Midsummer night’s rant

Last updated May 4, 2019 | Published on Jul 18, 2015

Winner of a fellowship at the Bayreuther Festspiele, Mr. Griglio’s conducting has been praised for his “energy” and “fine details”. Mr. Griglio took part in the first world recording of music by composer Irwin Bazelon and conducted several world premieres like "The song of Eddie", by Harold Farberman, a candidate for the Pulitzer Prize. Principal Conductor of International Opera Theater Philadelphia for four years, Mr.Griglio is also active as a composer. His first opera, Camille Claudel, debuted in 2013 to a great success of audience and critics. Mr. Griglio is presently working on an opera on Caravaggio and Music Director of Opera Odyssey.

I’m hearing too many bad performances. I don’t mean badly executed from a technical point of view (well, sometimes too), but from a purely basic musical point of view.

What’s the first and most important thing we (should) learn when we study music? The similarities it has with language: we learn about punctuation, semi-phrase, phrase, section. Any piece of music is dissected to find the structure that holds it together so that we, as interpreters, have an idea of its direction.

If you attend something that’s purely spoken, whether it’s a lecture or a Shakespearean play, you would be bored out of your mind listening to a monotone lecturer or actor. And yet, we’re subdue to tons of Mimis or Chopin waltzes or Beethoven’s symphonies in that very same boring fashion.

Why? The answer is unfortunately quite simple: lack of phrasing.

Too many musicians are too much in love with their own voice, instrument or baton to take the time to understand that they are nothing but a means. They strive for technical perfection, not a single wrong note or unplaced sound, but they fail in what is most important: conveying emotions.

You can spot it right away, they do not breathe with the music. They do not take the time, or nobody ever taught them, to go deep into the piece. A comma in the text is overlooked. Indications in the score are ignored. Everything is a sterile exercise aimed to make the performer shine. I’m sitting in the audience, listening, and I have no clue of what they are doing.

Such performances used to leave me almost indifferent. After all, if I don’t like it I will not go back to see it again. Now they make me utterly upset. They show a total disregard for the music and the composers. They are as bland as a hospital’s soup. Where’s the passion? Where’s the drive to hunt for the treasures hidden (or not so) in the score? What is the meaning of pushing a tempo to the limit of the orchestra falling apart? Nobody with some sense of phrasing would do that, ever.

We, musicians, are the vestals officiating a religious ceremony. The humbleness towards our Goddess should be absolute. As for me, the only thing I know is that I know nothing.

End of a Midsummer night’s rant.



Cover image by Lucas Craig from Pexels

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Gianmaria Griglio is an intelligent, exceptional musician. There is no question about his conducting abilities: he has exceptionally clear baton technique that allows him to articulate whatever decisions he has made about the music.

Harold Farberman

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