Viewing 4 posts - 1 through 4 (of 4 total)
- November 14, 2012 at 4:23 pm #403894
Angelica DunsavageParticipantHi everyone! I’m a grad student in Choral Conducting and for a final project I am (attempting) to do a comparison between Aaron’s Copland’s “The Promise of Living” choral/orchestral versus choral with duo piano. So far I am unable to find choral/orchestral to compare, but I do have an orchestral score. I have a few questions for the group:1. What have you noticed are the differences between conducting these pieces? (If you have done so)2. If not, what are some general things you have noticed between conducting choral/orchestral works versus piano reductions?Does one lend itself more toward the use of baton versus not?Are there pitfalls in arrangement, voicing, etc. that change the feel of the piece?Any thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated! Also, if you know of anywhere I can go to find articles or things on this subject, please share!November 14, 2012 at 7:52 pm #403913
John HowellParticipantAngelica: Your subject is rather narrow, and I wish you all the best in getting useful answers. In regard to Question 2, the most obvious difference is, of course, is that instead of having a single accompanist whose job it is to follow you, you must actually CONDUCT an orchestra and not just expect everything to be there when you need it. One reason Robert Shaw was so successful conducting major choral-orchestral works is that he was just as skilled and as superb as an orchestral conductor as he was as a choral conductor. And I could name many others. But we’ve all experienced choral conductors who were NOT excellent orchestral conductors as well! An orchestra expects a clear beat FIRST, and not interpretive choreography. The trick is to know which is which.As to the baton, there are two primary reasons to use one. (And just to put this into perspective, I conduct both with and without baton depending on the situation, and with EITHER instruments or chorus–or combined.) The first is to increase the visibility of your beat so that it doesn’t get obscured. This is most important when conducting in a pit, with a darkened hall and a darkened pit, and with your orchestra spread out on either side while your singers are above you and may have lights in their eyes. But it isn’t UNimportant even on a well-lit stage. And if your chorus has its music memorized and can keep its eyes on you, you may not need a baton at all.The second reason is that the baton gives you not only an extension of your arm but also an additional “joint” that can increase the flexibility of your gestures–or at least it can do so if you don’t use a baton or a grip that locks firmly and immovably into your hand. My mentor in doctoral conducting classes recommended the King David baton of moderate length, of very lightweight wood with a tapered cork grip that gives you very good fingertip control, and pointed out that a professional conductor may be conducting 8 hours a day or more, and using a heavier plastic baton or one with a heavy grip simply makes very little sense. I bought a dozen, and they lasted me for years!And there will ALWAYS be a change in the feel of a piece between orchestra and piano, because a piano may substitute for an orchestra but it is NOT an orchestra, cannot provide the same balance of parts, and may well emphasize certain things just because of the nature of the percussive instrument that would NOT be emphasized in a sensitive orchestration. And that means that your singers will hear their cues differently.The thing to remember is that these works are INTENDED to be done with orchestra. The piano part is a substitute–a reduction, as you say. There’s nothing wrong with using piano accompaniment if that’s the practical limit of what is possible, but it isn’t what the composer intended or there wouldn’t be an orchestration in the first place! So the decision is most often a practical one, not a musical one.All the best,JohnNovember 15, 2012 at 10:48 am #403971
Scott DeanParticipantAngelicaI’ve conducted both and as John wrote the transcription is a practial choce, not a musical one. I think it is safe to say that transcriptions can be some of the most difficult, awkard, and unstaisfying keyboard music to play. That said, they serve an extremely useful purpose. I think some of the more recent successful transcriptions of orchestral music to piano, four hands, are Mack Wilberg hymn and carol settings primarily because the orchestral material is mostly homophonic, void of sixteenth note string crossings and the like. Compare that to a reduction of Bach B minor Mass or Christmas Oratorio (for two hands) and you’ll see what I mean.But back to Copland. I recall the four hand setting of the Copland to be full of typically “clunky”, dense moments when his style is more open, at times even sparse, and lyrcial–just the opposite of the result of the transcription (with the exception of the climax). I particularly remember the closing measures to be wanting and hearing in my head the orchestral colors, openess and sustained accompaniment (which can not be duplicated on a percusion instrument) and wondering what this must sound like to someone who doesn’t know the original. Yet, the transcription fulfilled it’s purpose, which is to simply enable those without the orchestra to experience the piece and to hear (something of the) composers message. I think this is a typical experience of the more challenging transcriptions. I can’t think of a piece where I would choose, based on it’s artistic merits, a transcription over the original orchestration. However there are various reduced orchestal versions that I prefer over thier larger settings (Faure and Durufel Requiems, for example). But that is another subject.In terms of conducting my background is choral/orchestral with many years of study as a professional chorister and master class participant with Helmuth Rilling so my “beat” is rather rhythymically precise as opposed to “flowery flowing” and I generally don’t find the need for a baton for a piano duo. However, there are issues of “ensemble” with piano, four hands that require precision and one must be clear in thier gestures.As John indicates you may not find the depth of material in your topic for a project paper. If so you might consider expanding the topic to look at various transcriptions, beginning with the Brahm’s Requiem transcribed by the composer to four hands. And as far as recordings go, I do have a CD my choir produced of the Copland with orchesral accompaniment. If that is helpful you can contact me.Good luck!Scott DeanDirector of Music and WorshipFirst Presbyterian Church of Bellevue, WANovember 15, 2012 at 6:25 pm #404038
Angelica DunsavageParticipantThank you to you both. I thought your answers were very helpful to the questions I posed. This project is simply a class presentation, not a major assignment such as a research paper. Actually, it is for my Orchestral Conducting class, and my professor thought it my be useful for a choral person such as myself to choose something that is choral/orchestral and discuss it. In my presentation, I plan to give a little background on the piece, and go into detail on some of the various arrangements of the piece (choral/orchestral, choral/piano, and the purely orchestral suite movement), discussing the pros and cons of each, and what conductors might find difficult. Your answers provide me with some good feedback from the choral community, which I sincerely appreciate!
Viewing 4 posts - 1 through 4 (of 4 total)
You must be logged in to reply to this topic.