In Aix-en-Provence, the secrets of conducting

Under an azure sky, a facetious mistral teases the still shy foliage of the plane trees. This Saturday April 9, it is in the open air, on the place Richelme in the center of old Aix that the public listens to the Pavane by Gabriel Fauré interpreted by the young instrumentalists of the Darius Milhaud conservatory. To be exact, the majority of listeners listen but some go further: invited by the conductor Sylvain Guignery and by Marion Sableaux, head of mediation for the Grand Théâtre de Provence, the brave try their hand at conducting. Discovering quickly that it is not so easy to give the departures, to support the tempo, to indicate the nuances with a simple blow of the stick…

A little earlier, some had taken a little head start by following the workshop offered by Sylvain Guignery. With precision, benevolence and a touch of humour, the musician had delivered the first bases of an enigmatic art which consists in having a group play together, while respecting the score. But a living, creative respect, imprinted with the style of each maestro.

Based on “the non-verbal communication and the close connection between the conductor and the instrumentalists”conducting is based on a precise technique and a perfect mastery of the musical parameters. “Let’s start with the beat”, explains Sylvain Guignery, suiting the action to the word. In the “bubble” delimited by the horizontal and vertical span of his arms, the chef inscribes a gesture combining clarity and expressiveness. “Even in a very difficult work to perform, you must remain attentive and available to each member of the orchestra. As for the musicians, to never let themselves be surprised, they have to be reactive. »

Easier to speed up than to slow down!

Several, adults or children, try the experiment, in front of the other participants then in front of a young pianist who scrupulously follows their movements, even if it means manhandling the poor Pavane – for a good cause – when one loses the thread or the other goes from four-beat rhythm, “specific to this slow dance inherited from the Renaissance”to a three-stroke beat!

Step by step, some obvious facts appear: it is easier to speed up than to slow down, the more the tempo is lively and the more the gestures must be tightened. And, above all, any indication must be prepared, “just as one takes a breath before starting to speak”specifies Sylvain Guignery, who uses many analogies between musical language and speech – punctuation, interrogative or affirmative tone, brittle or caressing…

Such a workshop gives food for thought when, in the concert hall, one attends a symphonic concert. Why, during the inaugural evening, did Barbara Hannigan’s flexible gestures fail to lighten the textures of the Choir and the Orchester philharmonique de Radio France in a Requiem prosaic and sometimes messy Mozart? And why, the next day, in the same Grand Théâtre de Provence, did Lionel Bringuier manage to unleash the energy of his Nice Philharmonic Orchestra in a Symphony No. 5 of Tchaikovsky with a beautiful sincerity despite sometimes a little narrow tones?


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