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Thread: A Discussion of Living Conductors

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    Senior Member 20centrfuge's Avatar
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    Default A Discussion of Living Conductors

    I’ll open this up to ANY living conductors, but I’m particularly curious what people’s thoughts are on those at the helm of (roughly) the top fifty orchestras. Who have you seen live? What were your thoughts? Of the rising generation, who stands out to you? Which recordings do you have by today’s conductors?
    Last edited by 20centrfuge; Jun-02-2020 at 03:58.

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    Good topic - ottomh -

    I've heard some fine performances by Salonen, Nelsons, Van Zweeden, Bychkov, Muti, Oramo to name just a few...

    Salonen, I've come to realize, is really a fine conductor, first rate - probably my favorite living....he did outstanding concerts with Chicago - Rite of Spring, Petrushka, and a great Mahler Sym #9 - best I've heard live [Abbado, Levine];

    Nelsons has done some excellent work with Boston - in particluar a terrific Mahler Sym #6, Shostakovich 4 and 7...
    Sakari Oramo conducted a superb Prokofieff Sym #6 with Boston...really excellent..Bychkov and Van Zweeden delivered stirring renditions of Shostakovich, Bruckner 8s [Bychkov] and Shost and Prokofieff 5s [VZ].
    Levine conducted some excellent concerts with Boston, really got things going after the Ozawa doldrums...
    one from whom I've heard some terrific recordings, but no live concerts - James Conlon.

    one great conductor I never got to hear live - Gennadi Rozhd'sky - one of the best of his generation for sure....I've lots of his recordings, not a poor one in the bunch..
    I got to hear Claudio Abbado several times live before he died...outstanding
    Last edited by Heck148; Jun-02-2020 at 03:47.

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    Senior Member Becca's Avatar
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    Five come to mind for various reasons...

    Daniel Harding - A low-key but impressive conductor ... when he isn't flying commercial aircraft! Some of his Mahler and Strauss has been very good. Check out his Alpensinfonie with the Saito Kinen orchestra.

    Edward Gardner - I hadn't thought much about him until the last year but my impression has been getting much more positive.

    Santtu-Matias Rouvali - I have been very impressed with all that I've seen him do, both video and recordings. It will be interesting when he gets to the Philharmonia. He is going to be one of the really good ones.

    Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla - Another who I think will be one of the really good conductors as she gains experience and maturity.

    Rafael Payare - He just started as music director of the San Diego Symphony after a period with the Ulster Orchestra. I don't have any opinion of him so far but will be watching and listening.

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    I talked to one professional young conductor who said that Salonen was all brain and no heart, but my experience has been different. I saw him conduct the Helsinki Conservatory Orchestra doing Sibelius 5 in Carnegie Hall. It was one of those once in a lifetime concerts. The young group played with so much passion and Salonen brought out musical details with such conviction. It was a super moving performance for me. I could barely breathe during the last hammer-stroke chords at the end.

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    Another one that really intrigued me is Marin Alsop. Her technique is precise, clear, and she is super musical. Listen to her recording of Brahms 3 with the London Philharmonic. It’s wonderful!

    Here’s a sample of her guiding the Peabody Orchestra on Dvorak 9

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    Haven't heard her, but Alsop does a terrific interview with NPR's Scott Simon about once a year.

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    Such a big topic. I've seen (heard) quite a few. Some exceptional, some mediocre.

    Runnicles: tremendous talent. Can really excite the orchestra and bring a lot of energy to a concert.
    Falletta: Defies all convention. Skilled, dramatic, loves music. Terrific Mahler 5th. The only guitar playing conductor I've heard.
    Salonen: very clinical, but gets great results. A Mahler 7th in LA still rings in the ears.
    Muti: if any living conductor has a claim to being a legend, it's Muti. Stunning conductor in a vast repertoire.
    Litton: a truly great conductor of Romantic and modern music. Somehow has fallen by the wayside. Every time I've heard him I'm bowled over by his intelligence and feel for the music, be it a symphony by Tchaikovsky or Schmidt. Great, great talent.
    Lintu: I first heard him 20 years ago when he was just getting started. Obvious then that he had real potential and it's coming true. Terrific conductor and many 20th c composers are in good hands.
    Bychkov: marvelous conductor, especially in the late romantic and Russian literature.
    Jose Luis Gomez: in Tucson now, a product of El Systema in Venezuela and worked in Germany for a while. Very exciting conductor who imparts a rhythmic flow to everything that just seems perfect. Really connects with the orchestra and the community. Not afraid of obscure music. The Glazunov 4th he did was just sensational. And he likes to program music from South of the Border - and that's good.
    Dudamel - I don't understand the hype around him. The WORST Mahler 1st I've ever heard. He's mediocre - at best - in the standard German/Austrian repertoire. He's done some good Mahler on CD, but the Nutcracker was dreadful. I have desire to hear him again in concert or on CD.

    And there are many more, but it's late. But here's the real thing: I've been fortunate enough to hear live conductors like Mehta, Bernstein, Karajan, Previn, Jarvi, Maazel, Abbado, Tennstedt, Solti, Svetlanov, Guilini, Ozawa, Dorati, Menuhin, Ormandy, Rostropovich, and others. Those older guys has something else going for them, a charisma, a presence that seems to be missing from most of the conductors today. Maybe it was their training - in the opera house - or even a lack of training: they learned from having role models. And they worked in a time when classical music was a more important part of our society and when conductors had an almost god like aura. Given the times we're in, younger conductors will never have that opportunity. I want to add that too often we celebrate the conductor when really it's the composer and the music that deserves our accolades. And, a conductor doesn't need to be a world-famous maestro to make great music. The two concerts I've been to that are most imprinted in my brain, the most exciting concerts I've ever been to weren't conducted by world famous stars. 40 years ago I heard Sarah Caldwell (from the Boston Opera) give a Brahms 2nd that was utterly hair raising - I will never forget that coda! Thrilling doesn't begin to explain it. Put the Bernstein/VPO concert I heard to shame. Then there was a Mahler 6th with George Hanson in Tucson. They played the daylights out of the thing and wrung every ounce of emotion imaginable. He's still alive and I hope he's still conducting.

