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5/5/96: When an orchestra tours with a program it will repeat at each venue, how difficult is it to adjust the playing to the acoustics? Is there usually sufficient time to do this? I attend Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall and I sometimes feel that a very fine visiting orchestra is not fully oriented to the hall.

It can be a difficulty, and experience with a hall can certainly be a factor in the quality of a performance. I’ve been lucky enough that my orchestra members have had experience with a hall, and we’ve been able to talk about it, even if I have been unacquainted with it. When I am unacquainted with a hall, and will not have an opportunity to rehearse in it, I usually have a half-hour or so before the doors open to walk around the stage, observe the physical space, and try to get a feel for it. For example, how much space is between the brass and the back wall? and is the back wall brick? curtained? or is there a shell? I may also ask any early-arriving musicians to play anything at all while I walk around the auditorium. If I can see that something in our performance will definitely have to change, I then have time to speak with the musicians and alert them, for example, to a need to play more piano or more forte in some passages. I may also make last-minute changes in the seating arrangements. Inevitably, I will be communicating some “fine tuning” during the performance.

It would be my expectation that most orchestras playing a major New York hall would have some rehearsal there, and it seems likely that, in most cases, either the musicians or the conductor would have some experience with the hall. Naturally, the greater the aggregate experience, the better. But as suggested here and in several earlier discussions, there are a lot of other variables in this equation (e.g., repertory, soloists).

©1996 by Joseph Rescigno. The text here may be freely reproduced for non-commercial purposes as long as credit is given.

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