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Thread: Conductors who compose

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    Senior Member bassClef's Avatar
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    Default Conductors who compose

    I've recently come across several compositions by artists primarily known for their conducting, namely Evgeny Svetlanov (Symphony No. 1, Siberian Fantasy, Symphonic Reflections) and Andre Previn (Guitar Concerto). I'm not sure if these are any good yet, I've not heard them. But it makes me wonder which conductors have been most successful when turning their hand to composing. Bernstein and Boulez I think were composers first, conductors second - but I stand to be corrected.
    Last edited by bassClef; Jul-26-2011 at 17:27.

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    Senior Member violadude's Avatar
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    Furtwangler wrote at least 3 symphonies. I haven't heard them though.

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    Senior Member bassClef's Avatar
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    Esa Pekka Salonen has composed one or two pieces too.

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    Senior Member itywltmt's Avatar
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    Igor Markevich, Michael Tilson-Thomas, Lorin Maazel, Sir Ernest MacMillan, Yoav Talmi, Bramwell Tovey

    I would put Boulez and Bernstein on the list, personally. I will not add John Williams, as I don't think of him really as a conductor.

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    Quote Originally Posted by itywltmt View Post
    Igor Markevich, Michael Tilson-Thomas, Lorin Maazel, Sir Ernest MacMillan, Yoav Talmi, Bramwell Tovey

    I would put Boulez and Bernstein on the list, personally. I will not add John Williams, as I don't think of him really as a conductor.
    Back to Williams for a second - he gas not conducted significant works of OTHER composers. The Pops repertoire doesn't count for this question, IMHO.

    You therefore have to discount John Adams, Igor Stravinsky, and other composers that are |decent| conductors unless they have made contributions a la Boulez or Bernstein.

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    Quote Originally Posted by itywltmt View Post
    Igor Markevich, Michael Tilson-Thomas, Lorin Maazel, Sir Ernest MacMillan, Yoav Talmi, Bramwell Tovey

    I would put Boulez and Bernstein on the list, personally. I will not add John Williams, as I don't think of him really as a conductor.
    Before this is brought up - Stokowski made dozens of "transcriptions" but no compositions that I know of.

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    Senior Member GoneBaroque's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by itywltmt View Post
    Igor Markevich, Michael Tilson-Thomas, Lorin Maazel, Sir Ernest MacMillan, Yoav Talmi, Bramwell Tovey

    I would put Boulez and Bernstein on the list, personally. I will not add John Williams, as I don't think of him really as a conductor.
    I am not too fond of John Williams as a composer either. everything of his I have heard sounds about the same.
    Rob

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    Moderator mamascarlatti's Avatar
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    Lorin Maazel wrote a musically eclectic opera, 1984, which is worth watching in this incarnation:



    I find Andre Previn's "A Streetcar named Desire" musically dull but of course the plot is gripping.

    Natalie

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    Jerzy Maksymiuk is successively turning to composing claiming that "he'd rather be lesser collegue of Mozart than equal collegue of Karajan". I had "pleasure" of attending one of his concerts when he conducted his own works. It was some piece for tuba and brass section with some musical-science, mathematical idea behind it. I didn't like it, but how could I like music based on intellectual experiment? He has many other works, some recorded and avaiable and perhaps I'll dig more of them in the future. But I really think that his life's greatest achievements will remain in those incredibly important recordings he will leave us, not in his own music.

    Now, that's my post no. 3000 in A flat major, op. 3000.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mamascarlatti View Post
    Lorin Maazel wrote a musically eclectic opera, 1984, which is worth watching in this incarnation:



    I find Andre Previn's "A Streetcar named Desire" musically dull but of course the plot is gripping.

    Forgot about Previn, though he came to "legitimate" conducting after a stint as a film music guy...

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    Two more, though they are new music specialists and Quebeckers, so not necessarily international household names: Serge Garant and Walter Boudreau. One is the "founder" and the other the current director of the Societe de musique contemporaine du Quebec.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GoneBaroque View Post
    I am not too fond of John Williams as a composer either. everything of his I have heard sounds about the same.
    I don't mind him as a composer, nor of film or of neo-romantic schtick. I did find him a tad over hyped as a conductor. He took over from another "Sunday conductor" (a la Sunday driver...), Arthur Fielder, though Fiedler never took himself too seriously.
    The whole episode about "leaving" the Boston Pops because he was disappointed with the caliber/dedication of the musicians was what decidedly wrote him off as a conductor in my books.

