Thursday, August 20, 2009


1) We had strange weather here in the Twin Cities yesterday - tornadoes.

Now tornadoes in August are not unusual at all. They are not uncommon in April through September, and on rare occasions can extend that range a month in each direction, but in most cases, they happen on hot humid days. If you live here for even a few years, you quickly can recognize the days that can breed them just by stepping outdoors and looking at the haze in the sky.

Yesterday was not one of those days. It was cold and rainy the entire day. Suddenly just after 2 there were tornadoes dropping out of the sky all over the metro - downtown Minneapolis and both north and south of there. I think with the cooler weather that they were not as powerful as they normally are, but it was still a very strange day for anything like this.

2) I've always had some unresolved issues regarding the role of the conductor in classical music. Here's some of the situations that I've seen:

a) I've seen guest conductors come in and lead the Minnesota Orchestra and the sound is noticeably better, despite the orchestra being the same as the week before. Clearly a case where the conductor does have a major role. (I've also seen the same level of improvement when there is a guest soloist. Go see Yo Yo Ma perform before you die. He is incredible and he brings out the best of any orchestra.)

b) I've seen conductors lead orchestras from the keyboard during a piano concerto or similar such piece. They start the orchestra and continue to conduct it during times when the piano is not being used. That this can be done suggests that the conductor has only a minor role.

c) I've seen conductors start the piece (usually a jazz piece) and then just walk off the stage, only to come back at the end. Obviously the conductor has no role here.

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