Page:Essentials in Conducting.djvu/73

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even the gospel singer Sankey is said to have found that the softest rather than the loudest singing was spiritually the most impressive.[1]

Pianissimo singing or playing does not imply a slower tempo, and in working with very soft passages the conductor must be constantly on guard lest the performers begin to "drag." If the same virile and spirited response is insisted upon in such places as is demanded in ordinary passages, the effect will be greatly improved, and the singing moreover will not be nearly so likely to fall from the pitch.

The most important voice from the standpoint of melody must in some way be made to stand out above the other parts. This may be done in two ways:

  1. By making the melody louder than the other parts.
  2. By subduing the other parts sufficiently to make the melody prominent by contrast.

The second method is frequently the better of the two, and should more frequently be made use of in ensemble music than is now the case in amateur performance.

The conductor of the Russian Symphony Orchestra, Modeste Altschuler, remarks on this point:

A melody runs through every piece, like a road through a country hillside. The art of conducting is to clear the way for this melody, to see that no other instruments interfere with those which are at the moment enunciating the theme. It is something like steering an automobile. When the violins, for instance, have the tune, I see to it that nobody hurries it or drags it or covers it up.

In polyphonic music containing imitative passages, the part having the subject must be louder than the rest, especially at its first entrance. This is of course

  1. On the other hand, the criticism has been made in recent years that certain orchestral conductors have not sufficiently taken into consideration the size and acoustics of the auditoriums in which they were conducting, and have made their pianissimos so soft that nothing at all could be heard in the back of the room. In order to satisfy himself that the tone is as soft as possible, and yet that it is audible, it will be well for the conductor to station some one of good judgment in the back of the auditorium during the concert, this person later reporting to the conductor in some detail the effect of the performance.