Monthly Archives: May 2014

Do orchestras really need conductors?


NewWSO Conductor Benjamin Niemczyk

The age-old debate about whether a conductor is actually necessary is still alive and well. After all, hasn’t the composer given all the instructions necessary for playing beautiful music?

The pro-conductor camp has been given a boost by this recent and very articulate article by Ivan Hewitt (“What do Conductors Do?The Telegraph, May 1, 2014) for the necessity of a conductor in a large symphony orchestra. He also illustrates the difference between what a new conductor versus a seasoned conductor can evoke from an ensemble:

…Even when they don’t actually collapse, performances led by beginner conductors always have a strange blank quality. It’s as if the violins are deaf to the cellos, and horns to the woodwind; there’s no guiding spirit which makes everything cohere.

Last week, at a masterclass given by eminent conductor Bernard Haitink at the Easter Festival in Lucerne, I witnessed several young conductors who, at this level of basic intelligibility, were all pretty competent. But the experience of the maestro, as he talked about the piece they were conducting (Mahler’s Fourth Symphony) showed that they still had a long way to go.

A common problem was a failure to pay attention to the composer’s markings in the score. “Playing what’s written” sounds dull, but actually it’s really hard, because what’s written needs imagination to be brought to life. Haitink pointed out a telling indication in Mahler’s symphony: “geheimnisvoll” — literally, “secret-full”. How on earth do you make something sound secretive? The young conductor on the podium was flummoxed, so Haitink seized the baton. And instantly a dusky, mysterious quality appeared, bearing down on the music like encroaching dusk…[link to full article]

This article is a good reminder that an orchestra is not a gathering of individual musicians playing their own parts on their own instruments. An orchestra is one cohesive unit playing a single piece, and the conductor is the person who reminds us of that fact.

NY Times Article on Anthony Newman, NewWSO Guest Artist

Anthony Newman plays the organ at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Bedford, where he has been music director since 1991. Credit Gregg Vigliotti for The New York Times

A recently published article in the New York Times (“At Peace With a Certain Level of Reknown,” by Phillip Lutz, NY Times, May 3, 2014) gives insight into Anthony Newman, the great Westchester musician who will be headlining our Fall 2014 Intergenerational Concert.

Smiling serenely and speaking in modulated tones, Anthony Newman looked back without anger at his life’s course. The keyboardist and composer, who will be 73 on May 12, did not dwell on how his vibrant readings of early music, once criticized in certain quarters, were now widely copied. Nor did he ponder how fame — the recording mogul Clive Davis once enlisted him to bring Bach to the counterculture masses — in the end proved a bit of a mirage.

“I don’t have the spiteful thing at all,” he said last month, squeezed into a lotus position on a chair in his office at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Bedford, where he has been music director since 1991. “I have the Eastern point of view of nonattachment.”

That view, he said, eases his days at the church, a pastoral existence a world apart from the days when, signed to a contract with Columbia Records thanks to a smashing debut at Carnegie Recital Hall in 1967, he was swept into the fast lane, teaching at the Juilliard School by day and jamming by night with the likes of the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Ravi Shankar…[click here for full article]

NewWSO is honored and humbled to perform with Mr. Newman. Tickets for NewWSO’s 2014 Intergenerational Concert will go on sale in Summer 2014.

Announcing NewWSO’s Fall 2014 Intergenerational Concert

New Westchester Symphony Orchestra is excited to officially announce our inaugural Intergenerational Concert, taking place on Sunday, October 26, 2014.

NewWSO’s musicians already range in age from 15-86, so you might be wondering what makes the Fall Concert specifically “Intergenerational?” While we do have two high school students who are regular members of NewWSO, we are opening up this opportunity to play Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 to thirty (30) additional middle school, high school, and college students who might otherwise not be able to join NewWSO on a regular basis. With a minimal time commitment of four rehearsals in the fall and optional rehearsals in the summer, we hope that any student who has ever wanted to play Beethoven’s 5th with a full orchestra will apply.

No auditions or audition materials necessary, students will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis as long as there is space in their section.

The other exciting aspect of the Intergenerational Concert is that Westchester resident and harpsichord virtuoso Anthony Newman will headline the event. Mr. Newman will perform the Bach Concerto for Harpsichord in D Minor (BWV 1052) with NewWSO, as well as a solo work. What a great opportunity for Westchester residents to hear both a virtuosic performance as well as a community music performance in the same concert. The Intergenerational Concert will celebrate the diverse range of Westchester’s musicians, from professional to hobbyist.

Students: Click HERE to apply to perform in the concert. Parental consent required for students under 18 years of age.