I know there are so many..., Karajan probably was the best but one of my favorites is Esa-Pakke Salonen of the LA Philharmonic. I like his new CD Wing on Wing a lot, too (god I spent to much money on those things )
Hi, Guys. I'm new to the forum so I wanted to make my humble entrance by answering such a tricky and slippery question such as "Who's your favorite conductor?" There ain't no best conductor (like my Brooklyn peeps would say - i love the way it sounds so definitive when you say "there ain't no..."). There are some conductors that are more suitable for certain types of music, like for example Charles Dutoit for French and Russian music is peerless. There's no better Russian Eastern Overture than the one by him, and there's hardly anyone that can capture the colors of Ravel like him (I highly recommended the complete works of Ravel with Dutoit and the MSO). Another perfect match for me is Otto Klemperer and Beethoven. I think it was Zubin Mehta who after hearing Klemperer conduct live once said that listening to him was a "sonic experience". With what other conductor can you have such a solid and at the same time luscious sound in a Beethoven symphony? A great example of the agreement of conductor and type of piece is Giulini. His Firebird with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is the best ever recorded but don't even try to listen to his Bruckner's 8th Symphony with the same orchestra, the worst and most uninteresting I've ever heard. I could keep making a list of conductor/works ad nauseam, but instead here's a short one: Mravinsky/Tchaikovsky, Paavo Berglund/Sibelius, Solti/Wagner, Barbirolli/Brahms, Giulini/Mozart (his Don Giovanni is my favorite), Gergiev/Prokofiev.
Just a little intro: I'm in New York City, play the cello for fun (amateur I would say), I've played with community orchestras in New York and now struggling my way through piano playing. Just started taking lessons and I'm enjoying immensely, and I have a wonderful Airedale Terrier. His name? YES, YOU GUESSED RIGHT: TRISTAN!
I think it depends on the repertory.
But among the greatest conductors performances I would choose:
Giulini, with the Vienna Philarmonic in Bruckner's 9th Symphony (1983).
Jochum with the Berlin Philarmonic in Bruckner's 8th Symphony.
Furtwängler with the Bayreuth Festspielhaus Orchestra in Beethoven 9th Symphony.
Furtwängler with the Berliner Philarmonic in Schumann's Manfred Ouverture.
Mravinsky with the Leninegrad Orchestra in Tchaikowsky's 4th Symphony.
Ancerl with the Czech Philarmonic in Mahler's 9th Symphony and Stravinsky's "Petrushka".
Karajan with Berlin Philarmonic in Mahler's 6th Symphony and Sibelius 4th Symphony.
Markevitch with the Suisse Romande Orchestra in Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring".
Hello everyone. I'm new. This is my very first reply.
Anyway, I would have to say that so far, my favorite conductors are Riccardo Muti for his work with Andrei Gavrilov and the Philadelphia Orchestra (Rachmaninov's second and third piano concierti) and then there's Walter Weller for his recordings of Beethoven's symphonies (with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra) .
The Rachmaninov is especially gorgeous, and quintessential .
Karajan with Mozart's later symphonies.
The same conductor with all of Beethoven's symphonies.
Adrian Boult with Rachmaninov's 3rd symphony.
Lorin Maazel doing a 50's recording of the Firebird Suite.
John Barbirolli with the Halle Orchestra and Chorus doing Elgar's Dream of Gerontius.
Beecham conducting Scheherezade with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
I am only judging by the recordings I have heard, but Beecham is my favourite from the "old school" of conducting.
More recently, Paavo Berglund in his days with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra was something special, as was the orchestra.
Currently I think that Mariss Jansons and practically any orchestra takes a lot of beating.
Carlos Kleiber (Beethoven S 5/7)
Wilhelm Furtwangler (Beethoven S 9, Wagner Tristan)
Otto Klemperer (Beethoven S 3, lots of Wagner)
Karl Bohm (Beethoven S 6)
Fritz Reiner (Bartok, Concerto for Orchestra)
J Eliot Gardner (Bach Mass in B Min)
Michael Tilson Thomas (Symphony Fantastique)
Neville Marriner (lots of Mozart)
Adrian Boult (Elgar, RVW)
I like von Karajan, Zubin Mehta, and Furtwängler. Tilson Thomas is pretty good as well, and Simon Rattle can't be that bad to be conducting Berlin... I don't know if I particularly like Toscanini, but he does have his moments. Just not in Brahms' first. Please.
IMO, George Szell was the greatest conductor who ever lived. MD of the Cleveland Orch 1946-1970, he died in 1970 of cancer of the bone marrow about a month after coming back from a rigorous Asian tour with the orchestra. His last concert, on their way back, was in Anchorage, Alaska, of all places.
Szell's musical interests were extensive, but the core of the repertoire he knew well was Dvorak, and the great classical and early and middle romantics of the Germanic repertoire--Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, and Brahms. And, among the late romantics, he was a champion of Richard Strauss. In his younger days, he was also a composer, but he abandoned that because, as he himself acknowledged, "they all sounded like Richard Strauss." He came late to the music of Mahler, but his Mahler 4th is one of the greatest performances of that work ever recorded. In fact, when I had a left nephrectomy in July, 2003, I asked the surgeon if I could choose the music played in the OR and he said yes. My choice was the Szell Mahler 4.
Szell, contrary to popular opinion, did have some interest in modern music. He gave the world premiere in Cleveland of Henri Dutilleux's Metaboles, which was a Cleveland Orch. commission. It is still, probably, his most famous and most often played composition, thanks in part to the fact that it was championed by Szell.
As others have noted it all comes down to the piece being performed... and perhaps even the specific recording. Among the finest I would include Herbert von Karajan, Karl Böhm, George Szell, John Elliott Gardiner, Otto Klemperer, George Solti, Sir Collin Davis, Sir Neville Mariner, Bruno Walter, Sir Thomas Beecham, Leonard Bernstein, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Pierre Boulez, Eugene Ormandy, René Jacobs, Simon Rattle, Claudio Abbado, Carlos Kleiber, Rafael Kubelik,
Mstislav Rostropovich, Ferenc Fricsay, Raymond Leppard, Christopher Hogwood, Andrew Manze, Tullio Serafin, Karl Richter, Phillipe Herreweghe, Fritz Reiner, etc...
Obviously I like a variety... from old lush orchestration to historically informed.
For some reason, I have always had an affinity to Bernard Haitink. Many find his interpretations boring, but I have found most of his work to be steady and reliable. I think he would rather that the music speak for itself than to have him need to comment on its behalf.
Others I enjoy are Colin Davis, Riccardo Chailly, and the late Giussepe Sinopoli.