Jeffrey Kahane conducts from the harpsichord, using an iPad, at Avery Fisher Hall.
At at recent performance with the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall, Jeffrey Kahane conducted works by Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. He was both soloist and conductor in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1, playing the Beethoven from memory — nothing unusual there — but for Mozart’s Symphony No. 33, instead of conducting with a printed score he used an iPad instead, improvising an accompanying part.
This is hilarious. Here I am trying to recreate the spirit of an 18th-century performance of a Mozart symphony, and I’m using an iPad. But why not?
The sight of a computer tablet atop an instrument from another age — something made of wood, strings, and plectrums for plucking — must’ve seemed anachronistic indeed.
It’s my understanding that musicians, pianists especially, are increasingly using iPads instead of traditional printed scores, for example, The Borromeo String Quartet. With just a quick tap of the screen the pages turn and the music flows. And downloading public-domain scores (free) for study or performance saves several pounds of luggage while on the road.
“It’s been just a life-changing thing for me in many ways,” Mr. Kahane said in a New York Times interview.
But my question has more to do with conducting a Mozart symphony from the keyboard. Mr. Kahane acknowledged he knew of no specific evidence that Mozart ever did this. What’s certain is that Mozart did conduct from the keyboard when performing his piano concertos and even his operas. Yet Mr. Kahane feels there’s enough anecdotal evidence to be convinced of this particular practice for his symphonies since there’s no record off Mozart ever standing on a podium waving a baton.
“It is really there as much, or more, for the musicians on stage as it is for the audience,” Mr. Kahane said. “By playing with the orchestra instead of standing on the podium waving my arms, I’m able to create more of the atmosphere and style and sound and rhythmic character that is appropriate to the music.”
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