Janowski, Luisotti and "schools of conducting"
A couple of weeks ago I had the honor to work with Marek Janowski, who is the chief conductor for life of the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra. I did not even know life contracts exist these days, but after witnessing his excellent work with the Cleveland Orchestra I think his title is well deserved.
He again is one of those amicable maestros who choose to spend a lot of time with his assistant, discussing how the music sounds in the hall and to which direction he wants to develop the orchestra's performance - and chatting about music and orchestras in general. He was also very openly discussing the problems aging conductors face, and told me he just recently had full hearing checks and was relieved to hear that his hearing is better than an average 40-year old would have.
After three wonderful performances of Schubert's "Great" we parted ways when the Cleveland Orchestra left for their residency in Miami. There we had a full schedule, working at the same time on a new ballet and preparing two concerts with the music director of San Francisco Opera, Nicola Luisotti. I had my additional duties coaching the students at the New World School of the Arts, just like I did last year.
Watching Luisotti rehearse the orchestra I started to think about different conductors and their mannerisms on the podium, and the props they take with them onstage. Janowski did not bring anything with him, but he had a funny way to lower the music stand all the way to his knees. Obviously he knew his scores by heart as he told me that memorizing was never difficult to him, and he used the music just to refer to specific spots in the score and to find rehearsal letters and bar numbers.
Luisotti, on the other hand, brought with him both a cardigan, and a towel. You know, we usually have only one or the other, dividing conductors roughly into two main schools with Christoph von Dohnanyi representing the cardigan school and likes of James Levine and Riccardo Chailly representing the towel school (let me know if you remember who other conductors belong to these schools, and maybe I can compile a comprehensive list!). Anyway, it seemed that Luisotti had mastered both schools of conducting, which I consider an admirable feat! Now I am thinking, after the two major schools of conducting, what other schools exist? I have seen some take a fancy baton case on the podium with them, and I have heard of a few who are not afraid to bring a metronome with them. Some videos testify that Bernstein definitely had mastered the cigarette school of conducting! Or maybe it was something else he was smoking...