Relationship Between Composer and Music Director (Conductor)

In a previous Segment, we discussed the need for an orchestrator to work closely with the composer, so that tone, style and tempo are captured accurately.

Once the music is in rehearsal, the music director (who may also be the conductor) can assess how well the orchestration works, when all thirty pieces of our hypothetical orchestra accompany the singers.  Are the vocal arrangements working in harmony with the orchestral music?  If not, which part is at fault?  Are the choral arrangements supportive or disruptive?

In order to resolve these questions, the music director and the composer collaborate to find the right sound, using all of the elements as a way of balancing or overwhelming one or another part of the ensemble.

Finally, when the notes on the sheet music are finalized, the music director leads the orchestra in rehearsals with the singers.  The music director may have to vary tempo to suit the vocal demands of the music or the proclivities of the singers. In opera, all cadenzas are taught to the sopranos by music teachers and coaches; they are not written into the scores.  From the very outset of opera, each diva added the vocal flourishes that would make her performance memorable.  The music director must adjust the music to account for this.

In Broadway shows, many issues need to be worked out, from musical cues to volume levels.  Some singers will want to linger on a note or passage; some will want to quicken the tempo to rush to a climax.  Interpretation now moves creative focus from the composer to the performer, unless the composer has strong feelings to the contrary.