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Subject: "ROH Orchestra and conductors" Archived thread - Read only
 
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Conferences What's Happening Topic #2548
Reading Topic #2548
Bruceadmin

09-03-02, 11:36 AM (GMT)
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"ROH Orchestra and conductors"
 
   LAST EDITED ON 09-03-02 AT 01:35 PM (GMT)


I was struck by Ismene Brown's interview with the leader of the ROH orchestra in todays Telegraph:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2002/03/09/btisme09.xml&sSheet=/arts/2002/03/09/ixartright.html

It's certainly an interesting interview with Vasko Vassilev and in a nutshell seems to imply that any and all problems with the poor playing for ballet are the conductors' fault!

I don't think this is entirely true - what about all those bum notes that come from the brass for example - conductors ask for those do they?!? It's getting better but they still don't really bother and that comes across to the audience overall. And why have the established Opera House ballet conductors effectively gravitated elsewhere? The ROH band are obviously capable of the greatest work and yet come over as a very precious lot - with regard to ballet - only capable of bothering for one or two conductors they happen to like. The result is that the BRB and ENB orchestras generally put on a more reliable show. It's an attitude thing and while they might not be technically so good they actually care about what they are playing.

As a way of seeing what is important to the ROH orchestra have a look at the following page (from the ROH website) on the History of the orchestra - count the operas mentioned and the then the ballets:
http://www.royalopera.org/Orchestra/Index.cfm?ccs=116

I don't see one ballet named - but over 30-35 references to opera and other pieces. Are these the words of an orchestra and organisation that think ballet matters? - I think not. Would you look at this page and think that half their costs are covered by the ballet's coffers?

On the very rare occasion Haitink bothered to conduct a ballet the orchestra sounded amazingly good. I think it was R&J and Haitink had brought in more musicians than normal and commandeered the Stalls Circle seats near the stage. Fabulous and very memorable stuff. But he didn't conduct even once a year for ballet, such was his apparent lack of interest in the music for half the performances his 'band' put on.

I hope that Pappano does better. Here's what Michael Kaiser said about his appointment "...And he's excited about trying ballet, which he's never done. He wants to make sure the orchestra is strong for ballet as well as for opera." Kaiser well knew - as do most who go regularly - that the ballet get poor value from the pit. Of course at the time of the appointment (March 1999) Kaiser was happy to sign a contract with Pappano that said he (Kaiser) would stay as executive director until at least 2004! All things change, but Pappano needs to go out of his way to bother with ballet as both a message of reassurance to the public and more importantly to the orchestra.

Returning to Vassilev, it's interesting that he talks of Quinn not being in sync with the dancers - that was true - she rarely looked at them. She was concentrating on the pit too much, or eyes closed going with the musical flow. And what were the musicians doing - looking everywhere but at the conductor. It was desperate stuff as Quinn would summon part of the orchestra to do their thing only to find them doing the equivalent of filing their nails - no eye contact or acknowledgement, they just sailed on without any care or bother. There were disconnects all around. The leader and orchestra should recognise that they are part of a problem and not palm it all off on the conductor or others.


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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: ROH Orchestra and conductors AEHandley 09-03-02 1
  RE: ROH Orchestra and conductors Jane S 09-03-02 2
     RE: ROH Orchestra and conductors Bruceadmin 09-03-02 3
         RE: ROH Orchestra and conductors Robert 11-03-02 4
             RE: ROH Orchestra and conductors Robert 11-03-02 5
     RE: Daphnis alison 12-03-02 6
         RE: Conductors Brendan McCarthymoderator 12-03-02 7
             RE: Conductors eugdog 13-03-02 8
             RE: Conductors Jonathan S 02-04-02 11
  RE: ROH Orchestra and conductors alison 13-03-02 9
     RE: ROH Orchestra and conductors Brendan McCarthymoderator 13-03-02 10

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AEHandley

09-03-02, 03:37 PM (GMT)
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1. "RE: ROH Orchestra and conductors"
In response to message #0
 
   But I'm SURE I read that Pappano had ballet experience. Who can I have been thinking of?

The orchestra is a good orchestra - I've never seen them obviously not making the effort. I've heard evidence of lack of rehearsal, but that's a bit different. Vassiliev is right about the lack of aural feedback being very VERY important to the band. The best performance I ever heard from them was under Krnjak (? something like that anyway!) about 7 or 8 years ago. I think it has to be an institutionalised attitude problem, really - if the music director isn't interested then the band will never be able to do their job properly. Sorry, a bit incoherent today.


