The Baton

Understanding the art of conducting at the Gustav Mahler Conducting Competition

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Herbert Feuerstein — Actor

Bamberg Symphony

Program notes

Thanks to the conductor’s figure, Michael Wende’s award winning documentary shows a great mystery, the magic of music.

"The world does not need conductors!" This provocative exclamation comes from an animated character who manufactures batons and comments this funny and subtle documentary. Slanderous and frustrated that conductors don't pay attention to their batons, he follows twelve apprentice conductors from all over the world who came for ten days in Bamberg, Germany, to participate to one of the most prestigious musical competitions, the Gustav Mahler Conducting Competition.

This amazing movie production, which was rewarded with many prizes by the US International Film & Video Festival, the Mexico International Film Festival and the Docutah amongst others, pays tribute to this very particular profession. Creating a whole musical atmosphere only with hands is a miracle that is difficult to explain. Indeed, everyone is fascinated by those famous movements but no one can really explain how they work.

What makes a good conductor? How to recognize one? Michael Wende provides answers to those questions thanks to testimonies of the candidates and of jury and orchestra members with animated sequences, like a collage. The whole diversity of body languages and beat techniques are explored. With a unique movement of a symphony successively conducted by various young apprentices, charismas reveal and distinguish themselves. Quickly, the spectator feels like an expert whose impressions are confirmed by the jury’s decisions. An exciting and instructive immersion in such an enigmatic universe.

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