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    A Discussion of Living Conductors

    I don't have much to add here except to say: I suspect living conductors do a much better job directing an orchestra than do dead conductors.

    Any disagreements?

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    Quote Originally Posted by mbhaub
    And they worked in a time when classical music was a more important part of our society
    But was it though? Referring to the US here, was classical music actually a more important part of our society in the 40s and 50s? It seems to me that in those days, Frank Sinatra, big bands, Elvis and the Beatles were "more important". Or is it that we are just so awash now with too much of everything available on demand? You could also say movies/pop music/baseball meant so much more to society then. In those days, the only way you could hear these orchestras with their conductors was getting an LP, listening for the limited opportunities to catch them on the radio, or going to a concert hall in person. Now it's streaming services/YT for whatever orchestra and conductor you want, living or dead.

    No, there aren't any really "charismatic" conductors anymore, or maybe there are and the mindset and attention span isn't there anymore to catch it. I do think that role of "the conductor" has been inflated a little bit historically.
    Last edited by consuono; Jun-02-2020 at 08:05.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SONNET CLV View Post
    A Discussion of Living Conductors

    I don't have much to add here except to say: I suspect living conductors do a much better job directing an orchestra than do dead conductors.

    Any disagreements?
    Potentially. If today I play a recording of a performance directed by a conductor of yesteryear who has shuffled off this mortal coil since the recording was made, does that still count as "directing" rather than "directed" (after all, I'm experiencing the performance in real time)? If so, then I would indeed disagree. Some of my absolute favourites, most notably (and sadly) Carlos Kleiber, are no longer with us.

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    The active conductors that I find interesting would be:

    Kirill Petrenko, the new BPO chief, with huge promises for the future
    Vladimir Jurowski, the LPO chief with great insights in music and a lot of focus during live concerts
    Tughan Sokhiev, a upcoming inspiring Russian conductor
    Yannick Nezet Seguin, already arrived, very energetic and fresh conducting style
    Gustavo Gimeno, former RCO percussionist, someone to watch, very bright and clear style
    Daniele Gatti, the #metoo dismissed RCO chief, who did some great things during his Amsterdam stay, like Falstaff, Salome, very interesting Mahler and Wagner, 2nd Viennese school, too bad it ended like this
    Andriss Nelsons, already well arrived and curious if he can keep his act together. His last Beethoven cycle with VPO on DG was very uninspired
    Gianandrea Noseda, a reliable force in more complex pieces, like Liszt and when I heard him conduct the War Requiem
    Lahav Shani, the new star in Rotterdam after Yannick Nezet Seguin left to New York. Also a good pianist who conducts from the piano

    Ivan Fischer, unconventional and always a fresh approach, also a very good Mahler cycle on record
    Kent Nagano, a underrated conductor in the 20th-21st century repertoire, never lets you down
    Esa Peka Salonen, I would sure hope to hear him live once, his recordings are worthwile
    Myung Whun Chung, just recently did I hear him conduct Mahler 9 live and it was very impressive

    Herbert Blomstedt, the grand old man who still gets better every year, hopefully some more years for him to go

    Famous less-interesting conductors:
    Simon Rattle
    Riccardo Muti
    Jaap van Zweden

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    What about "The Dude", Gustavo Dudamel? Haven't seen his name come up yet on this thread.

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    NLAdriaan Herbert Blomstedt, the grand old man who still gets better every year, hopefully some more years for him to go

    Herbert Blomstedt, in an engaging conversation with Alan Gilbert, announced that he has committed to record two sets of symphonies with the Leipzig Gewandhaus orchestra – the nine symphonies of Schubert and Franz Berwald’s four. The two composers, he explains, were born within the same year.

    On his time in lock down, he says, ‘I’ve been studying new scores that I’m planning to perform next season.’
    “Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.” ― Mark Twain

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    Lightbulb

    Arturo Tamayo is a most important conductor, in my estimation.

    I've read about Tamayo correcting a score by Xenakis because the publisher of the work did not understand the composer's intent.
    The formally published manuscript contained errors and Tamayo revised/edited the opus prior to recording it for the Timpani label.

    Now I ask: how many living conductors can satisfactorily render an orchestral composition written by Iannis Xenakis?
    Out of those conductors, how many would notice if there is anything amiss?
    Would/could anybody else besides Tamayo edit the material according to a composer's initial manuscript and/or sketches?

    This is something for discussion, eh?

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    In my experience, the only prominent living conductors I’ve heard that have the highly personal, individualized styles of the old masters are Gergiev, Rattle, and maybe Barenboim. I’m really hoping that this newest generation of “up-and-comers” will bring some personality to the table and not just “score-regurgitating.” This video of Gergiev conducting the Firebird is one of the most entertaining on YouTube, and I shouldn’t have to explain why if you watch the very end:

    "If we understood the world, we would realize that there is a logic of harmony underlying its manifold apparent dissonances." - Jean Sibelius

    "Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere." - G.K. Chesterton

    "Beethoven tells you what it’s like to be Beethoven and Mozart tells you what it’s like to be human. Bach tells you what it’s like to be the universe." - Douglas Adams

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