It's tempting to want to capture what is so wonderful about working with Sir Neville Marriner. Admittedly, it's tiring. He still likes to run through portions more than I might prefer, but there is something very exciting about his conducting. And so I'm going to give in to temptation and list a few of the things that he has been working on in rehearsals, things that are surprisingly neglected by many conductors.
He is always aware of balance. It seems a great deal of rehearsal is spent on making sure that certain voices are loud enough and that others aren't getting in the way. And he is aware of color. There are a variety of textures between each section of music. Sometimes he's verbally expressed what he wants, but quite often it's something that can be detected in his gestures. It means that there is reverence in some places, mystery in others, joy, anticipation. He's also put a lot of effort into getting longer phrases, focussing especially on the melody, sculpting its direction and volition. There is a story to be told and he is very serious about telling it.
I wondered today, as he worked again on the very opening of the Mendelssohn, trying to convey a sense of time and phrase with his hands, to have it materialize in a sound from the orchestra, what it must be like to still be improving. He hasn't given up and he hasn't become a perfect conductor. He hasn't fallen into the trap of thinking that he will never become a perfect conductor so why bother. That isn't the goal, he's past himself. At this point in my life I still have some vague idea that I will arrive. I've lived enough to know this isn't true, but my knowledge is nothing when I see Sir Neville Marriner rehearsing. Nor has he transcended to the point where he just wants to enjoy waving his arms in front of an orchestra playing great music. He's very particular and insistent on doing real rehearsing, he isn't afraid or adverse to work.
It's been a pleasure to work with him this week. And now we will have three days of performing with him. Likely more to learn.