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    Senior Member violadude's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by itywltmt View Post
    Back to Williams for a second - he gas not conducted significant works of OTHER composers. The Pops repertoire doesn't count for this question, IMHO.

    You therefore have to discount John Adams, Igor Stravinsky, and other composers that are |decent| conductors unless they have made contributions a la Boulez or Bernstein.
    I don't think Stravinsky or John Adams count because they are known primarily as composers and the OP was asking for composers primarily known as conductors.

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    Some interesting things here. I haven't heard a lot of the conductors mentioned so far with their composer "hats" on, excepting the two most well-known, Boulez & Bernstein (the latter I love dearly in all his multifarious compositional "guises," whereas Boulez has only "grabbed" me with his piano sonatas, esp. the seminal 2nd one & his Le Marteau song-cyle is quite appealing to me as well).

    Ok here are some of my additions -

    Conductors who also compose -

    Friedrich Cerha - Have heard his Cello Concerto, which came across as quite Bergian. Apt, since Cerha completed Berg's unfinished opera Lulu (the third act, it's orchestration in particular). I've actually got Cerha conducting some Ligeti & his interpretation comes across as quite "idiomatic" as the pundits like to say. Cerha, a man of many talents, also founded the Ensemble "de reihe" Wien after WW2. This is a chamber orchestra based in Vienna that plays new music ("de reihe" refers to rows of notes, applying in music written using the serial technique - although I understand Cerha is not a dogmatist, he has championed more "tonal" composers just as much as "atonal" or "serial" ones). I think he also set up another "de reihe" group in Berlin.

    David Stanhope - An Australian conductor of our major orchestras (on a freelance basis, I think?), he is also a noted pianist here & has composed a fair amount of music (esp. with brass, his original instruments of specialisation). I haven't heard any of his works, but I have heard him conduct in radio broadcasts of concerts. Here's the man's website for more info - http://www.davidstanhope.com/

    Heinz Holliger - This guy is an all-rounder - virtuoso oboist, composer & conductor. Haven't heard any of his works, but they are said to be pretty tough and kind of grating. I own an LP of him playing Handel's oboe concertos, & it's very good, imo. As for his efforts as a conductor, I have heard none of this, but I know he's championed some obscure composers, like Charles Koechlin. Witold Lutoslawski composed & dedicated his Concerto for oboe & harp to Mr Holliger & his wife (a harpist), apparently a sweet-flavoured work (but I've never heard it & don't have the time now) but here it is on youtube - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGtWG_Nd7jc

    Charles Mackerras - The recently departed Australian-born conductor also composed in his younger years, but I don't think any of these works have recieved as much attention to get recorded. Certainly, like many conductor-composers, he wasn't one to "push" his own works. His best known sideline to conducting, however, was arranging other composers' pieces, the most famous of which was his ballet Pineapple Poll made up of tunes from Gilbert & Sullivan operettas - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vItzBA1XmNo (I vaguely remember being at a live performance of this arrangement ages ago, I'll have to hear it again sometime for sure)

    & two major conductors of the past who did compose a fair bit of music (apparently) but it has so far failed to make any impact were Bruno Walter & Otto Klemperer. It must not be forgotten that Gustav Mahler was firstly known as a conductor in his lifetime, the "renaissance" of his compositional legacy really gathered pace decades after his death in the era of the vinyl LP, Bernstein being a huge champion of Mahler's music in this regard.

    & if we expand this to arrangers, there are many who conduct or conducted their own arrangements (but they are/were also composers of some things in the light classical realm) - Mantovani, Andre Rieu being two that come to mind & with whose stuff I'm familiar with to a degree...
    Last edited by Sid James; Jul-27-2011 at 08:56.

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    Senior Member bassClef's Avatar
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    Just found this interesting reading on this subject. As well as the conductors we've already highlighted it brings up two more: Robert Kajanus ("favoured domestic interpreter and drinking partner of Jean Sibelius" no less), and Paul Kletzki - new to me, but I'd like to seek them out.

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