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Face to Face with Orchestra and Chorus, Second, Expanded Edition

A Handbook for Choral Conductors

Don V Moses, Robert W. Demaree, Jr., and Allen F. Ohmes

Publication Year: 2004

Face to Face with Orchestra and Chorus is a crucial guide for choral conductors who are presented with the daunting task of conducting a full-size orchestra. This book provides a survival kit for both novice and experienced choral conductors, with an overview of the orchestral instruments and their particular needs, tips for rehearsing an orchestra effectively, and guidelines for proper baton technique. Conductors are walked through six case studies from the Baroque and Classical periods, including Handel's Messiah, Bach's Magnificat in D Major, Vivaldi's Gloria, and Beethoven's "Choral" Fantasia.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. ix-x

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Foreword to the First Edition

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pp. xi-xii

It may be that the most striking development on the American musical scene of the past fifty years has been the emergence of the choral art as a worthy technical and stylistic companion of the instrumental and orchestral arts. With few exceptions, choral performance a half-century ago was either a social and recreational venture with emphasis upon post-rehearsal partying, or a Sunday...

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Preface to the Second, Expanded Edition

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pp. xiii

Professional response to the first edition has given the authors much pride and pleasure. Many colleagues and students have written or spoken to tell us that this book fills a real need in their working lives through its general description of the conducting tactics and personal attitudes needed in dealing with instrumental ensembles, because of its detailed discussions of specific works...

Part One: Working with an Orchestra

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1. The Nature of the Orchestra

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pp. 3-5

A substantial share of the greatest music of the Western World is intended for performance by chorus and orchestra in combination. Handel’s Messiah, Bach’s Passions, and the Requiems of Mozart, Verdi, and Brahms are among the works that require these forces. To list the repertoire for voices and instruments combined is to call the roll of the masters: Monteverdi, Vivaldi, Haydn...

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2. The Orchestral Instruments

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pp. 6-24

Already in the Baroque period composers were dividing the strings into four orchestral sections: first violins, second violins, violas, and the basso continuo. From the eighteenth into the nineteenth centuries a gradual process separated the contrabasses—which originally had played in the same octave as the ’cellos—from the latter, first assigning them a separate staff on the score and...

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3. Preparing for Rehearsals

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pp. 25-33

As we approach a performance, we need to take this as our first rule: that every bit of work which properly can be done in advance must be completed before the first rehearsal. All the score study, all the planning, all the conferences with concertmaster and principals, all the basic interpretive decisions that need not wait—these should precede your first meeting with the orchestra, if you...

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4. Adjusting Your Baton Technique

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pp. 34-38

The physical process of conducting a chorus is more like that of conducting an orchestra than is generally believed. Good choral conductors—while they may be using somewhat different gestures—understand and use the same concepts behind those gestures as their instrumental counterparts. This handbook assumes you already are a skillful choral conductor; what we must pursue in...

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5. Rehearsing the Orchestra

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pp. 39-44

Before you walk into the first orchestra rehearsal, be certain you have planned carefully what you hope to accomplish during the session. Time the movements you intend to rehearse, and allow something extra for drilling the difficult passages. Then try to stay on schedule. It may surprise you how much work can be done, even in the last five minutes of the rehearsal, if you know exactly...

Part Two: Conducting Three Baroque Masterworks

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6. Studying the Scores

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pp. 47-58

Each of the Baroque masterworks we analyze in the chapters which follow is accessible to choirs and orchestras of standard size and instrumentation. Each is introduced in this handbook with a brief recollection of the circumstances of its composition. Details are provided to you about its place in the career of its composer, about its early performances, and about the forces employed...

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7. G. F. Handel: Messiah

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pp. 59-121

It has become legend that Handel composed Messiah in just three weeks in late August and September of 1741, working rapidly through a libretto of scriptural passages chosen and woven together by Charles Jennens. The first performances took place in Dublin in April of 1742 and in London in March of the following year. More-or-less regular presentations of it continued...

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8. J. S. Bach: Magnificat in D Major, BWV 243

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pp. 122-135

We have been given fewer details regarding Bach’s writing of his great Magnificat than of the composition of Messiah. Bach was installed in his post as cantor at Leipzig in the summer of 1723; it appears that he wrote this Magnificat for his first Christmas season at the Thomaskirche. That original performance was scored in E-flat major, however, and it was some time later that he...

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9. Antonio Vivaldi: Gloria (in D)

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pp. 136-146

Through the mists that still rise from the Venetian lagoon we see a flash of bright red, and the outline of a rather proud, almost patrician face. This is il Prete Rosso, the Red (-headed) Priest, one of the great figures of eighteenth century music, and—of them—probably the one about whom we now know the least. As one of his biographers has written...

Part Three: Conducting Three Viennese Classical Masterworks

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10. Franz Joseph Haydn: Missa inangustiis (Nelsonmesse)

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pp. 149-167

We turn now from three towering Baroque creations to a parallel representation from the Viennese Classical era. The Haydn, Schubert, and Beethoven masterpieces we are about to examine are just as accessible to choruses and orchestras of standard size and instrumentation. We will address the same elements of historical and biographical interest, together with possible performing forces, and...

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11. Franz Schubert: Mass in G Major, D.167

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pp. 168-176

Still a teenager, Franz (Peter) Schubert in early 1815 already was a sparkling fountainhead of original melody. The wellspring of lyricism from which choral works, string quartets, and an unprecedented flow of songs already had bubbled was by now fast becoming a geyser. In time that geyser would prove to be the primal font of German lieder, and its torrent would pour into much of the...

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12. Ludwig van Beethoven: (Choral) Fantasia, op. 80

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pp. 177-188

This unique work offers you a wonderful opportunity to conduct Beethoven with orchestra. The Ninth Symphony and the Missa solemnis are hardly works to be attempted by those who are unused to confronting orchestras. The Fantasia makes more modest demands, on the other hand; its orchestral parts are standard, the choral demands are not strenuous, and for you its technical...


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pp. 189-195


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pp. 197-200


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pp. 201-204

E-ISBN-13: 9780253110367
E-ISBN-10: 025311036X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253344373

Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 43 figures, 1 bibliog., 1 index
Publication Year: 2004

Edition: Second, Expanded Edition

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Subject Headings

  • Conducting.
  • Choruses -- Interpretation (Phrasing, dynamics, etc.).
  • Orchestral music -- Interpretation (Phrasing, dynamics, etc.).
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