Creatively Speaking
10:39 pm
Sun January 13, 2013

Conductor Nicholas McGegan At 63

Nicholas McGegan talks about his different conducting style with Jim Cotter.

The renowned British conductor and early music expert Nicholas McGegan's 63rd birthday is January 14th. As WRTI’s Jim Cotter discovered, he’s a musician with a special talent for talking about music. 

Nicholas McGegan’s uncomplicated, witty discourses on the works of the great composers have made him an in-demand speaker at places such as Oxford, Cambridge, and London’s Royal College of Music. What does he say is his reason for mostly conducting without a baton? He’s a klutz. "The less things I have to drop, throw, or break, the better."

In truth, says McGegan, his focus on Baroque, and early romantic repertoire means that his communication with the musicians has a different goal to those doing later and modern works.

MCGEGAN: Generally, when I'm doing the kind of music I d,o which is essentially 17th, 18th and 19th century music, the beat is fairly stable. So I don't have to do those fancy beat patterns that (you) have to do if you're doing The Rite of Spring. We don't have to count in eleven, I'm not sure I can count to 11! What I am doing is trying to communicate the gestures in the music -  and hopefully there's enough of a beat that the orchestra can play together.

COTTER: Often he leads not from the podium, but as an instrumentalist, which presents a different set of challenges.

MCGEGAN: When I'm working with, say, a period instrument orchestra, I'm very often playing the harpsichord as well.  And so if I were to use a baton I'd have to put it between my teeth, and then I would probably look like Carmen with a rose.

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