Sir Mark Elder on the Bel Canto Repertoire

Excerpt – It’s important to emphasise that in every rehearsal, and every performance, the conductor has to ignite the style. You can do a perfectly helpful rehearsal of a Wagner opera, without the singers singing out and it’s still valuable to get the flow of the music and people can mark it. But in Italian music you have to make it happen all the time, otherwise it’s incredibly dull. Because the music, from one point of view is quite simple, you can analyse it quite easily as opposed to Wagner or Strauss that are symphonically complicated. But a lot of Italian music is very like they are – open, operto. So it feels unsophisticated, but it needs to be performed beautifully and above all elegantly. I think this is something that people don’t talk about enough. Italian music must be elegant, it must be very cultivated and yet have fantastic bravura.

Richard Farnes on Bartok’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle

Excerpt – I can remember all sorts of little moments where we were making adjustments. A lot of them I foresaw in the score, there were certain bars I knew would be an issue, even with someone like John Tomlinson, who delivers very clear text (he’s fantastic). You have to do diminuendos, but you have to be very careful not to emasculate the music. If we have to make adjustments, to make sure that the voices come through, I always approach things from a dramatic point of view. There may be a lowering of the orchestra level, in order that a couple of bars later, it sort of seethes upwards in a dramatic way. Sometimes the composer doesn’t necessarily write that, but it enhances the dramatic effect. And it also means that the voice and the text are audible.