Hilary Davan Wetton: Reflections On Conducting
Composer: Hilary Davan Wetton
Catalogue no: QT205 | ISBN 978-1-399-91067-5
Hilary Davan Wetton is one of Britain's most versatile and dynamic conductors. Following studies at the Royal College of Music and Oxford University, his wide-ranging career of over 60 years has featured both choral and orchestral repertoire, as well as many acclaimed recordings. A regular guest conductor with choirs and orchestras both in Britain and overseas, Hilary can be regularly heard on BBC Radio 3 & Classic FM.Reflections on Conducting is for anyone with an interest in the English choral and orchestral music scenes, both amateur and professional, as well as conducting students. Written in an engaging and approachable style, the book is filled with practical advice - including chapters on conducting technique, programme planning, rehearsals, touring, recording and working with contemporary composers - alongside interesting and humorous anecdotes from Hilary Davan Wetton's diverse and extensive career.
This is by far the best - and shortest - book on conducting that I have ever seen; no
illustrations or diagrams of beat patterns, no musical examples. But what it does have, within its compass of less than one hundred pages, is Hilary Davan Wetton's distillation of a lifetime of experience conducting choirs and orchestras, amateur and professional, of adults and of young people and in a wide range of music and locations.
It is anecdotal, it is very funny at times, but he says nothing that does not illustrate very pertinently the sorts of situations in which conductors may find themselves, and how to deal with them. He writes in a most engaging
and fluent manner, which makes the book very easy to read and to absorb the wisdom and practical advice to be found in its pages.
He is also very generous to professional colleagues and his experiences of working with them, and my interest was immediately engaged by his positive memories of Sir Adrian Boult and Vernon Handley - both of whom I knew, admired, and attempted to emulate. That these two were to be the inspiration for his own approach to conducting, both technical and musical, is clear to see.
And indeed, it is the overall cultural and social experience that should always be at the front of a conductor's mind - the technical side is really just a means to that end - and in chapters covering programme planning, rehearsals, touring, recording and working with contemporary composers he (in the words of Sian Edwards, Head of Conducting at the Royal Academy of Music) 'gives real context, allowing passion, erudition and humour to light up the pithy directness of the book.
I might also mention the visual presentation of this text-only publication, designed by Helen Tabor, where clarity and understated elegance are a great contributor to the books success. Very strongly recommended for all musicians; amateur music lovers will find it fascinating too.
Gary Humphreys in Fanfare Magazine (Feb 2022 edition)
This is, quite simply, the best book on conducting I have encountered in quite some time, and I urge all students of the discipline, as well as younger partitioners, to acquire, read and digest the great amount common sense it offers.
Readers will need no introduction to Hilary Davan Wetton; this exceptionally well-written and simply laid out text ought to be essential reading for anyone who hankers picking up a baton.
It is chock-full of common-sense, practical experience counts for so much in the discipline of course, but the 'chicken and egg' conundrum remains: how does one obtain experience in conducting other than by doing it? Gestures in front of a mirror or a sympathetic friend or family member to a recording mean nothing in terms of practicality, but so many errors of musicianship and of contact with a group of musicians will be avoided by the student or young professional on acquiring and absorbing the author's excellent experienced advice.
The read will not be distracted by illustrations either pictorial or of music: this book is a treasure trove of practical advice from a vastly experienced practitioner in terms of technique, programme planning, rehearsals, touring, recording and working with composers. On absorbing the authors advice, many pitfalls can be adverted for the benefit of us all. Strongly recommended.
Robert Matthew-Walker in Musical Opinion (April 2022 edition)
A highly informative and entertaining volume... outlining the basics to anyone considering a career on the podium. It covers every facet of a conductor's life from use of period instruments to touring and recording. This book is essential reading.
Simon Heffer - The Telegraph 2023
Queen's Temple Publications was founded in 1995 to make available interesting and useful wind chamber music, such as Sir Malcolm Arnold's important Wind Quintet Op. 2. Since then we have expanded to include music for piano, guitar, choral music and much more. Our publications have been selected by the major examination boards worldwide.
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