the Music Master

Why Does the Classical Orchestra Need a Conductor?

Very few types of music demand the active use of a conductor. Dance bands leaders are usually figure heads and public relation figures. Though he starts the band in the right tempo, rarely does he influence performance. Large jazz band ensembles are similar, though the conductor may be seen to conduct changes of tempo and time signature. Choral conductors, whether in community groups, churches, or schools exercise greater control.

The classical orchestra plays a repertory of music that often spans 400 years. Variety is one of the great distinguishing features found in the evolution of what we now call "classical" music. This applies to tempo (speed), dynamics (accents, emphasis), volume (loud or soft), time signature (numbers of beats to a measure), and articulation (smooth or abrupt, etc.).

Because any one piece of music may contain many changes, it requires a single focal point, or leader, to govern the uniform reaction to these changes. The conductor must ensure that each musician is playing in concert with the others. Often, musicians might have several minutes of rest when they play nothing. Because the musicians have only a part of the total score to read, the conductor must give cues when it is time for them to rejoin the orchestra. Good conductors must have sensitive ears and give clear direction. But above all, they must be strong leaders. Conductors do much of their work preparing the orchestra for the concerts in rehearsals.

One of the great things about classical music is its subjectivity to interpretation. Each conductor can place an individual stamp on any piece of music. Part of the fun in going to classical concerts is to hear how conductors will make a famous piece of music ever so. lightly unique and personal.

the Music Master

String Quintet

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