Title

An Unhappy Union: The Rise and Fall of Dual Conducting

Lead Author Major

Music History

Format

Oral Presentation

Faculty Mentor Name

Sarah Walz

Faculty Mentor Department

Music History

Abstract/Artist Statement

Observers of modern ensembles and their practices would be surprised to learn that the conductor has not always been the sole leader of the ensemble. In the eighteenth century, the common practice for orchestras (including opera orchestras) was “Dual Conducting”; this was the practice of dividing the leadership of the orchestra between the keyboardist (Kapellmeister) and the first violin player (Konzertmeister or concertmaster). A relevant question, then, is how can one keyboard (harpsichord) player, that can barely be heard over the sound of the orchestra, be in charge of keeping the tempo for at least 15 musicians? Although the secondary literature is thin on this area, there are enough translated primary sources to enable one to track this technique through different European countries and determine a timeline for how the baton conductor developed in each country, which has not been clarified in the standard literature in the field. (Misconceptions abound.) Some preliminary findings showed that the baton was originating in France, as the earliest uses of the device, and that the idea was spread throughout Europe, each country adapting to the new form at different paces. This paper will discuss audible time beating practices, problems of dual conducting, including pros and cons of both the violin and keyboard conductor, and explain how the baton and podium for a single conductor came into common use for ensemble leaders throughout Europe. I am hoping to touch other musicians and contribute to our history on a subject that has had little research done on it and is, in my opinion, very relevant to our profession. I hope that this will help others understand how conducting developed from an obtrusive annoyance to a beautiful and seemingly elegant form of expression.

Location

DeRosa University Center, Room 211

Start Date

30-4-2016 10:00 AM

End Date

30-4-2016 12:00 PM

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Apr 30th, 10:00 AM Apr 30th, 12:00 PM

An Unhappy Union: The Rise and Fall of Dual Conducting

DeRosa University Center, Room 211

Observers of modern ensembles and their practices would be surprised to learn that the conductor has not always been the sole leader of the ensemble. In the eighteenth century, the common practice for orchestras (including opera orchestras) was “Dual Conducting”; this was the practice of dividing the leadership of the orchestra between the keyboardist (Kapellmeister) and the first violin player (Konzertmeister or concertmaster). A relevant question, then, is how can one keyboard (harpsichord) player, that can barely be heard over the sound of the orchestra, be in charge of keeping the tempo for at least 15 musicians? Although the secondary literature is thin on this area, there are enough translated primary sources to enable one to track this technique through different European countries and determine a timeline for how the baton conductor developed in each country, which has not been clarified in the standard literature in the field. (Misconceptions abound.) Some preliminary findings showed that the baton was originating in France, as the earliest uses of the device, and that the idea was spread throughout Europe, each country adapting to the new form at different paces. This paper will discuss audible time beating practices, problems of dual conducting, including pros and cons of both the violin and keyboard conductor, and explain how the baton and podium for a single conductor came into common use for ensemble leaders throughout Europe. I am hoping to touch other musicians and contribute to our history on a subject that has had little research done on it and is, in my opinion, very relevant to our profession. I hope that this will help others understand how conducting developed from an obtrusive annoyance to a beautiful and seemingly elegant form of expression.