Batons an obsession for Bay Area conductors

Posted on: December 10, 2009

In Thursday’s (12/10) San Francisco Chronicle, Julian Guthrie writes, “The hardwood baton used by San Francisco Symphony conductor Michael Tilson Thomas is 12 inches long and made by a retired stage hand in Amsterdam. The stick used by Nicola Luisotti, the San Francisco Opera’s music director, is 13 inches long and crafted by his 82-year-old father using wood from trees grown near the family’s home in Italy. Across the bay, Berkeley Symphony’s maestra Joana Carneiro wields a baton of rosewood and fiberglass, which she buys at a shop in Paris and cuts down to size herself. … Small and soundless, the baton goes unnoticed by most concertgoers but can be an obsession to conductors.” Tilson Thomas notes that small movements of the fingers or wrist translate to larger gestures of the baton. “And as he’s aged, Thomas has found that the baton eases what his body needs to convey. ‘Remember that I am now an increasingly, alarmingly, veteran musical athlete,’ laughed Thomas, who turns 65 this month. ‘There are not many baseball pitchers my age who are giving these accelerated motions that end in a complete stop. If I’m not using the stick, particularly if it’s fast rhythmic music, it’s more wear and tear on the shoulder.’ ”

Posted December 10, 2009