[Dixielandjazz] Conductor's are the beat

Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Thu Mar 31 15:04:32 PST 2005

Gordon's post about conductors and the beat, reminds me of a story told by
Glenn Dodson, our former Philadelphia Symphony principal trombonist turned
jazz player.

He was explaining the differences between "The Philadelphia Sound" under
Eugene Ormandy, and the preciseness of the Orchestra under Riccardo Muti.

The Ørmandy downbeat was very imprecise. He kind of slid into it like a slow
Roman Centurion Salute, from the chest out. So the musos would come in at
slightly different spots at the beginning. Nobody quite knew where the beat
was and most musicians in the Orchestra would smile secretly when somebody
complimented them on "The Philadelphia Sound". Kind of syrupy.

Muti, on the other hand was a Prussian General with the downbeat and with
subsequent beats. He would chew out ANYBODY who was not right on the beat.
And so the musos constantly watched his hand signals to avoid a scene.

So much so, that they would not play a note in a piece until his hand
signaled it. Once, at a rehearsal and at a typical ending da, da,da, da,
da,da, da . . .  DAH, . .  da,da, Muti became distracted got to the DAH, and
then never gave the final down beat for the da,da. According to Glenn, not
one member of the Orchestra played those final two notes, so rigid was their
concentration on his hand signal direction.

Muti, not realizing what had happened scowled at all of them until someone
spoke up and said "but maestro, you never gave us the ending." Then he
smiled and said "Excellent".

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