Simone Young, Knowing the Score, a film by Janine Hosking
30 January 2023
Conductors are synonymous with classical music performances, yet at the first recital I went to, a show by the Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO) in 2009, at the Sydney Opera House, no conductor was present. Instead, ACO artistic director, and lead violin player, Richard Tognetti, led proceedings.
To many people though, a conductor is something of a mystery. Why does there need to be someone waving a stick, called a baton, at the orchestra? Do the musicians not know what to do? Did they not practice the pieces prior to the show? The ACO manages without a conductor, why then can’t anyone else? And how on earth can performers at a distance from the conductor even discern the many, swift, and seemingly all too subtle, baton gestures?
Further, why are conductors accorded a special status? Why are they treated to a separate round of applause, upon making a separate entrance to the auditorium, after the musicians have already assembled on stage? That conductors effectively only came into being about two hundred years ago, only adds to the enigma. Prior to 1820, orchestras were similar to the ACO, and directed themselves. It was only as orchestras grew in size though, did the need for a separate person to lead the musicians manifest itself.
Knowing the Score, trailer, a documentary about the life and work of Australian conductor Simone Young, may answer some of these questions. While early conductors were the subject of derision, particularly from musicians who felt they served no real purpose, Young has also encountered her share of naysayers. Despite this, Young, presently chief conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, is regarded as one of the world’s leading orchestral conductors.
Knowing the Score, directed by Australian documentary maker Janine Hosking, opens in Australian cinemas on Thursday 16 February 2023. The world premiere takes place at the Ritz Cinema in Randwick, Sydney, on Sunday 5 February 2023, and features a Q&A session with Young following the screening.