Ambrose Hall Interview Part 4

Rehearsal Technique


20 When in Germany doing operas with many different operas how did you learn so many scores quickly?

Well I knew most of them at the time I went to Hamburg, I knew all the basic repertoire, I conducted certain things for the first time when I was in Hamburg, but the notable one was Ararmela Strauss, I did that without rehearsal, you have to do everything without rehearsal, then I also had memorable performances, pretty scary, of Boris Godunov which at Hamburg they did for some extraordinary reason the Shostakovich version of Boris Godunov, which was the original music of Boris by Mussorgsky but orchestrated by Shostakovich, completely different from the original, I mean he didn’t look at the orchestration at all when he orchestrated it, when he reorchestrated Boris, and I remember doing a performance of that with a guest singer, a tenor who only knew the Rimsky-Korsakov version, and so the prompter and I were stopping him and encouraging him to sing and then stopping him all the way through the evening, it was a terrible experience, but of course he was singing a different version from the one we were doing.


21 How do turn to the cellos and basses without ignoring the upper strings?

Well I mean it depends where cellos are in the orchestra, you turn to the right of the conductor, de dar dar de dar dum, you look at them without making your beat invisible to the violins, you know you don’t forget them.

AEH: So you don’t turn completely

CM: yes that’s right.


22 Do you always count or do you just feel it?

I just feel it I don’t count one, two, three, four do I, except the number of beats in a bar, something automatic, you just feel it.

AEH: Let’s say you’re doing Fingal’s Cave overture, and you’re about to start, do you hear it in your head first, then give three, four.

CM: No don’t give three, four [sings and demonstrates].


23 Do you subdivide when conducting basic beat patterns?

Ah not usually no, but it should be obvious to the player what are the beat patterns in-between like the quavers and the crochet [sings] I mean one is feeling bom bom bom bom, to some extent, but I mean it’s not really an important thing I don’t think.


24 When there is a new tempo coming up in a score do think the new tempo while conducting the present tempo?

Well yes pretty near to the new tempo, yes I do but I do prepare the new tempo, and you have to give an upbeat in the new tempo [sings] you know you give an upbeat in the new tempo.


25 do you like to look up at the orchestra while conducting a lot or do you keep looking at the score?

Yes you have to keep looking at that, you look at the score when you need it, but otherwise you look at the orchestra, that’s of course it’s often given that the reason for conducting from memory is the fact that you might lose your place in the score, and not know when to turn over and all that, but I think that as told you before, I don’t think that conducting from memory is of any great particular significance.

AEH: but you know the score so well that you’re letting the music just happen and you’re able to look up from the score and you know what’s happening and you look back down to the score, but in some ways you’ve memorised it because you’ve internalised it.

CM: oh yes that’s right.

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