“I realized that my job is to awaken possibility in others.”

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Beethoven: Symphony no. 3 "Eroica" - 2nd movement

Interpretation Class
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Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra

“The conductor’s job is to know every note, dynamic, and music and make it come alive for the orchestra.”

— Benjamin Zander

Video Transcript

Ben Zander:

I once asked an orchestra player, how long does it take to know that you are going to be excited to work with a conductor? And she said, “Five seconds and it happens before they conduct.” So go back to your seat. All right. Now, come up again. Come up here and stop. Yeah.

Ben Zander:

Okay. Okay. That’s a hard thing to do what you just did. Great. Bravo. Bravo. I think that the most important thing for a conductor is love of music. That’s what I think. And I think you love music and even your et-shirt. But I am not sure that they get that love from you as you are conducting. They get a certain kind of energy, but it’s kind of workman like. And when you come in front of an orchestra, especially a great orch- Isn’t this a great orchestra?

Student Conductor:

Yes, it is.

Ben Zander:

It’s amazing. The age range of this orchestra is 12 is the youngest, 21 is the oldest, right? So it’s a real youth orchestra and they are full of love. They adore this music. They’re passionate about it. They’d give their life for it. And you sort of say, “Okay, you know, sure. Yeah, sure. I like it too.” But they need to get more love from you than they have themselves. So you can increase their love, and you’re not doing that yet. All right. Now you just conducted one of the most dramatic moments in Western art. Letter I in Beethoven’s Erica a 1st moment is one of the greatest moments in Western art. He builds and he builds and he builds and he builds. Because he has no cymbal, he makes silence. When he gets so loud that it’s unbearable, he has silence. That’s letter I, right? So let’s build from H, H, DA de DA DA de DA DA.

Ben Zander:

So now your destination is the silence. All right? So you’re building, DA de DA DA de DA DA. How long is the phrase?

Student Conductor:

Six bars.

Ben Zander:

Six bars. Six bars, not four bars, six bars. Four bars is normal, six bars is not normal. So you got four bars plus two, and it comes over and over, six bars, plus six bars, plus six bars, plus You got it. So give them that and remind them how incredibly exciting this is. Okay. Let me recommend you take the other Miguel’s tempo.

Ben Zander:

All right. You’ve lost them because DA de DA DA dew DA DA dew, I don’t know information. It’s like shouting at somebody. Ha WA WA, ha WA WA, ha WA WA. Shut up. All right. So make some decisions, all right? What are we going to do? It starts here and it builds to the end of six. You don’t need three beats. DA de dew dew, DA de dew dew, de DA, de DA de, BA DA de DA DA boom de DA DA. Second group. Try that one, two. No. No, take it yourself. I was just giving you the tempo.

Ben Zander:

Oh, oh, oh, now you’re saying Beethoven you’re not that good a composer, I’m going to help you. If he’d wanted that, he would’ve said that. He would’ve said make a big ritardando here. The whole point is that it’s going to a sound which is so loud that we can’t hear it. So don’t take time over it. Okay. Now you are doing it better, but I want to show you something because in just a moment, when I’m conducting, I’m thinking of the music. I’m thinking, how are we building the music? So like this, try it from H one.

Ben Zander:

So I’m thinking all the time, building, building, build. Six bars. Can you try it?

Student Conductor:

Yes, sir.

Ben Zander:

Try again.

Ben Zander:

Oh yeah. So your mind has to be thinking always ahead. Always ahead. Dun de dew dew.

Ben Zander:

Good. Good. That’s much better. That’s much better. Now one of the difficulties is doing the second ending beginning of the development at that tempo. It always gets slow so you have to keep it moving. It’s very hard to do that. Everybody finds that difficult. Do you want to try that? We got to go. We got to go. One more time. All right.

Ben Zander:

This is the place where you need to speak to them. Do it again from here. One, two. Always communicate them the music. Okay, once again.

Student Conductor:

Once again.

Ben Zander:

Now tempo. One, two. Pianissimo. Pianissimo.

Ben Zander:

Pianissimo. Pianissimo. Pianissimo.

Ben Zander:

The first time they have no sforzando. Second time they have a big sforzando, and you don’t make any difference. They say, “Oh, he doesn’t know the music.”

Student Conductor:

Okay.

Ben Zander:

All right. So the conductor’s job is to know every note, dynamic, and music and make it come alive for the orchestra. And if you just do that, very quickly the orchestra turns off their brain and they stop thinking. And then they get tired and then they get ill and then they die. All right. And it’s all because of the conductor. Yeah. It’s always the fault of the conductor. No, seriously. Seriously. So know the music and then make the music happen everywhere around you all the time. Okay. Bravo. Well done.

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