Reading the New Yorker is always an entertaining and edifying activity, and sometimes more, such as when I got a rush of sympatico from an article by Alex Ross in the Dec. 1, 2014 issue, Brushfires; Andris Nelsons energizes the Boston Symphony. The caption of the accompanying illustration reads, “On the podium, Nelsons, a galvanic young Latvian, lunges about uninhibitedly.” It remined me of my effort to describe Maestro Nelsons during his first Tanglewood concert since being named BSO Music director, the July 11, 2014 program featuring Anne-Sophie Mutter performing Dvorak’s Violin Concerto.
“There was a moment toward the end of the Violin concerto, with Ms. Muter at rest, when he almost stepped off the podium, crouching and reaching toward the violins to draw forth a soft passage. He left footprints and handprints all over the podium, like an animal marking territory.”
lexicon of the music critic
Being totally unschooled in the lexicon of the music critic, I’m pretty much left to write about the appearance of a concert, leaving the cognoscenti to describe how the music sounds in relation to how they think it should sound. Orchestras such as the Boston Symphony project a uniform, practically static image, which makes it easy for the conductor to be the focus of my attention, as he (and sometimes she) articulates his musical directives by way of gestures. And this gesticulation can range from eloquent to akward, from geriatric to gymnastic, from martial to manic.
In his New Yorker article, Ross says that “… Nelsons lunges about uninhibitedly, violating textbook rules about the wisdom of minimizing one’s gestures. I imagine that Boston players have already mastered imitations of his signature moves: the Backward Lean, the Extreme Crouch, the Trapeze Grab, the Across-the-Table Ice-Cream Scoop.”
So it is good to know that a respected music critic deems a conductor’s gesticulations worthy of more than a passing mention, and that the lexicon needn’t be staid. It feels like getting permission to be playful even while writing about highbrow stuff! Thanks to Alex Ross, I’ll take a stab at adding to the lexicon when Nelsons returns to Tanglewood next July.
[bctt tweet=”Watching Andris Nelsons conduct.”]