A Tale of a Choir Rehearsal
I had the opportunity (now somewhat of a rarity in my life) to show up at a choral rehearsal and simply observe rather than act as a direct participant. The work in question was categorically “standard” repertoire—the sort of piece you find in numerous dog-eared editions on countless American bookshelves. It just so happened that the pianist that day was playing from a very heavy-handed edition from the early twentieth century; tremolos, parallel sixths and thirds, octaves, sweeping slurs, and dramatic dynamic shifts were the operators in this busy score. This is a difficult (but fairly typical) situation that calls for special accompaniment techniques.
After a few minutes, it became clear to me that the accompanist, while solid in technical facility, was not entirely fluent with some of the passagework. Tempos began to waver; important details vanished beneath a mess of notes. It was not long before the conductor gave the tempo for a particularly fast and exciting movement…or perhaps not so fast and exciting. What was going on here? Why was thing dragging so much? Who was really in charge of the tempo?