Power of decision: soloists vs conductors
Hi, I am curious about what happens when a soloist wants a tempo for a violin concerto, and the conductor really thinks that's just too fast or too slow. Will normally the conductor adapt to the soloist or viceversa?
Of course, if both soloist and conductor are very, mmmm, "kind", generous?, ready or minded to give up their own interpretation and thoughts on a piece and adapt to "whatever" the other says, then there would be no problem, but one could say this means they lack personality, specially for the conductor, which is supposed to have the last word and conduct the same thing in one direction.
In the other hand, if you, as a conductor, know, feel and reason a very specific tempo for a violin concerto, say 105-115 bpm, and a soloist says it should be 90 bpm, or 130 bpm, how they work that out?
Specially in Vivaldi, where there are many "allegro" pieces that are played by some like a slow moderato, and by others like a real fast allegro. This question just came up to my mind because I was right now listening to Hahn play Mendelssohn in a recent live concert and it was way too fast, and I though: God, this is so fast, Hahn nails this concerto, what happened that day?
What about orchestra members? Don't they have a voice?
But why should the wood wind section had to say anything about a violin concerto?
Well, may be they could riot and don't play since "it's not their concert". Life is so complex, hahahaha.
It's happened before.
Also, as someone with a degree in Composition, we were actually taught by the composition faculty that if you had an issue with how your piece was being played in rehearsal, you told the conductor (preferably in private) - not the orchestra.
Wow, impressive words by Bernstein, now I'm speechless.
The soloist should always call the tune. At a rehearsal for Brahms's first piano concerto our ancient conductor beat the opening tutti at a snail's pace (quizzical looks were exchanged in the orchestra) until the soloist, John Lill, got up from his chair to have a quiet word with him. The rehearsal subsequently went at a fine tempo, but then at the performance...
Thanks Steve. Wow, did that really make John to get up and talk to him?
Tempo is dictated by the soloist.
Thank you Mary Ellen, your answer was clear and to the point. About Hilary Hahn, I was, like you, hahaha, listening to the radio and the Mendelssohn was being played by Hahn, and I read in the title (yeah, I could see what was being played) that it was live, I suppose from a recent concert somewhere because they normally broadcast recent concerts, like from 5 months ago maximum. I didn't listen to the whole thing, may be 2 minutes, because I was interrupted, but it was the first movement, mostly the orchestra was playing, it's that part where the soloist does not play. And I noticed a real fast tempo. Could have been an hallucination? Could, but I don't think so, hahahaha.
wondering why this question is so important to you, or what answer you're looking for that you didn't get the first time? https://www.violinist.com/discussion/thread.cfm?page=2459
Yes, Irene, but notice how now I'm mostly talking about the tempo, not other things. A tempo is a way more specific thing than what we were talking about there, like "playing with passion" or "romantically". I vaguely remember I even created that thread although I knew I asked some time ago something like that. I'm interested in both topics, tempo and interpretations, and you surely understand that we can talk forever about things like these.
The soloist has the final decision on tempo, though the conductor may try to have a word if the soloist's tempo is extreme.
Yeah, I can imagine it was really funny, and clever, hahahaha.
I could write a book about this very subject!
I'm getting som
Yes, sorry Paul, as I explained, here I only talk about tempo, while in the other I didn't mentioned even once the word tempo. It's funny how some of you remember very well that post, and I, that created and read all the answers for sure, wasn't really sure.
You can't just separate tempo on its own like that, only a technical element. I'd say it is always the first stylistic decision you make about the music and that drives the rest of the interpretation.
In performance a soloist can't just bluntly "correct" the conductor if he starts off too fast or slow. There are subtle and musical ways of moulding the tempo to something more like what was originally intended without making it sound like crashing the gears, and that's what John Lill was rather good at.
Sometimes it is good to mix metaphors: I would not want to have to call it barking order. Nor biting order.
The answer is that everyone behaves like professionals, and keeps their ears open. People match each other the way they would in chamber music, ideally. And soloists figure out how to clearly indicate they want a faster or slower tempo. (If you are learning major concertos, this is something your teacher should be showing you how to do for spots with tricky tempo transitions.) Communication is also important for ritards, any place where the soloist intends to take a little time, etc.
When I was in college, I did the first movement with the school orchestra and a conductor who was neither a good accompanist nor a string player: never consulted me until tempi had been baked in during rehearsals, and had a few weird ideas about what was “traditional”.
Surely tempo basics are agreed between the soloist and conductor beforehand? Yes, normally the soloist dictates. The Mendelssohn is mentioned - the last movement in particular is a so-and-so for the flutes, so the conductor may request the soloist's speed accommodates them.Lydia's got it spot on - the orchestra listens to the soloist. In extremis, the orchestra will follow the concertmaster(leader).
Thanks Malcolm - you just reminded me of a performance of Elgar's Introduction and Allegro for strings in which the leader (who of course has a lot of solo material to play in conjunction with a solo quartet) was generally regarded as having a more distinguished musical pedigree than the conductor and wasn't reluctant to pull rank. He stuck doggedly to his slower tempo, the conductor gave way and the result was a stodgy and lifeless performance. There's only room for one boss.