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Thread: Greatest conductors

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    Default Greatest conductors

    As an amateur listener, I am curious to hear from the experts who they consider to be the greatest conductors in recorded history. I know this is a difficult question, as some conductors have a special affinity for the work of a particular composer (e.g Karl Bohm or Neville Marriner for Mozart), but not so good in other areas. And like any musician, I'm sure conductors have their great moments and their not so fine moments. I havn't heard enough recordings to be able to give an opinion about who is the best, but I will give you a list of conductors from whom I have heard specially enjoyable performances:

    Colin Davis
    Nicolas Harnencourt
    Georg Solti
    Zubin Mehta
    Herbert von Karajan
    George Szell
    Karl Bohm
    Okko Kamu

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    no experts here!

    the ones i really enjoy -
    reiner
    kubelik
    monteux
    stokowski
    hvk
    wand
    ormandy

    ...mostly when paired with their usual orchestras.

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    Senior Member World Violist's Avatar
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    Vanska
    both of the Jarvis
    Ozawa
    Boulez
    Bernstein

    EDIT: This is not at all discounting anything from the previous posts... or any to come. I agree with much of what has been said.
    You get a frog in your throat, you sound hoarse.

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    We mustn't forget Carlos Kleiber! I'm sure there are many other conductors that I would like to mention (I'll give a brief mention to Daniel Barenboim particularly for his Beethoven), but Carlos Kleiber came to mind straight away and he's the only one I'll list just to hammer the point home

    Though perhaps more eccentric than most, and though his discography is not nearly as extensive as some other prominent conductors, if we're talking about the best of the best, then his name certainly deserves a place somewhere at the top - if not the top - of the list.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Polednice View Post
    We mustn't forget Carlos Kleiber!...
    I'll second that!

    And I would add Daniel Barenboim to the list.

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    The greatest? No competition. Herbert von Karajan. By the way that man was multiple gifted; spoke four languages, was an ace racing driver, and yachtsman. An extraordinarily gifted skier, and dived with Costeau who much admired him.
    He flew his own private jets and could fly his own helicopter. Who said men can't multi-task? I think the maestro is unchallenged. Creator of the revived Salzburg Festival; his accomplishments seem to have no end ... and to cap it all he was disabled through a back injury acquired as a young boy when he fell when climbing. What a man.

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    Default Carlos Kleiber

    Those entranced by the eloquent genius of Carlos Kleiber will enjoy BBC Radio 3 on Saturday 26 September. Starting at 12:15 pm, GMT, they are transmitting a major documentary on the life and art of this peerless conductor.

    Interviewees include Placido Domingo, Sir Peter Jonas, and Dr Charles Barber. The latter carried on a correspondence with Kleiber from 1989 to the end, studying score and poetry and much more. Anyone who actually knew Kleiber bluntly dismisses nonsense about his alleged craziness.

    According to Barber, "Anyone who thinks that Kleiber was some sort of Howard Hughes minus the long hair and fingernails simply never knew the man. He was profoundly generous, funny, aware, and sensitive. Foolish gossip notwithstanding, he was the greatest of us all."

    Ask professional conductors of standing, and they will uniformly tell you of their admiration for Carlos Kleiber. No wonder.

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    I Admire Simon Rattle
    Carmen Fantasie Rocks for Flute And Piano

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    Quote Originally Posted by trent1280 View Post
    Those entranced by the eloquent genius of Carlos Kleiber will enjoy BBC Radio 3 on Saturday 26 September. Starting at 12:15 pm, GMT, they are transmitting a major documentary on the life and art of this peerless conductor.

    Interviewees include Placido Domingo, Sir Peter Jonas, and Dr Charles Barber. The latter carried on a correspondence with Kleiber from 1989 to the end, studying score and poetry and much more. Anyone who actually knew Kleiber bluntly dismisses nonsense about his alleged craziness.

    According to Barber, "Anyone who thinks that Kleiber was some sort of Howard Hughes minus the long hair and fingernails simply never knew the man. He was profoundly generous, funny, aware, and sensitive. Foolish gossip notwithstanding, he was the greatest of us all."

    Ask professional conductors of standing, and they will uniformly tell you of their admiration for Carlos Kleiber. No wonder.
    Thanks very much for making me aware of that; I'll definitely listen to it. And in case you defended Kleiber in the wake of my 'eccentric' remark, let me just clarify that I hold him in the highest regard, above all other conductors. Eccentricity is a favourable quality, and it tends to go hand in hand with genius - though the information is new to me, I am not surprised that he is described as profoundly generous, funny, aware, and sensitive.

    With regards to his position amongst the best conductors to have lived, I would certainly place him above Karajan without a doubt. Karajan, to me, is detrimentally mechanistic. We are all aware of proverbs about machines never being able to fulfil a genius' job; while I wouldn't insult Karajan so much as that, I would say that he is the perfect machine - the genius machine. If there were a machine that could emulate human genius, then it was him. It places him higher than a lot of well-respected conductors, but his interpretations nevertheless fall short of someone as great as Kleiber.

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    Hermann Scherchen
    Toscanini
    Bernstein
    Karajan
    Claudio Abbado
    Furtwangler
    There is no wealth like knowledge, no poverty like ignorance.
    Nahj ul-Balāgha by Ali bin Abu-Talib

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    Solti
    Kondrashin
    Svetlanov
    Celibidache
    Harnoncourt

    in no particular order
    Mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur.

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    Quote Originally Posted by michael walsh View Post
    The greatest? No competition. Herbert von Karajan
    Well, I'd argue that the guy wasn't great at all. He was a good conductor all right, even more than good, but his greatest achievement was recording tons of lp's at the right place and time (since it was the time when the vinyl technology was finally up on its feet). I've heard many of his recordings and in all of them he sound, pretty much, the same, this refined "Karajan" sound. It actually reminds me much of Solti, he too liked to have this one style that he applied to the music he conducted. Come to think of it, perhaps it is a matter of taste, but honestly, I can't see why Karajan achieved this fame of great conductor.
    Mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur.

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    That's like saying one individual is better than another. I can listen to the same symphony 6 times with each performance having been delegated to a different conductor, and I'll enjoy the hell out of it each time. Most importantly, I'll get something different out of the music each time. That it pretty offensive to say to Karajan, in my opinion. When I wasn't able yet to speak, he was probably in the middle of Europe conducting. I'm not even going to pretend to know more than him. Most of what I've noticed though, is that Scherchen makes my conducting job look like I'm a little sheister (what can I say? I'm more of an instrumentalist/composer).

    Anyone else have their minds blown by Scherchen's interpretations of the music?
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    Senior Member Il Seraglio's Avatar
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    At the moment...

    Osmo Vanska
    Sir. Trevor Pinnock
    Sir. Colin Davis
    Antonio Pappano
    Rinaldo Alessandrini
    Wilhelm Furtwangler
    Sir. George Solti
    Last edited by Il Seraglio; Dec-06-2009 at 16:43.

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    Anyone else have their minds blown by Scherchen's interpretations of the music?
    __________________
    Agree, and, like Toscanini, a man of opinions, political integrity, visionary outlook and knowledge in many fields, though he did have some off-days and his controversial personality could go a bit far. For newcomers, try the "Erocia" or, less disciplined but extremely Gypsy-like and entertaining, the Tschaikowsky 2nd Cto with Farnadi.
    Names like Mengelberg, Golovanov and Paray seem to have been forgotten out there ? And even Stokowski ? Or ...?

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