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9/9/2001 : I offer encounter a real problem with players in orchestras who during the course of their careers have come to play as a matter of course with an appreciable time delay behind the “ictus”of the beat, almost to the point where as an audience member it appears the conductor is conducting with his beat “upside down.” I have found this very difficult to adjust to, or persuade the orchestra to make an adjustment, particularly when there is little rehearsal time.

I have found that a slight delay is preferable for me, and the best orchestras I have worked with tend to play that way. It solidifies the tone and helps ward off unintentional acceleration. It is also true that you have to be able to adapt to an orchestra, especially if you are a guest.

However if the delay is so great as you describe, you will get other distortions. Response time is, to some extent, the work of the concertmaster, and you should work closely with him or her to correct extreme differences. This is much easier for a music director or principal guest than it is for a first-time guest conductor, of course.

Finally, be careful that you are not reacting to a small delay and slowing down imperceptably. The orchestra will then drop behind that beat and, if you are not careful, you will drift slower again. These are tiny differences and it is easy, especially for a new conductor, to fall into the trap of following more than leading.

2001 by Joseph Rescigno. The text here may be freely reproduced for non-commercial purposes as long as credit is given.

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