto No. 18
Mozart - Chaconne from Idomeneo
Mozart - Symphony No. 39

Wordy conductors arrive at our concert hall carrying their verbiage like the penitent's burden. Already looking at an uphill trek to Golgotha, the early music specialist ascending our podium might fair better lightening his load a bit. While it may be possible to teach an old dog new tricks, it is probably wise not to talk to him about about it.

Bernard Labadie brought with him some good ideas and a different viewpoint than we are accustomed to. Less vibrato, more open strings, holding off on the sostenuto, among other things, are IMO valid suggestions. I have no problem with trying to play something differently. In fact I think playing it the same old way causes me more heartburn these days. Unfortunately, the preponderance of instructions, suggestions, reminders, admonishments, notifications, rejoinders, talking points, etc. etc. began turning the music into a bit of a minefield.

The Kapellmeister more adept with the word than the baton is a phenomenon I've come across a number of times, especially in the early music realm. There, I have no problems with it. Most of that music is not conductor dependent anyway (possibly why I enjoy it so much), predating the rise of the stick waving, tyrannosaurical conductor of the modern era. The period instrument players also, not subjugated by constant baton beating, have a different approach to holding an ensemble together.

The Mozart/Haydn concerts began showing a few cracks in the ensemble which only grew more serious with repetition, as if the fragmented assembly in rehearsals came unglued under the pressures of performance.


Lisa Hirsch said...

Ahaha. I heard something similar about Labadie when he was conducting SFS. I went to one or two of his concerts last year, and can tell you that from my perspective, his conducting style got sadly repetitive after an hour or so. The talk is, perhaps, a substitute for good ideas about the music.

nocynic said...

Amen,Lisa. I for one am bored to tears with the whole debate about period instrument style vs. "modern' interpretation--there are good and bad musicians in both camps. I played with Mr. Hovnanian under M. Labadie last week. To me, his main problem is that he has the overarching vision of an amoeba. He had no concept of phrasing that extended for more than one bar. At key moments in the music, he hammered out each downbeat with identical emphasis, demonstrating a baton technique reminiscent of the Rodney King video. And oh, yes...he talks too much. Way too much.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Thanks for that! Yes, there are some fantastic musicians in the early-music camp. On record, at least, I love Gardiner, Jacobs, Brueggen, who've extended their work into the 19th c. Jordi Savall's Eroica is a very good one!

Speaking of conductors, does Vladimir Ashkenazy visit your fair city? He is the dullest and least imaginative conductor I've seen at SFS in the last few years.

Unknown said...


SYSO alumni?

Keith Lowe here...... Is this you there?