Ben's Ramblings

Rattle conducts RPhO


This week Sir Simon Rattle conducts my orchestra in three concerts with Bruckner 8th Symphony.We started yesterday with the first rehearsal on this great piece of music. It was clear the orchestra was really into starting with the maestro. Minutes before the official start of the rehearsal everybody was sitting on his or her chair. Sir Simon got a warm welcome from the orchestra and he looked for familiar faces in the band. At the beginning of his career the RPhO gave the young Simon Rattle lots of opportunities to conduct in Rotterdam. I am sure he never forgets this and he shows us he likes to be back with the RPhO.

We now had two days of rehearsals. I have worked now several times with the maestro and again it is a real treat to play under him. Today I was thinking, what makes him so different from others and so special? First of all, he knows the music so well and it always very prepared. To be honest, he is not the clearest conducter in his batton but, one of my other heroes Valery Gergiev, is also not the most easy one to follow. Sir Rattle has a great feel for the structure of pieces like this. Everything feels very natural when he puts his interpretation there. Phrases always have a wonderful flow. Then there is the sound he asks for. It is singing, rich, controlled, powerful but never edgy! He works a lot on balance. Today I was listening how he balanced the lower strings. It was somewhere in movement one, a big tutti where he first asked the basses the play full and deep but not tensed. The celli had to put their part on it but let the basses lead and he made the alto's flow on top of that. The result was gorgeous! He is quiet picky on dynamics and balance. He is very, very demanding on these matters and repeats till he has the result he wants. He does not give us the (play softer) hand a lot and gives us the change to really play out when needed. He only asks for a controlled and not overblowing brass sound.

What makes him a great conductor is a combination of his rehearsing (very demanding) and his charismatic way of conducting. When you look at him, you know what to do. He shows it with his hands, his body and his face! During the performance he is the composition!

I am looking forward to the three concerts we will have this week with this great talented conductor.

Published Mar 11 2009, 11:57 PM
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