Orchestra - Multiple Conductors

Multiple Conductors

The techniques of polystylism and polytempo music have recently led a few composers to write music where multiple orchestras perform simultaneously. These trends have brought about the phenomenon of polyconductor music, wherein separate sub-conductors conduct each group of musicians. Usually, one principal conductor conducts the sub-conductors, thereby shaping the overall performance. Some pieces are enormously complex in this regard, such as Evgeni Kostitsyn's Third Symphony, which calls for nine conductors.

Charles Ives often used two conductors, one for example to simulate a marching band coming through his piece. Realizations for Symphonic Band includes one example from Ives. Benjamin Britten's War Requiem is also an important example of the repertoire for more than one conductor.

One of the best examples in the late century orchestral music is Karlheinz Stockhausen's Gruppen, for three orchestras placed around the audience. This way, the sound masses could be spacialized, as in an electroacoustic work. Gruppen was premiered in Cologne, in 1958, conducted by Stockhausen, Bruno Maderna and Pierre Boulez. Recently, it was performed by Simon Rattle, John Carewe and Daniel Harding.

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