In Friday’s (10/30) New York Times, James R. Oestreich writes, “As a means of communication, speech may be vastly overrated. Or so you could think, at times, watching the veteran conductor Bernard Haitink rehearse the Juilliard Orchestra this week for an hour-long concert of Brahms and Mendelssohn at Alice Tully Hall late Saturday afternoon. … He addresses an orchestra, when he has to, softly and succinctly. As a result, the players strain to listen. More often they watch. The Juilliard visit, Mr. Haitink’s first to the school, began on Tuesday evening, just days after he had led the London Symphony Orchestra in three concerts of Mahler and Schubert at Avery Fisher Hall. … His comments were terse and mainly technical, and his tone was usually gentle but could be blunt: ‘If you can read, it says, “piano sempre,” ’ quiet throughout.” In the finale of Brahms’s Second Symphony, “the players could finally let the dynamics rip. ‘It’s so easy, forte, and piano is so difficult,’ Mr. Haitink said. It was a constant theme of the rehearsal, and Mr. Haitink elaborated on it in an interview on Thursday: ‘In principle, orchestras, professional as well as student, always play too loud. You never have to ask for forte. It comes by itself. You only have to ask for kinds of forte.’ ”

Posted October 30, 2009