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Jane S

09-03-02, 03:57 PM (GMT)
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2. "RE: ROH Orchestra and conductors"
In response to message #0
 
   As a taster, see this review in today's Times, of Pappano conducting Daphnis and Chloe:

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/0,,685-230915,00.html

" Pappano relished every second of the
composer’s intoxication with beating pulse and shifting
metre, as he propelled the final Danse generale
towards its own, climactic rite of spring. "


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Bruceadmin

09-03-02, 05:21 PM (GMT)
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3. "RE: ROH Orchestra and conductors"
In response to message #2
 
   I seem to recall words of praise for Haitink conducting the same piece. Sadly I can't stand the music - to the point where all merit in the Ashton was obscured for me.


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Robert

11-03-02, 06:06 PM (GMT)
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4. "RE: ROH Orchestra and conductors"
In response to message #3
 
   I fely a bit sorry about all the rotten things said about Antonia Quin . I hope she is being more successful in America.


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Robert

11-03-02, 06:07 PM (GMT)
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5. "RE: ROH Orchestra and conductors"
In response to message #4
 
   Sorry but I mean Andrea Quinn.


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alison

12-03-02, 01:46 PM (GMT)
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6. "RE: Daphnis"
In response to message #2
 
   Alternatively, you could look up the FT's version, which is more similar to my own view . Having sat through the concert, I came away reflecting on how many times I'd heard much better performances of Daphnis, including by Haitink. That's not to say that it was a bad performance, because it wasn't, by any stroke of the imagination; it's just that I love the work and have heard it in concert so many times in some really superb performances that this one didn't match up for me. And sensuousness was one of the things I thought was rather lacking! Oh well, chacun à son goût, as they say.


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Brendan McCarthymoderator

12-03-02, 02:06 PM (GMT)
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7. "RE: Conductors"
In response to message #6
 
   Getting back to the substantive topic, there are intrinsic difficulties. Only a few musicians at the front of the orchestra can see what is happening on stage. Other musicians, because they cannot see, are pushed to understand decisions they see as ludicrously unmusical.

It is a difficult one for conductors; they may try and accompany dancers as they might a soloist in a concerto. Dancers need to be helped to navigate the steps.

But sometimes a conductor should not help too much, and should be prepared to assert the pre-eminence of the music. This means facing down a choreographer or artistic director if necessary. What was most interesting in Ismene's piece was what was not explicitly said, but I have the impression that some ballet conductors at the ROH may have been overly accomodating to the dancers. Going too far in this direction makes a nonsense of the music.

Of course none of this arises (or does it?) when there is a specially commissioned score.....


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eugdog

13-03-02, 12:41 PM (GMT)
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8. "RE: Conductors"
In response to message #7
 
   I always thought that ballet conductors tailor the music the dancers needs! ie it is the dancers who are calling the shots! This might explain why the music is often very badly interpreted. It is also why most big name conductor rarely if ever do ballet (except on CD or in concert)!


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Jonathan S

02-04-02, 09:57 PM (GMT)
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11. "RE: Conductors"
In response to message #7
 
   Brendan said:

>What was most interesting in
>Ismene's piece was what was
>not explicitly said, but I
>have the impression that some
>ballet conductors at the ROH
>may have been overly accomodating
>to the dancers. Going too
>far in this direction makes
>a nonsense of the music.

I re-read the piece, and couldn't see where this was implied. On the contrary, I felt that what Vassiliev was saying was almost the opposite - that the accusations of 'unmusical' interpretations came from people who didn't understand the degree to which physical and visual elements could be accomodated by pauses and different tempi, without destroying the integrity of the music.

Graham Bond was expert at integrating the needs of the choreography into the phrasing and temporal structure of the music to such a degree that you felt the music couldn't go any other way.

Who follows who is a complex issue, which Stephanie Jordan discusses in some depth in the opening chapters of Moving Music . There isn't an absolute, this is something which has changed over time, and will probably continue to do so. Thankfully, Jordan introduces some names, dates and facts into the discussion.

>Of course none of this arises
>(or does it?) when there
>is a specially commissioned
>score.....

O-o-o-h yes it does!



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alison

13-03-02, 01:43 PM (GMT)
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9. "RE: ROH Orchestra and conductors"
In response to message #0
 
   I'm not sure that it is fair to imply that Haitink "didn't bother" with the Royal Ballet. After all, he's Music Director of the Royal Opera, not the Royal Ballet, even though the RB may not have an MD at the moment, so presumably he would have had to have been invited to conduct, wouldn't he? Certainly I remember him conducting at least R&J and the Ravel evening since about the mid-90s when I actually started paying attention to who was conducting (that comment in itself might reflect somewhat on the level of esteem in which ballet conductors are held!)


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Brendan McCarthymoderator

13-03-02, 01:47 PM (GMT)
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10. "RE: ROH Orchestra and conductors"
In response to message #9
 
   There is a director of the Royal Opera, Elaine Padmore. As I understand it, Bernard Haitink's writ runs across opera and ballet. Tony Hall made it clear to me that the issue of a successor to Andrea Quinn would be, in part, a matter for Tony Pappano when he arrives.


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