Magazine article Gramophone

THE ART OF CONDUCTING: Peter Quantrill Is a Fly on the Wall in Orchestral Rehearsals

Magazine article Gramophone

THE ART OF CONDUCTING: Peter Quantrill Is a Fly on the Wall in Orchestral Rehearsals

Article excerpt

'In Rehearsal' [BR] JS Bach Cantata No 63 (a) Bartok The Miraculous Mandarin, Sz73--Suite (b) Debussy La mer (c) Haydn Symphony No 88 (d) Prokofiev Scythian Suite, Op 20 (e) R Strauss Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche, Op 28 (f) (a) Monteverdi Choir; (a) English Baroque Soloists / John Eliot Gardiner; (b) Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra / Mariss Jansons; (c) Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra / Esa-Pekka Salonen; (d) Philharmonia Orchestra / Christoph von Dohnanyi; (e) Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra / Valery Gergiev; (f) Israel Philharmonic Orchestra / Zubin Mehta EuroArts (F) [BR] 208 2334 (6h 11' * NTSC * 4:3/16:9 PCM stereo/mono * 0 * s). Recorded 1996-99

At the time of going to press all six conductors featured on this set are still with us, but reminders salutary and poignant of how long ago these documentaries were made (1996-99) press hard upon each other when Esa-Pekka Salonen uses a car phone to call his agent, before the late Ernest Fleischmann gives a piece to camera about what Salonen has brought to the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

It's the most revealing of the six films in terms of what both can and can't be learnt from the orchestral rehearsal as a commercial product for domestic consumption. Why the long faces in the band? How would you feel about doing your job, or pretending to, with a camera up your nose or peering at your shoes? Wired in and miked up, Salonen gets on with adjusting balances in La mer, saying please, thank you and bravo. Back at home on the piano he brings out motivic family resemblances in Debussy's symphonic seascape with the aid of specially filmed sectionals. On the podium, every gesture seems to mirror the inner life of the piece, not in the sense of balletic simulacrum but the mysterious 'expression of the invisible', observed by the theatre director Peter Brook, that conductors themselves cannot explain.

All the while, though, it's impossible to ignore the elephant in the room. Because we are the elephant. We are the ones trampling over 'the quiet and security in which anyone may dare expose himself, demanded by Brook as the prerequisite of an adequate rehearsal space. In fact there are testaments to and (more significantly) demonstrations of trust throughout these films: when members of the Israel Philharmonic eagerly anticipate playing Till Eulenspiegel for the first time after lifting their self-imposed prohibition on Strauss's music; and when Zubin Mehta revealingly confesses to them that he has never before prepared the piece 'from scratch'.

But trust has to be tested to be earned, and here is the exposed space where the camera will not or at any rate does not follow. …

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